Kay Cutts is the leader of Nottinghamshire County Council. She is the Conservative County Councillor for Radcliffe on Trent. A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting at the Church of the Holy Spirit for faith leaders and representatives of the city and county councils. There were about 50 of us present, representatives of all the major faiths in Nottinghamshire and the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of local councils increasing the wages of their lowest paid employees in line with what the Living Wage Foundation calculate is a sustainable amount to live upon – £7-45 per hour. I’m a big supporter of this proposal as are political and business leaders from across the spectrum including Ed Milliband, Boris Johnson and David Cameron who described it as ‘an idea whose time has come’.
After various presentations Kay Cutts rose to speak – she cut the figure of a ‘lion in a den of Daniels’. Her response was clear and straightforward but not what I was expecting. I thought I might get a soft ‘political answer’, – ‘yes we agree with the sentiments but we can’t afford it… personally I am in favour but the timing is not right…’ but credit to Kay, she was disarmingly straightforward and direct.
To summarise her argument was –
‘This has nothing to do with churchmen or religious leaders. I am only accountable to the electorate; the best deal for them is to keep wages low. I don’t tell you how to pray, don’t you tell me how to run the council; I live and work in the ‘real’ world, your preserve is the ‘heavenly’ world above and encouraging people to live moral lives.”
Now my apologies to Kay if I have misrepresented her, it’s not my intention, but that’s as fair a summary as I can come up with.
As we have approached Easter I have thought back to that meeting again and again. Leaving aside the single issue of the Living Wage – whose supporters and opponents are drawn from across party lines, there is a critique that was repeated throughout Kay’s argument – in a nutshell – faith and politics are two separate spheres, and neither should intrude on the others turf.
Is she right?
Sorry Kay, I am sure you have got many things right in your time as leader of the council, but on this one you are wrong, from a Christian perspective anyway.
The church can never concede that faith and politics shouldn’t mix. At the heart of the Easter message is a view of God who draws near and get’s involved in the affairs of this world. That is what the incarnation is all about. God is enfleshed in a carpenter from Nazareth, no political revolutionary, but still one who would be brought before high priest, king and governor and be crucified under the banner of ‘the king of the Jews’.
The word ‘politics’ has its roots in the greek word ‘polis’ meaning ‘city’ or ‘life of the city’. And in the gospels we see Jesus weeping over the city of Jerusalem. We see him riding into the city on a donkey. We see him crucified ‘outside the city walls’ and we see him ascending to glory from the city of Jerusalem, and commanding that the good news his kingdom be taken from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. God is passionately concerned about the life of the city, and so should those be who seek to live in the light of his kingdom. The kingdom Jesus inaugurates through his death and resurrection is a real kingdom for the real world, a kingdom that will make a difference in history, politics and culture.
‘Jesus announced a kingdom that was political – in that “politics” in the classic sense is concerned with the manner in which real communities arrange their affairs. Jesus announced a kingdom that was this worldly – in that the rule of God was not far off in the heavens, but even then invading human history. “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17).’ (Lee Camp Mere Discipleship p101)
At Easter we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We begin our services with a shout of “Christ is risen, he is risen indeed’. And in doing so we proclaim the supremacy of the the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. May his kingdom come and is will be done on earth as it is in heaven.