Why did Evangelicals Now publish this letter?

My friend alerted me to this letter that had been published in the latest edition of Evangelicals Now. If you are able to access it, do give it a read. Let me explain why.

The title over the letter, ‘leftie Christians’, was bound to raise hackles. The letter was bound to irritate a significant proportion of the readership. A cynically minded individual might presume the editors are purposefully trying to kick off a back and forth on this issue to guarantee further letters rolling in. It is hard to think of other reasons for its publication given that the letter doesn’t relate to any previous article. It doesn’t seek to add further comment or explain why it disagrees with with something written in a previous edition. It is just a diatribe against anybody (so it seems) who is not right-wing.

The basis for the apparent dislike of ‘leftie Christians’ becomes clear in the body of the letter itself. The writer recounts that he took a stand on a ‘moral issue’. One of his colleagues, whom the writer is at pains to point out was, ‘a Labour activist who used to be a Labour MP at the time of the Attlee Government’, reported him for his stance. He doesn’t tell us what the issue was that he took a stand on, so we can’t judge the appropriateness of the decision. But he does tell us, ‘Admittedly I was a young Christian in 1968 and may not have made a stand in as tactful way as would have been the case in more recent times’. So, we know that a less than tactful stance was taken on an unnamed moral issue which irked – so far as we can tell – one Labour activist.

This event, avers the correspondent, ‘effectively ruined my career as I had, by this means, acquired a certain reputation with the result that I unfairly received bad annual reports and was also periodically the subject of trumped-up disciplinary cases, one of which led to my departure from the organisation’. How he knows this one particular stand – right or wrong as it may have been – was the direct cause of all his further reviews remains entirely unclear. But the writer has no doubt, his departure from that company owed everything to a leftist plot.

It is interesting to note that the writer himself points out he worked for the organisation between 1966-1989 and the original complaint was made, he tells us, in 1968. Yet, apparently, that complaint set in motion a sequence of periodic disciplinary measures (all entirely ‘trumped-up’, of course), one of which we’re told, ‘led to my departure from the organisation’. I am, of course, in no position to comment on those proceedings. But 21 years between the first complaint and his leaving the organisation seems a very long time to imply that the lefties had it in for him!

Nonetheless, I concede that it is possible the writer has accurately relayed how things unfolded and there was, indeed, an initial complaint that dogged his career. It is not unheard of for such things to happen and it may well be the case he was forced to leave as a result. I don’t know, I wasn’t there. But the biggest logical leap comes next.

The writer tells us he long thought Labour represented a threat to Christianity under Harold Wilson. He does let slip he believes this same agenda carried on under Ted Heath’s Conservative government, but apparently, it is still only the lefties – and Labour in particular – who are a problem. Having noted the threat, which he fails to outline at all (it is just stated point-blank as though we will all accept it a priori), he relays his workplace woes. The link he draws is that the threat he saw in the Labour government was made manifest in his workplace by this former Labour MP and activist. This leads him to conclude, ‘it does seem apparent, from the fact that it was a former Labour MP from the Attlee period who reported me in 1968, that the Labour Party’s stance on moral issues has been in place since the time of Attlee and possibly before that’.

The writer finishes his letter with the sassy sign-off, ‘ I should like to hope that the Labour Party leaders can be persuaded to have a rethink on issues of this kind if they expect to continue to receive support from Christians, but I am not holding my breath!’ The problem here is that it is entirely unclear what he wants them to rethink. He hasn’t stated any specific position on which he deems them a problem so he would be right not to hold his breath because he really hasn’t made any suggestion as to how they ought to change. What is more, given his lack of concern over Christian support for the Conservatives who he suggests shared much the same set of moral values, it is unclear why he expects Christians to support the one in favour of the other? He could, of course, be making a claim for UKIP support (his general dislike of ‘lefties’ would suggest the Lib Dems would not be on the agenda). But, I hate to break it to him, many Christians have a problem with some of UKIP’s policies (as, indeed, with the some of the policies of parties across the board).

So, just to sum up the case he is making: the writer faced a workplace complaint by a man who happened to be a Labour Party activist over a particular moral stand he took (which he hasn’t specified). Despite remaining in the company a further 21 years before leaving, he is certain that his departure was a direct result of this complaint. Having taken a stand which, by his own reckoning, was done in a less than helpful way, he is now convinced that Labour represent the biggest threat to Christianity in UK politics, despite noting that his unease with Labour policy at the time was aped by the Conservatives, who are nevertheless fine.

Despite how it may seem as you read that, I don’t think I am misrepresenting the case. Which brings us to the editorial decision to include the letter. Why on earth would you publish that? It is an almost entirely baseless diatribe against anyone who dares to support a political party that the writer evidently doesn’t like. I’m not saying the guy ought to like Labour – he is, indeed, a free agent and Christians will disagree over politics – but this isn’t relevant to any previous articles in the paper nor is it a terribly rational argument, especially in light of the admission that the Conservative Party thought the same way on whatever the issue in question was!

Whilst nobody should mind real critique of their party of choice, given that none of them are perfect, it doesn’t do Christians any favours when we give voice to this sort of thing. People generally struggle with Christians moaning about persecution as it is – indeed, some Christians get annoyed about it given what is going on across the world against believers – without giving them ammunition like this. Likewise, this sort of thing hardly helps with the widely held view – which, incidentally, is backed up by the evidence – that Evangelicalism is dominated by middle class Tories from the South East. Our role as a church is to call people to Christ, not to convince them that God so loved the world that he sent the Tories to stand against the liberal morals of the Labour Party. The letter might well enthuse a handful of flagwavers, but honest Conservative Party supporters would admit it is based on very little. It will similarly put off vast swathes of people in the North who may well see this as yet more evidence that Evangelicalism is just the spiritual arm of entrenched middle class concerns emanating from the Home Counties.