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19 December 2014

Navigating the future of our country

Navigating the future of our country

Steve Clifford the general director, writes..

I remember with fond memories when I would plan a car journey using a map – maybe some of my readers still do – but I have to admit, maps pretty much left the Clifford household a few years ago.

Our travels are now dependant on the satnav. I feel nervous if I haven't got the background voice instructing me as to the next manoeuvre, and occasionally when I make a mistake to "turn around when possible". I have to confess: the satnav has also reduced marital tensions over map reading skills. However satnavs, great as they are, depend on putting in the right information as you start the journey. It wasn't long ago, while making my way to an important conference at a large city centre church, that I found myself increasingly worried as I was being guided in to a social housing project at the edge of Southampton. Despite the friendly voice of my satnav guide, I was being taken completely in the wrong direction. This wasn't my desired destination. A bit like the ambulance that sets out on a 20-minute journey but arrived 14 hours later by putting the wrong postcode. I have to confess as I watch my TV, listen to the radio, read the newspapers, the confident voices of so many in public life leave me with the same convictions: we're going in the wrong direction and we're not going to end up at the destination we desire.

In case you haven't heard, there's an election coming. The early months of 2015 are going to be dominated by a campaign that has to be the most difficult election in recent history to predict. Nobody knows the impact UKIP, the Greens and SNP will have on those who have traditionally voted Conservative or Labour, or whether the Liberal Democrats can re-establish themselves, having sunk so low in the polls. Perhaps most seriously for democracy in the UK, can politicians of all political parties address the deep levels of disillusionment felt by so many, convinced that those in power 'just don't understand our lives', or even more worryingly, 'don't really care'.

Battle lines are already being drawn, the party machines are gearing up and key issues are already emerging; migration, EU, NHS and of course: who do we trust to manage the economy? While not wanting to diminish the importance of any of these issues, I'm convinced there are bigger and more fundamental issues that need to be addressed. One of the Alliance's contributions to the Scottish Independence debate was an amazing document written by Fred Drummond, director of Evangelical Alliance Scotland, and Kieran Turner, public policy officer in Scotland, entitled What kind of Nation? Manifesto for a future Scotland. It asked some big questions and called for strong responses from politicians from both sides of the Yes/No campaign. Calling for a values-based debate, with wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity, providing the key markers for the kind of nation they would like to live in. The implications of these Christian values were then explored with chapters asking: what kind of economy? What kind of family? What kind of society? What kind of environment?

The document concludes: "We desire a Scotland where… the economy is based on values; poverty is unacceptable, welfare is effective and dignified, relationships are treasured, families are supported, marriages honoured, children are nurtured, freedom is protected, justice is transforming, communities are empowered, our environment is cherished, resources are stewarded and land is shared."

Wow. That sounds like the kind of nation that I want to live in, indeed, the kind of country the Bible takes us to.

As we approach 7 May 2015, the UK election date, we as an Alliance will be looking to support you. Working with Christians in Politics and all-party groups of Christians and peers, we will be providing you with all kinds of materials to help you get involved. Supporting you in prayer, perhaps joining a party, holding local hustings, contacting the press and media, connecting with your local candidates and of course ensuring that we all show up and vote. If we as a Christian community do not get involved you can be assured that other interest groups will. It's no good complaining our voice hasn't been heard if we haven't taken the time and trouble to speak.

Back to my satnav. The next few months of election campaigning, provide us with the opportunity to influence the UK's journey of travel, and indeed our destination over the next few years. Let's not miss this opportunity.

What kind of Nation? is available online and hard copies available from Evangelical Alliance Scotland. Call 0141 35301501 for more information.

Learn more about the General Election in the next issue of idea…

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