In church recently I met someone who runs a food bank. He talked to me about how his service helped people from many different backgrounds who have become stuck in a poverty trap. Some need short term support to get them through a difficult period, while others are permanently stuck. I was struck by the commitment of this gentleman to help others and of his conviction that our society should not be organised this way.
It is a familiar story to any churchgoer. Churches across the country contain many similarly motivated people. They are driven by their Christian conviction that all are created equally and that everyone therefore has equal worth. Working in food banks, helping the homeless, giving shelter to refugees, fighting famine and poverty abroad, and in many other ways, church members are working for the most disadvantaged in society. Moreover, with at least one church in every town and village, this work is happening and being supported across the country.
Something else is happening too. Increasingly those same people are becoming frustrated with an economic system which perpetuates the problems they are trying to alleviate. They may not always express it in those terms, but they do know this is not how things should be. The Bible they read regularly is pretty clear on this by the way. It is at this point that social concern leads to politics, in an attempt to tackle the underlying causes of the problems in our society. People of different faiths are represented in each of the mainstream parties but this concern is one reason why many have been drawn to the Labour Party.
At Christians on the Left we have seen this interest in politics rise over many years. We act as a bridge between church and Labour Party politics. For a number of elections now we have worked to help candidates on the ground connect with their local churches, as well as providing training, while nationally we have helped party leaders build church – and other faith – relationships. This is alongside campaigning for policies such as bank reform and a Robin Hood tax.
There could not be a greater contrast with the distorted and fanatical versions of faith represented by the recent terror attacks. A message of hate, violence, and division is being challenged every day by lives committed to reconciliation and social action. This is fundamental to our Labour mission, whatever our perspective on faith. It is also an important reason why there are 54 members of Christians on the Left standing as Labour candidates at this general election.