If there was one thing my brother disliked, it was the present UK Government.
We had many conversations about how wrong things had become here. These conversations ranged from the latest war, to the Government’s actions during the pandemic, through to the sheer injustice of the system over which politicians presided.
It has been my experience that the very worst things happen when a Tory regime is in power. This does not negate the sins of Labour; but it seems to me that the Tory ideology has a capacity to grind and oppress the poor and vulnerable to an inhumane level.
My brother was disabled and experienced all this first hand. He developed childhood rheumatoid arthritis around the age of 14 and this affected so much of his life. He was familiar with pain but often made light of it and refused to be allowed to be a statistic. He would patiently listen to other people’s complaints though.
The capacity of the Government to make statistics of us cannot be underestimated. My brother was not rich, he got a little help, but these things always came with conditions. I remember one particular time when he was horrified that the Government were insisting that he regularly turn up for back to work appointments and were pressuring him to get other work. My brother worked – he worked so hard as an artist, often working well over 12 hours a day. He was often the only one painting in the building from which he rented a small studio. He dedicated himself to the task and each watercolour or sculpture he made took many hours of preparation and painstaking work. The detail within his giant experimental watercolours is astonishing.
Despite gaining a master’s degree in his field, he had to prove how hard he worked as a freelance artist. And still the Government had the capacity to make things so much worse for him.
Many of the conversations we had concerned the intersection of politics and faith. We talked openly about it and often agreed. Ad was horrified by the way in which Christians in particular felt a need to influence politics from within the political ‘profession’. When Trump became president, he blamed US Christians for unthinkingly supporting him. And often his artwork became political and philosophical. He wanted those who viewed his art to think. He was disturbed at how compliant and sheep-like believers had become under the UK Government. And how right-wing the faith had become.
I didn’t argue that he was wrong. Besides, I agreed with him. I simply tried to encourage him not to blame all believers for the actions of a few who thought that politics should be influenced beyond petition or ethical lobbying. I tried to persuade him that Bush and Blair did not represent every Christian. But in the face of a system which swung from Conservative to Labour without things getting significantly better, whoever was in power, he became quite cynical about it all. “What’s wrong with being cynical?” He asked. Despite this, he didn’t give up. He tried to create change through his art.
The idea from the Bible that governments are put into position by God simply repelled him. Obvious questions were asked – what about the Nazi party? What about North Korea? What about the Roman empire and every dictator throughout history? Questions of the divine right or otherwise of kings were explored.
Something which I have always found difficult, even before my prayer strike, was the insistence of churches and church groups to pray for the authorities. There is such a heavy emphasis on the scriptures which promote this, that it is unusual to find a prayer for the country which does not involve a prayer for Government or the Monarchy. I learned from my brother that Christians are still seen as part of an establishment which is effectively oppressing others. Because, while we are good at praying for those in power, we are less effective at confronting them. Most of us are hardly in positions of power, but that is still the perception. Not helped by constant public prayers for Government.
After the memorable time I attended a Conservative Christian Fellowship meeting (aiming to cover it for a story), I largely gave up praying for the authorities, unless compelled to. At the meeting the Christian in charge led the attendees to pray for the Government, their families… and their possessions… Just the possessions and families of the Tories.
There are specific and obvious areas in which the Government are so oppressive and these areas have been covered by better men and women than me. From the scandalous treatment of the disabled, through to policies on war, the NHS, poverty and the ideological conclusions which have basically promoted social Darwinism.
So, in moments of reflection, we were both as horrified as each other about what had happened to this country and the sheer resistance to positive change among those with power.
At the moment we likely face two more years under the present regime. There are many things that the Government could easily do to help the poor, students, pensioners, the disabled, the sick and also the dying. But they refuse to do so.
For example, strikes could be resolved easily. As Ad said concerning the unions, “Why doesn’t the Government just give them what they want?” Or is the argument that there really isn’t a magic money tree anymore? (A lie which was disproved by the pandemic and the wars which Britain supports.) They would have us racking our brains again for ways to save the Government the money which they still have.
They won’t change because they are greedy, selfish and power crazed. And as long as Christians continue to support this scandalous system, those with power will not budge a tiny bit. Most of us have been in survival mode for too long because of them.
So yes, my strike does involve not praying for the possessions of politicians too, I’m afraid. As the Government is a black hole when it comes to prayer, it should not make that much difference that politicians’ bank accounts, underfloor heating systems, shares and gold stashes are not protected by angels.
This present Government is yet another bad thing which God has allowed. However, they have forgotten one thing –
God is, at least, not with them.
Something which all of God’s enemies should remember.
And that is another reason the Almighty needs to quickly act out of his fabled love for us.
Or is that just a story too?