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Stephen Daisley’s Excellent Article on Kate Forbes’ Christian Faith

Scotland is blessed with some fine journalists and commentators – Kevin McKenna, Andrew Neil, Jim Spence and Stephen Daisley.  The latter is a perceptive political pundit and he also has a lively turn with words.  His latest article in The Spectator, is a great example of hitting the nail on the head.   For those who are not able to read it – here it is below.  I would recommend highly subscribing to the Spectator – which really is a delight – and paying attention to anything Daisley writes.  You may not always agree with him – but he is always well informed and certainly makes you think.

Christians should pray for Kate Forbes (whether you agree with her politics or not) – above all that she would be protected for making such a clear and brave stance.  Non-Christians should be thankful that we have a politician of such calibre and character in such high office.

There are some questions that arise out of this article.

  1. Some ask how can a Christian be part of a party which in some of its policies goes against Christian teaching?   I cannot think of any political party which does not fit that criteria – perhaps the purists are right – and Joseph, Esther and Daniel were wrong to serve in pagan governments, but I don’t think that is what the Bible teaches.You can criticise Kate Forbes for her politics, but don’t use them to question her faith. Belonging to the SNP (or Labour, Tories, Lib Dems or Greens) or even serving in a pagan government is not sin! Pray for her – don’t snipe from the sidelines.
  2. Others think his comments on the C of S are harsh.  What about the evangelicals who still stay in the C of S?  Of course his comments are exaggerated – but then so is the reaction to them.   There are individual Christians and individual churches within the C of S who remain faithful to the Gospel.  But the denomination as a whole does not. This week for example,  it is about to approve ministers and elders conducting same sex marriages and considering removing the words ‘husband and wife’ from its marriage legislation.
  3. Why has she said this?  Because she was asked the question and she loves the Lord.  As Daisley points out, there is no political advantage in this and there are those fanatical ideologues who will be even more determined to get rid of her.  Let’s not aid them.

In praise of Kate Forbes’s Christian faith

Politics tends to attract people who consider themselves and their every mundane word and deed an example of great bravery. Like journalism and entertainment, it is an industry constructed around the pleasing myth that, whatever level you’re working at, you are engaged in the business of saving the world. Yet few politicians say much today that is courageous, or even all that original. When every dissenting view, colourful remark, or provocative thought brings with it the threat of cancellation, you have to console yourself with the fiction that saying the same thing as everyone around you is a courageous feat.

So when I say that Kate Forbes has done something courageous, I say it because she has done something no one around her is doing. The SNP politician serves as finance minister of the devolved government in Edinburgh but is out of step with many in her party — and the other parties — in that she is a Christian. And not one of those occasional hymn-mouthers on a zero-hours contract with the Almighty: she actually believes in it.

In an interview on the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast, Forbes tells Nick Robinson:To be straight, I believe in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe that he died for me, he saved me and that my calling is to serve and to love him and to serve and love my neighbours with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. So that for me is essential to my being. Politics will pass. I am a person before I was a politician and that person will continue to believe that I am made in the image of God.”

It is not news that Forbes is a believer. She has spoken before about growing up in India where her parents were missionaries of the Free Church of Scotland, which is like the Church of Scotland but with Christianity.

Forbes’ comments are an innocently-worded rebellion against the culture around her
However, this profession of faith and the unapologetic way in which it is delivered is entirely at odds with the aggressively secular, and increasingly anti-religious worldview that dominates Scottish public life, from politics and civil society, to news media and academia.

To pledge yourself so openly to Christ makes you sound like a bit of a freak, not least in a party with little regard for freedom of worship, freedom of religious expression and whose up-and-coming generation of activists is as wedded to transgender ideology as it is to Scottish nationalism.

Forbes’ comments are an innocently-worded rebellion against the culture around her, one that has not treated her kindly for her faith. In June 2018, she took part in a prayer breakfast in Edinburgh at which she petitioned the Lord:

May our politicians recognise that the way we treat the most vulnerable — whether the unborn or the terminally ill — is a measure of true progress.”
Even this most measured of statements on the right to life got her written up in the papers.

When she was being tipped as the next finance minister last February, Josh Mennie, then a member of the SNP national executive committee and a leader of the party’s LGBT group Out4Indy, said her promotion was ‘the last thing our party needs’.

When that promotion came, an SNP source told the National:

There are some concerns about her views on LGBT progress. She is a practising Christian which in itself is fine, but there is a worry whether she could use her beliefs to eschew progress for LGBT rights.
‘Which in itself is fine’. Forbes would have faced less resistance if she’d turned up at SNP conference in a Union Jack pants suit singing the Marshal Wade verse of the National Anthem.

If after all this she is still willing to speak openly about her religious convictions, it tells of an admirable level of personal steel. Of course, her critics inside the SNP will point to warm words in The Spectator as proof that Forbes is a secret right-winger, A Bad Person, or, perhaps worst of all, liked by people who don’t support independence.

On Thursday, the Lib Dem MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton remarked at Holyrood: ‘I do not know any member who does not like Kate Forbes personally.’

If you want to find anyone with a bad word to say about the rising star of the SNP, you have to ask inside the SNP.

Forbes’ profession of faith is a small, humble act but one that took real political bravery. It will bring her no advantage and may well earn her more brickbats; it is more likely to hinder than help any designs she might have on her party’s leadership.

Yet she said it because she believes it to be true. There is something welcome and commendable about that, and if it does attract more scorn, there is a lesson for Forbes in John 15:18. No doubt she’ll know the verse.

Quantum 81 – Kate Forbes, Internet Law, Swiss Homophobia, Finnish Intolerance, Brazilian Youth, Irish Elections, Apartheid Racists; Sheffield Uni; Labour and Trans; Joaquin Phoenix; Philip Schofield; Wuhan Doctor

Derek Mackay – The End of the Scottish Government?

 

28 comments

  1. “… the Free Church of Scotland, which is like the Church of Scotland but with Christianity.”

    As a former (emphasise!) CoS minister, I loved that comment!

    However, my main concern regarding a sister in the Lord such as Kate Forbes, is how any disciple of Jesus can be an active part of a political party that espouses the policies on human life, and on marriage, of the SNP! I would love to have the opportunity to chat with her on that topic.

  2. Why is it that stereotyping of anyone which protected characteristics is prohibited in public and social spheres, unless your a Christian! Then your fair game for being drawn into having to defend or renounce supposition and speculation.

    Jesus set the example, be wise and harmless. Don’t be drawn into loaded questions. Expose hypocrisy.

    1. As far as I can ascertain from the website to which “Liz” directs us, she voted in favour with one abstention and one absence. The latter stages appear to have been supported!

  3. You write:
    “I cannot think of any political party which does not fit that criteria”
    I assume you mean political party with sitting MPs.
    The Scottish Family Party seems not to fit “that criteria”.

    1. The Scottish Family Party, according to an e-mail sent out prior to the recent election, by the leader of the Scottish Christian Party, is not as espoused to Christian values as some of us had believed! I quote:

      “The SFP has no clear definition of the family. On North Highland Radio on 4/12/2019 the SFP leader Richard Lucas said that “the Scottish Family Party doesn’t have a policy on same-sex marriage”, begging the question on its definition of the family. The leader of the Scottish Family Party stresses that the Scottish Family Party is not a Christian party https://twitter.com/scotfamparty/status/1195071629375787010 and distances the SFP from this label.

      One of the Scottish Family Party candidates on regional list candidate for the Highlands and Islands is a bisexual, ex-porn star who is considering marriage to his current partner https://www.facebook.com/ScottishChristianParty/posts/4188607771182425 He says that the Scottish Family Party ‘best represent my views on life and society’ https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9437661/German-gay-porn-star-turned-fireman-43-runs-Scottish-Parliament.html

      This may be a case in which the old adage “All that glisters is not gold” may apply!

      Thankfully, the end of the latter URL is not accurate! The situation is bad enough!!

      1. Sadly, this email from the leader of the Scottish Christian Party was misleading. SFP candidate, ex-gay ex-porn star Phil Tanzer now has a girlfriend. It is very unfortunate that this attack on the SFP and on Phil was made during the election campaign.

        In response to the family definition issue:

         Our stance is that defining “family” is not a helpful approach.  For example, if a child is asked about her family and she says she has two mums, does anyone really want to reply that that isn’t actually a family?  The normal usage of the word family now encompasses various family forms.  A better approach, in our view, is to be clear that we regard natural family life, with children being brought up by their own mother and father, as the ideal. 

        The SFP does not have a policy on Same Sex Marriage (though most of our supporters probably oppose it) as we decided that it would not be a fruitful issue to focus on.  Instead, we put forward the positive ideal of natural family life.

        We note that while Donald Boyd was criticising the SFP for allegedly deviating from Christian teaching, he was standing as a candidate for All4Unity – a party that is not pro-life, pro-marriage or remotely reflecting distinctive Christian values.

  4. I think the broader issue is whether a Christian can be a nationalist (certainly the toxic nationalist bile the SNP puts out)? I just can’t reconcile this in my head — isn’t nationalism idolatry?

    1. DO you think that a Christian can be a patriot? Can an American Christian be patriotic about America? A UK one about the UK? A Scottish one about Scotland? I’m not sure that the nation state is de facto an ideal – like sex, money, family, health, music, etc they can be…but that does not mean they are!

      1. Wee Flea – I’m surprised you (seem to) think ‘patriotism’ is the same as ‘nationaism’.

  5. “What about the evangelicals who still stay in the C of S?” Indeed which then alludes to the same kind of issue raised in the 1966 Evangelical Alliance conference where there was a disagreement over ecumenism. Martin Lloyd Jones had the view that evangelicals should come out of their denominations to unify and then evangelise. Whereas John Stott had the view that biblically Israel’s history showed there to be a “remnant” and argued for evangelicals to stay within “beloved denominations”.

    Lloyd-Jones argued that is was sinful to be a “schism” between evangelicals in this. Ironically the approach he took resulted in divisions within evangelicals thereby doing what he called sinful.

    So – there’s nothing new under the sun with church politics. “… the Free Church of Scotland, which is like the Church of Scotland but with Christianity.” Well, some will love that comment, some might loath it. All I see is a Punch and Judy show if you want to get involved in that “debate” all power to your elbow. I’ll sit back and watch while I eat my popcorn :).

    Ok moving on…

    “You can criticise Kate Forbes for her politics, but don’t use them to question her faith.” Indeed and it certainly seems that she is up for the challenge in both cases. It will be interesting to see how this develops politically and spiritually.

  6. What happened to that christian SNP MP who voted against the Northern Ireland abortion bill in Westminster? Is she still around?

  7. While not really agreeing with Dave’s interpretation of Jesus’ example, I think he comes closest to hitting the nail on the head.
    The Scottish government is prepared to tolerate Christian individuals and denominations, for as long as they believe them to be harmless.

  8. It seems to me that if you have to “tiptoe” around your faith in your job, you are almost certainly in the wrong job!

    1. Thats a counsel of perfection and despair….in today’s world many people have to ‘tiptoe’ round their faith in their job – as indeed CHristians had to in the early centuries…

      1. David, it’s not a counsel of perfection and despair but one of much needed integrity in public life. The context was one of a leading politician in a political party. To be a in her role – as a Christian – in the SNP is to give succour to some of the vilest, anti-Christian and most immoral policies that are leading Scotland down a path of destruction. That’s not standing up for Christian values. I have had private correspondence with Kate Forbes in the past, questioning how a Christian can do this and, in my words, as I recollect her reply, she said it was important to keep a Christian voice in the ‘public square’. My response was that the problem is that in the SNP no Christian voice is being heard in the context of party politics. If it was it would be silenced brutally and quickly.

      2. ‘in the SNP no Christian voice is being heard’ – and yet here is Kate Forbes being praised in the Spectator and elsewhere for being overtly Christian and open about it…and yet who criticises? Her fellow Christians!

  9. Written last year: What’s more important, Christians in politics or Christian values in politics? What’s best: a Christian who does not stand up for what they believe, or an atheist or a Muslim holding the same values who is willing to speak out and exert influence?

    Our mission as Christians in politics is primarily to promote policies that reflect God’s standards, wisdom and priorities and, therefore, contribute to the good of society. Any allies in this cause are welcome. Those hindering it are not allies, but opponents – whether they wear the Christian badge or not. Success is the advancement of righteous values in public debate and the implementation of such policies, whoever is involved.

    It’s always encouraging to hear of Christians in prominent positions. They can use their influence to portray the faith positively and demonstrate integrity in their field. The Christian footballer might make supporters more open to faith themselves, and his good conduct and sportsmanship can bear witness to his values (hopefully!). However, we don’t need to care who he plays for, how many goals (or own goals) he scores, or how his team fares – winning the league is neither here nor there.

    With politics, it’s different. While a Christian politician might well bear witness to their personal faith effectively, it does matter which team they are on. We might not care who wins the league, but we do care when ungodly policies that will hurt individuals and fundamentally damage our society are enacted. Own goals in politics are not just embarrassing – a Christian politician whose actions result in anti-Christian policies advancing should not be cheered.

    There is considerable scope for discussion of how Christian values are best promoted through the democratic system. I’m not ruling out any particular approach here. I’m just stating the objective.
    The ultimate goal is not to have Christians in politics, but to have Christian values promoted in politics. So, on election day, the personal faith of individual politicians should count for little. We should vote for the values and policies we believe will benefit society.

    Whether individual politicians wear the Christian badge or not should be of little consequence. We’re not trying to advance our tribe at the expense of other identity groups, but to bring the fruit of righteousness into our national life.

    1. David, last word on the subject. My point was that it it not being heard in the context of SNP politics, nor would it be allowed to be. I commend her for her very welcome and clear testimony in the public arena but that is a different issue. I also believe, personally, and have told her so personally, that being an SNP MSP or leader is incompatible with a clear Christian testimony and actually undermines it. as someone else commented on here, the day is coming when she will have to publicly choose between party and faith and I earnestly pray she will know the Lord’s enabling and courage to make the only right choice there is in that situation.

      1. Do you think being a Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem politician is compatible with clear Christian testimony? Will you tell Christians who are the same thing you told Kate Forbes? Do you think Joseph, Daniel, Esther or Erastus were having clear Christian testimonies when they served in Pagan governments?

      2. Yes, David, I have said that to some other politicians, though I believe the stranglehold on dissent in the SNP and some of their extreme policies makes them a currently worse case scenario. I am not sure Daniel et al are a fair comparison since I don’t think they opted by choice to serve in those capacities. We live in a democracy where no-one is forced to be a member of or serve in a political party.

  10. Christians in Politics
    Part 8: Newsflash: we live in a democracy!
    Many Christians seem to have philosophies of political engagement that neglect the fact that we live in a democracy. Why is this?
    The Bible presents three distinct types of political or governmental involvement. Firstly, there are Old Testament rulers over God’s people appointed by God. Then there are divinely placed political insiders exerting Godly influence. Finally, the prophetic outsiders inject truth from the margins. Democratic processes play no part for the simple reason that no democratic societies feature in the Biblical narrative.
    These models can lead Christians to overlook the democratic possibility of putting prophets into positions of prominence by deliberately voting for them. “Join a mainstream party and hope to get elected” is the assumed route to Christian representation in parliament. Or speak prophetically from the sidelines. Voting for a party that represents Christian values is not usually considered.
    This leaves many Christians voting on the basis of mainstream political issues, then feeling that many of their core values are unrepresented in political debate. Then they might campaign and write to their MSP about their concerns, but the vast majority of MSPs and certainly the parties are unreceptive. Even if the individual MSP is more in agreement, the direction of party and government policy remains unchanged.
    By this strategy, Christians fail to register their distinctive views through the democratic process. It’s election day that determines the political direction of the nation. And it’s election day when many Christians take a day off from political action inspired by their distinctive values.
    This neglect of the democratic system is compounded by Christian charities. Many groups that campaign to promote Christian values in the political arena are registered charities, so they must be careful not to endorse any particular party. So what sort of activity can they encourage? Writing to elected politicians, signing petitions and the like. Anything, really, apart from voting for a party that will actually advance their agenda in parliament. They can congratulate and give a platform to representatives of parties completely at odds with their core values, but commending a party promoting what they also promote is taboo.
    The current Holyrood parties are satisfied with this state of affairs. They cannot afford to split their vote by taking a distinct line on controversial moral issues even if they wanted to. The last thing they want is Christian moral values entering mainstream political debate. They want to ignore them or contradict them without fear of electoral consequence. Sending a few bland letters to challenging constituents is a small price to pay to keep Christian values where they think they belong: on the sidelines.
    Imagine this: instead of forming the SNP, Scottish nationalists had invested their energies in writing strongly worded letters to Labour and Conservative politicians urging them to embrace the cause of independence. Where would that have got them? Nowhere. Instead, they had the sense to form a party embodying their core values and enter the political fray – at the ballot box – despite the initial odds being stacked against them.
    How many Christians cycle through this sequence?
    Vote for a mainstream party that doesn’t represent their core values.
    Spend the next four years complaining that their views are not represented in Parliament.
    Return to step 1.
    It’s time to break the cycle.
    Election day should not be a holiday from Christian political engagement. It is the day when we have real power at our fingertips. Let’s use it.
    Part 9: The lesser of a few evils?
    When no party represents one’s views on critical moral values, is it best to vote for the lesser of two (or more) evils? Possibly, but it depends on the particular context and what is at stake.
    To make my point I’ll use an extreme illustration: if the choice was just between Party A promising to kill all Jews and Party B promising only to kill half of them, which would you vote for? One could attempt to justify a vote for Party B on utilitarian grounds because it leads to less deaths. But can you, in good conscience, express support for Party B by voting for them? Could you, as a Christian, be a member of Party B and thereby align yourself with it? At election time, could you knock on doors and implore people to vote for party B?
    How about joining Party A in order to influence it from the inside? That might be a noble end, but in doing so you are expressing public support for Party A, contributing to them financially, and implying that you think that others should vote for them as well. Even if you are vocal in opposition to their murderous policy, your membership of the party implies that you do not see Jew killing as a deal breaker. That is surely not morally acceptable. The same argument applies to Party B.
    So, in this case, starting/supporting a new party is the only acceptable option.
    However, if existing parties do not espouse policies that directly contravene God’s moral standards on weighty issues, then voting for, joining or supporting one might be a valid option, possibly with the intention of exerting influence within it.
    So, which category do the Holyrood parties fall into? To begin, I suggest we bring to mind the 13,500 abortions in Scotland last year that proceed with the tacit or enthusiastic approval of all Holyrood parties. We believe that abortion involves the taking of innocent human life. Should that be a dealbreaker fo Christians?
    Can you support a party that is perfectly willing to see thousands of human lives deliberately ended? If you can, then you are making a very clear statement that the preservation of human life is not a non-negotiable principle for you. Can you seriously claim to see abortion as a matter of life and death while endorsing the parties endorsing the killing?
    One argument against this principled position could run like this: if you vote for a party with a chance of winning, at least you’ll have had some influence. Two points can be made in reply. Firstly, there is no such thing as a wasted vote. All parties look at election results and learn. If they see votes for small parties with different moral outlook than their own, they realise that there are voters who are put off by their current stance – voters who might be won over by changing it. Every additional vote counted for a party embodying your moral values has an influence.
    The most powerful argument here is more simple, though. We are in Scotland. Small parties can see representatives elected for as little as 5% on the Regional List system. There are more than enough people with strong values.
    It’s time to face up to the cold hard logic: membership of, support for, or even a vote for the SNP, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens or the Conservatives implies that industrial scale killing of the unborn is not a deal breaker for you.
    It took me a long time to arrive at this conclusion, but perhaps you can accept the truth more quickly, if you haven’t already.
    A helpful way of clarifying our thinking can be to replace a word with an accurate alternative, so, if you want to test your resolution to resist the implication of supporting a pro-choice party, try standing in front of the mirror and saying a few lines like this:
    “I voted for a party that wants to continue the killing of unborn children because they were the ones most likely to beat the SNP here.”
    “I am a member of a party that wants to allow the killing of unborn children right up to birth because I am concerned about climate change.”
    “I urge you to vote for a party that wants even more unborn children to be killed, because Scotland should be an independent nation.”
    If your conscience allows you to say these things in good faith, well, at least you have faced up to actuality. If it doesn’t, it’s time for a shift in your political allegiance.

  11. John’s observation is, I would contest, neither perfectionist nor despairing. We all make choices. Such as what is more important to us. our jobs/political allegiance or our faith. We then live with the consequences of these choices. We all fall short.
    Surely the point is that if any Christian is to be held up as an example it should be that of a failed individual who falls short and requires Christ’s salvation.
    A council of hope.

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