This past week has felt like a hard week to be a Christian, particularly a Scottish one.
I have a sadness for the country that I love so much. I dearly wish it could see the benefits of being a truly pluralistic society, and the role that faith can play in enriching it, but I am not sure that it does. And I have a sadness for Kate Forbes – an extremely competent Christian woman in public life who, party politics aside, I really look up to. This past week she has been bearing the brunt of Scotland’s lack of pluralism.
The media is not kind to the evangelical
Upon hearing that Kate Forbes was standing as a candidate to succeed Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister, I described her as brave. Recent history shows that the UK media is not kind to evangelical Christians in positions of power. If the media effectively pushed Tim Farron out of the leadership of the Liberal Democrats, a minority party within Westminster, then what would they do with Kate Forbes who is running for as significant a role as First Minister of Scotland?
As expected, they have not held back. If any part of us had been hopeful that mainstream media had become more tolerant of the evangelical worldview since 2017, we will have been disappointed this week. Article after article has torn apart Kate Forbes, the church that she is part of, and the beliefs that she holds. She has been told that there is no place for her or her beliefs in politics, or even in Scotland as a whole.
Her party has not done a huge amount to stand by her. MSPs who had previously shown support for her (and who presumably would have had a good idea of the position she took on issues such as same-sex marriage, gender, and the family) have retracted their support for her now that her views have become public.
Despite this, the way that Forbes has handled herself over the past week has made it clear to me that the bravery that I saw in her at the start of the campaign comes from her bold faith.
Standing firm in the faith
While one journalist suggested that Forbes was taking “idiot pills”, I couldn’t disagree more. Forbes knew what she was risking in her honesty but proceeded, choosing to be a faithful leader who stands by her convictions even when it’s hard.
1 Corinthians 16:13-14 tells us to “be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love”. As I look on at the way that Forbes has handled media questioning this week, full of truth and integrity, I have seen these verses from 1 Corinthians played out.
While many secular observers see Forbes as having naively sunk her own ship, I see someone who has had enough courage, stirred on by her faith, to lay all her cards out on the table. I see the prayer of “if it’s meant to be, God, let it be” being lived out.
Whom shall I fear?
When it comes to following Christ and being faithful to His teachings, particularly in secular contexts, the Bible never promises us that it will be easy. But we are promised that God will be with us always (Matthew 28:20) and that He will be our stronghold:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”
I started writing this by saying that I am sad about the situation in Scotland. I still am sad that this is the reality for Christian leaders. But I am also encouraged by the witness that Kate Forbes is within such a secular space. I am encouraged that, despite the media hounding that she has received, one opinion poll still has her as the SNP voters’ favourite to succeed Sturgeon.
Only time will tell if Kate Forbes will be the next First Minister. But no matter who takes the post, my prayer is that Scotland will be a country that benefits from being pluralistic. That people of faith know there is a space for them within politics. I pray that God will raise up a new generation of Christians who boldly enter the corridors of power asking “whom shall I fear?”. After all, it’s better to be a servant of God from the backbenches, than it is to be a person that lacks integrity from the front.