I took quite a bit of stick for spoiling my ballot paper at the last election but I knew what I was doing. Or perhaps I should say that I did so because I didn’t know what to do! I had reached the sad conclusion that I couldn’t support any political party.
My problem with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in particular can be summed up in one word: trust. Given recent developments, it seems to me (not to mention the European Union) that my fears were well founded too.
I wasn’t surprised to hear the Government was going to ‘renege’ on the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, but I have to admit that I was dumfounded to hear the Northern Ireland Secretary state that the Government was going to break international law. And if that wasn’t shocking enough, it was followed by the jaw-dropping spectacle of the Policing Minister justifying it as “practical” and the Justice Secretary defending it as an “insurance policy”.
Thankfully, five former Prime Ministers have spoken out against the Internal Markets Bill, and before I’m dismissed as a ‘Remainer’ let me inform you I voted ‘leave’. This is why I found the former Attorney General’s comments so helpful. The proposed law, he said, will do “unconscionable” damage to Britain’s international reputation.
The PM’s special envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief seems to agree with him too. He has resigned saying: “I have always acted in a manner which respects the rule of law… [and] voting for this bill as it currently stands would be contrary to the values I hold dearest.”
The Prime Minister surely knew what he was signing up to when he sold the agreement to Parliament and the country. If he didn’t, he should come clean and admit that he can now see he made a colossal blunder. But instead of this, we are witnessing a 21st century example of what the apostle Paul was talking about when he wrote: “They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.” (Romans 1)
‘The Message’ translation spells it out even more forcefully: “They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t careworse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!”
Our political leaders need to understand that this kind of behaviour will have a corrosive effect on our society. Their brazen attempts to justify law-breaking will only add to the current sense of cynicism and encourage ordinary people to think they can bend the rules too.
We will certainly find it more difficult to develop good international trading relationships, and it will make it impossible to challenge countries like Russia and China about their disregard for international law. This is particularly concerning for those of us who have an interest in the fate of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
As always, Jesus has something helpful to say: “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’, ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5)
And as John Stott helpfully observed, “A vow is binding irrespective of its accompanying formula. That being so the real implication of the law is that we must keep our promise and be people of our word.”
If only our political elite would take this advice to heart!
Rob James is a Baptist minister, writer and church and media consultant to the Evangelical Alliance Wales. He is the author of Little Thoughts About a Big God.
Views and opinions published in Christian Today are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the website.