Earlier this week, the First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon announced her resignation. It came as a shock to many on all sides of the political spectrum. A woman who has loomed large in Scottish, national, and international politics for over a decade had decided she’d had enough. She insisted that despite a difficult few months with the Gender Recognition Bill, this was not the reason that she was stepping down.
I found the reason she gave for her resignation very interesting, and one that I believe it is important for all of us to remember. At the press conference at Bute House announcing her departure, Sturgeon said, “I’m not expecting violins here, but I am a human being as well as a politician”. I think she touched on something that a great many politicians and members of the public too easily forget; politicians are human beings.
We live in a society that expects leaders and politicians to be super-human, we may never say it or even consciously think it, but when we look at the criticism levelled at certain politicians over the last decade, it becomes evident.
Whether it was the coverage that Ed Miliband received for the way he ate a bacon sandwich, or the mocking of Theresa May’s dancing, or even Diane Abbott’s confusion in remembering how many more police officers Labour would recruit and how much it would cost. Some of these examples are funnier than others, but they also had a big impact on how we viewed each of these people. I’m sure if we are honest, we have all put too much food in our mouths or embarrassed ourselves with our dance moves, and maybe even had a blank when it comes to remembering important information. So, why do we hold our politicians and public figures to such unachievable perfection? Why do we find it surprising that they get things wrong sometimes? Or occasionally do something embarrassing or cringeworthy?
Well, I think the answer can be found in the Bible. In Romans 1, Paul sets out the state of humanity that had turned away from God, its pretty hard-hitting stuff. In the passage we see that, “Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man…” (Romans 1:22-23a) and Paul goes on to say, “they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…’ (Romans 1:25). This is the crux of the matter. Although, we are followers of Jesus, our old self still has a tendency to look to the image rather than the real thing, and to worship creature and not Creator.
When we set unrealistic expectations of our politicians and look to them to be anything other than human, we will end up being disappointed, disillusioned and potentially apathetic. She may not have realised it, but when Nicola Sturgeon declared, “I am a human being…” she declared a profound truth. She is, and we are, only human.
Don’t hear what I’m not saying, I think that we should expect our politicians to be competent and work to the best of their ability as our representatives. But, as Christians, we should also acknowledge that they have limits (even when they don’t always acknowledge it themselves). They will also make mistakes, look foolish, and have bad days. They don’t need our ridicule or condemnation, they need love, grace, and forgiveness.
Full disclosure, I disagree with Nicola Sturgeon on just about everything, but I respect her and value her as a human being made in the image of God. I also believe that she has done what she thinks is best for her country and its people, even if I disagree on how she has gone about it.
By declaring her humanness, Sturgeon declared her limits as a created being. I think we would do well to recognise and remember that all of our politicians are also human beings. They will get things right and they will make mistakes, but as followers of Jesus we can look beyond them to the One without limits, the One who never makes mistakes, the One who ultimately holds all things together and who is in control.
“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20)