Can UKIP claim to defend "Christian values"?

It cannot have escaped anyone’s notice that UKIP seem to be doing rather better than a few months ago. Gone from public view are some politically problematic characters, such as Godfrey Bloom. Now the party is riding high on a tidal wave of public support, Tory defections and their very first MP elected to parliament. Whether UKIP are right to be so optimistic – not least given the polling levels and single MP enjoyed by the (ironically) less colourful Greens for years – or the media are simply making more of this than they ought, time will tell.

Whether spin for a good story or otherwise, the media are certainly giving significant column inches to covering UKIP. One particular claim from the ‘kippers seems to have gained significant traction. Namely, that UKIP robustly defend Christian values. Such a claim has led to disgust among some (see here) and a proud defence from others (see here). 

Whatever side of this discussion one may fall, these articles are a prime example of two individuals talking straight past each other. In response to Giles Fraser’s specific concern that foreigners living in the UK were not helped by UKIP policies, Richard Lucas argued that aid shouldn’t be spent overseas. Both men, in one way or another, made some valid points whilst simultaneously failing to address any issue the other raised. Given Fraser broke cover first, he wasn’t answering anything but raising specific objections, most of the blame for ignoring the concerns must lie with Mr Lucas. In truth, neither particularly helped answer the question they claimed to raise: whether UKIP truly do defend Christian values.

Before we can even begin to answer that, we have to work out precisely what “Christian values” are supposed to be. Politically speaking, there seems to be no obvious answer. Christians exist across the political spectrum in just about all parties, mainstream and fringe, and yes that includes UKIP too. Evidently, appeal to numbers isn’t going to help. Christians involved in politics come to wildly different positions on the best party to support and the most pressing issues concerning faith and wider society.

Theologically speaking, things don’t really fare much better. The plethora of denominations and shades of Christian thought suggest that “Christian values” are rather hard to pin down. Even if we wanted to be tighter about our definition, perhaps excluding all non-Evangelicals, things still don’t come out in the wash. Those who claim to be Evangelical exist across the denominations and within Free Churches. The idea that even all Free Churchmen (or Anglicans, or Strict Baptists, or whomever) think alike theologically or politically is something of a nonsense. Even were we to pare this down to one particular Evangelical church, though perhaps closer to a consensus, theological and political differences will be prevalent (unless one belongs to a Free Presbyterian church in Northern Ireland. In that case, you’re highly unlikely to be anything other than theologically uniform and Democratic Unionist, though surprisingly some Ulster Unionists even dare to join!)

Pinning down “Christian values” is rather harder than some might think. Even where we agree on gospel priorities, different emphases will still exist. Some favour social action, others direct gospel proclamation, others still a middle way. Theologically, though we may agree on each point, how far we want to press each matter will differ. Politically speaking, things are much the same. Though we may agree in principle as Christians, our emphases and priorities are likely to differ.

On that basis alone, I think we are safe in saying UKIP do not support, or defend, Christian values. Incidentally, nor do any other major political parties. It is pretty difficult to pin down precisely what is meant by the term. Frankly, I know enough Christians – especially those politically active – to know one would be a little reckless to vote for a candidate simply because somebody is a Christian. I am all too aware that many Christians have different approaches, views and emphases to me. To vote based on faith alone is likely to mean political views are pressed that are far removed from my own.

Could UKIP help themselves out by claiming to defend biblical values? Not really. No doubt some of their policies chime with certain pressing and current biblical issues. Nevertheless, I’m pretty sure that for every one that does, there is likely another that doesn’t. Even if the party sought to claim defence of Christian people, we run into similar problems. I’m sure their stance on freedom of speech (better than the position of many others) helps enormously those Christians engaged in public gospel proclamation. Unfortunately, their stance on those Christians who have come to Britain as either asylum seekers or economic migrants really cannot feasibly be claimed to help, or defend, the values of those Christians.

This is not specifically to get at UKIP. For as many of their policies that don’t defend “Christian values” (whatever they may be), the other parties hardly uphold biblical mores. I suppose the only difference is the other parties never claimed to be trying.