How Christians and the Church should respond to Corbynism

This article has gone through so many changes, it’s crazy!  The post talks about how Christians and the Church should see the ‘Cult of Corbynism’ and how do we respond to it.  I do not hide the fact that I support Owen Smith and the PLP in the attempt to remove Jeremy Corbyn from leadership. I mean come on, I have Smith in my profile picture on Facebook! But unlike some Corbynites, I do not worship him; He is just a man, but one whom I just feel will do a far better job for the electorate!  Labour should be about all of us, and not about one man.

This post will be split into two issues.  One on how we deal with Corbynism personally as Christians, and the section section on how the church should deal with it. This allows us to see the issue from an individual standpoint, and from a wider collective issue.

In my humble opinion, Corbyn has been in fact disastrous for the left, always behind in the polls, losing council seats, making the party look like an idiot at PMQs, and failing to lead a credible opposition, failing to call the government to account on key issues at key times and has allowed hard left from the SWP and Greens to join the party (then moans because they cannot vote, though common sense says they shouldn’t) .  This post won’t focus on his past or on his failing, but on what is known as Corbynism.  I have been in many a debate with people over their leader, and it eventually just becomes a cycle, or me just getting called names.  Therefore i am focusing on the whole issue of leadership and what some people have classed as a ‘cult’.  I accept that I have a bias, however certain issues have to be addressed and this article attempts to show how Christians should especially look at the so called ‘Cult of Corbynism’.

What are traditional Labour values?

I keep hearing that we must go back to traditional Labour values, by both Corbyn and Smith.  Go back to the days of Keir Hardie.  I disagree, as a party; we must be forward looking, being adaptable and modern.  The times of Hardie are completely different to what they are now, the working class has transformed and their needs have changed.  The Labour party should be a party that should not be looking back, but always looking to see what it can do next.  As Christians, we should also be forward looking, to the coming of Christ, and in politics, we shouldn’t be tied to what a party thinks ‘values’ are, but by the what the Lord wants, to be that light!  Love needs to be our guide and we should let our values be shaped by the bible.

atlee

A few hours ago, I just watched another Labour leadership debate, once again Smith showed passion and directness, with Corbyn being all over the place regarding policies.  What caught my attention was a speaker who said he left Labour when Blair won and has only just re-joined the party under Corbyn.  Is this what we’re about?  Do people want us to win?  Shouldn’t that be a key value, to win, to help the people of this nation, no matter their position in society?  Of course Christians should be helping people no matter who is in government.  We play a huge role in society, but by having a Labour party in government, at least there is some help given by those in power!

Being the change

momentum-corbyn-a-cult-of-dangerous-thugs-body-image-1469032172
© Chris Beckett, image used under non-commercial reuse licence.

Corybnites seem to rally behind this man even after he is proven wrong, after he failed the nation in his stance on the EU debate (even appearing to sympathise with the Brexit side), and many  polls and voter surveys suggest he’s the worst party leader in the history of Parliament.  We have to acknowledge our failures and faults; we have to remember as Christians, that he is just a man.

What about Owen Smith then? He is a man too, after all.  The simple answer is Smith has a greater chance of winning the 2020 election. He will have more of an appeal across the land, rather than the fanatical obsession of a few (which isolates much of the country) and with that bring a government, a cabinet that will aim to improve the conditions of people’s lives across the board, but it won’t be perfect, it won’t solve all our wants.  Christians should not follow their leader or their party blindly, as sometimes appears the case with many ‘Corbynites’.

Corbyn has many, many faults, and we have to see that and get beyond the propaganda spouted by his office and take a step back.  If you want to make a difference, do not look to the leader of a party.  BE THE CHANGE, look to Christ, and follow His example.  My friend corrected me in a debate once; he said that change has to be done at the grassroots.  We as Christians need to be that change, by the power of the Spirit, help people’s lives.  You want kinder gentler politics?  Then do it yourself, respect the Tories, yes we disagree, but we have to disagree well!  Respect those on the centre-left, and all in the party.  I know you want to be radical, that I understand, but we have to be careful.  If this is achieved then we will see change!  So forget your faith in the man, put your faith in Christ and see what can be done!

Corbyn won’t bring salvation, he won’t change the world, in fact he will fail us, and he will let us down, as any man would.  The Bible, the ultimate authority on life says quite simply:

“Do not put your trust in princes, in human beings, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. [But] blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.” (Psalm 146:3-4).

The psalm goes on, beautifully, to talk about how the Lord ‘upholds the cause of the oppressed’, in a way that man never can, however much he tries.

Leadership is very much a Biblical principle, but leaders should only go so far and never infringe or get anywhere near the first commandment . Corbyn, however, charismatic chap that he is, is worshiped like some demi-god by his almost-fanatical supporters.

Support for Owen

Recently, key figures such as Khan have given Smith the backing to be leader.  With the support of 170+ MPs and an ever growing support amongst members, i wonder who it is who will be able to unite this broad church in Labour?  As Christians, we understand the value of unity.  How I long for it in the church, reformed, charismatic, we need unity.  Corbyn is like a Hyper-Calvinist or extreme Arminian in a church, just divides it!  You need to understand all viewpoints, and this is why my support goes to Owen.  Yes he is not perfect, but no one is.  I won’t follow him to the ends of the earth, but i trust him to lead the party to victory.

Voting

Vote whatever way you want, but before you do, pray!  I can say that if Corbyn wins in September, I, along with many others will never vote Labour. The soft-left looks to have been defeated.  The radical/hard left politics has won, and now we have right vs left.  History shows that the right in England always prevails, the soft-left was really the only way you could implement socialist policies like under Clement Attlee.  Anyhow, fellow Christians, maybe I am wrong, who knows, God certainly does, but for me, I use what is in front of me, the evidence and facts.

I do pray that Christians can be the light in politics, that we can be the real difference.  It isn’t about a man or a woman, about whom he or she is or where he or she was raised.  It is about Christ, and what he gave us.  If we want to see a radical change, then stop following Corbyn, and get out there and be the difference yourself.  Let love be in your heart.

I call upon Christians to be love, we are always bound to disagree on issues, but let us disagree well.  I am guilty as the next person for letting my emotions get the better of me, but let us learn and let us love.  At the end of the day, vote for whoever you feel is best for the job, however seek God in prayer before making a decision.  Remember that neither Corbyn or Smith will improve us, if you want to see change, then you be the change, by your love, by your actions and by the work of the spirit.

corbyn vs smith

Warnings for the Church

So far, I have discussed how Christians should respond to Corbynism. How as individuals we should respond to the media and support surrounding him.  However the issue can be related to the health of the church.  It can be stated that this point alone could be its own article entirely.  Nonetheless, I feel led to write this together, to see what can we learn from the leadership election as a part of the Body of Christ, the Church.  We have learnt that as individuals we should be loving, and that we need to be the light.  This also applies to the church.  We don’t need to follow political leaders, and that has been shown, but there are also other lessons that can be learnt from this contest.

The Church, sad to say, in many ways is no different than a political party.  We have disagreements over tertiary and secondary issues, just like a political party.  Yet we should have more to unify us – Christ. The Labour leadership contest should be a warning to the church.  So what are these warnings?

  1. Following men is wrong.  Too often do we as a church look to ‘big names’ past and present, at Spurgeon, Ryle, Lloyd-Jones, etc. and see them as something special in and of themselves.  However, we are not meant to follow men, or to glorify the past (1 Cor. 1:10-13 & Phi. 3:13-14) .  We are to see how God has worked in their lives and ministry, and be inspired, yes. Yet too often I seem to hear people treat these men as people treat Corbyn.  We must be careful, look forward and follow God in all we do.
  2. The lack of passion in the church.  We are seeing people turn out on mass to support a man in a political election.  They put us to shame!  Where is our passion brothers?  They defend Corbyn likes he’s their Saviour.  We have a Saviour and where is our voice?  We are quiet, usually in our little bubble.  We should pray and ask God to renew our lives, our hearts, to give us passion for Christ and to make a change in this world.  We don’t have to attend silly rallies, but the passion and energy is something we need.
  3. The Church needs unity.  Like the Labour party at the moment, we have become too divisive.  There are more and more denominations, and it’s getting frankly ridiculous.  CofE, Reformed, Charismatic, Pentecostal, Baptist, Evangelical, Methodist, etc… then all the many sub-divisions of each of these, some wackier than the rest.  We all agree on the fundamentals, that Christ is our Saviour, yet we let secondary issues and the like divide us into arguments.  We take too much pride in our denominations and not in Jesus.  Denominations are man made, and although we will never see a unified church here on earth, we need to make steps towards a more comradely, loving church that sees Reformed and Charismatic churches working together, to understand that they may not be 100% right and can learn something from other churches.
  4. We need to be the light.  What this leadership election has shown is just how nasty politics is.  I’ve already talked about being the change.  But we need to be the light, whether on social media on when we meet people face to face.  I’ve been called a red Tory, a Blairite, and someone even called for a Final Solution for people like me.  When we respond to this behaviour, we must do in love.  I’m glad that the Christians on the Left have not nominated a candidate, but express both camps well.  We need to be careful with what we say and do, the world watches us!  That does not mean we cannot support a candidate!  Just be careful in how we either show that support and how we treat others
  5. We need to be loud.  Too often are we, the church, stuck in our little bubble.  We have to ask God for strength and for courage.  To make a stand in this world.  In the words of my favourite band

“Today is ours, it’s always been
Before we face the fight
We know who’s gonna win
We live by faith and not by sight
We don’t want safe and quiet
We don’t wanna run and hide”

We shouldn’t want a safe and quiet life, we shouldn’t be running from the world.  What we have learnt from the leadership election, is that we have to be bold, and not afraid.  We have to stand up for what we believe in and be a difference.

Conclusion: Let love Prevail

I have never been a Corbyn supporter, and to be frank, his support is terrifying.  He fails us time and time again, yet it never wavers, it is certainly interesting to watch.  Nonetheless, we as Christians do not owe our loyalty to political leaders, but to Christ.  The Church does need to learn lessons and the state of the Labour party is a great example of what disunity look like, and how it can happen.  We should learn some lessons and become more like Jesus.

We are meant to lift up one person alone, and that is Jesus Christ.  Our Saviour and our light.  These words from a Skillet song tell us how we should lift him up and no one else!

“I testify, this is not a secret meant to keep
Your love, like fire, spreading from my heart straight to my feet
And when I was dead, you gave me new life
I’m lifting you up with all of my might
I don’t care who’s to the left, to the right
You’re all that’s on my mind
Don’t really care what they say, what they think
I feel so alive”

Love and peace to all, doesn’t matter what your politics are, who you are, or what you think of me.  I hope and pray that the rest of the Labour leadership is done in more of a comradely fashion and If Corbyn wins, then I wish you and the Labour party all the best.

God’s Grace at work during the Second World War

Grace is such a wonderful and amazing conundrum (and I don’t use these terms loosely!). Throughout history, since the beginning of time itself, God has guided and protected us, through trials and tribulations, as well as bestowing upon the world His greatest gift. Every breath we take is another gift from God. How often do we stop to think of His amazing and immeasurable grace in all these many ways?

The Great War (WW1) was billed as the ‘war to end all wars’. How wrong that was! Less than twenty-five years later, the world was plunged into chaos once again (the same old story since the Fall of Man)…

God’s grace during the Second World War

I had the opportunity recently to avail myself of two great little books. War and Grace by Don Stephens published in 2005 by Evangelical Press (EP) and the recent follow-up War and Faith published in 2015. They are short but nonetheless powerful collections of testimonies of the Lord’s grace to a number of people from the Second World War. These range from fighter pilots and submarine commanders to chaplains and ordinary men and women caught up in the whirlwind of the War. Their stories really took my breath away.

Often, it seems, certainly in my circles anyway, we hear much from the great revivals and stories from before the turn of the 20th century and not so much from afterwards, when equally as great works of God continue to abound. Another book I recommend, while I’m at it, also by EP is The Power to Save: A History of the Gospel in China by Bob Davey; we often talk vaguely of ‘things happening in China’, this goes into specifics about the world’s largest country (population-wise) and is an encouraging read for the Christian.

The fact is God was at work in many different amazing ways during the Second World War. Not just in the momentous battles in the sky, the sea, in the country, in cities, in the Cabinet War Rooms or the ‘Wolf’s Lair’, nay God was just as much at work amongst the families and individuals thrown hither and thither by the great conflict; the poor starving Russian peasants, fighting for their lives; the civilians upon whom bombs rained down; the forgotten millions dying in concentration camps; and the masses blindly following Hitler and his Nazi ideology. We ask: how was God at work in such a great manifestation of sin and man’s wickedness?

He was at work in small ways and in big ways. Many tales can be told of remarkable escapes and deliverances, in which God’s hand is clearly seen. Many died for their faith, many cried out to God in their distress (even the most ardent atheists turn to God in times of trouble). As a whole, we can see God’s fingerprints on the way events played out and justice was served.

Two tales I know of, firsthand from those who experienced it, go like this:

Somewhere in the desert, British soldier Les Walker and his jeep were stuck the wrong side of a minefield. He needed to cross this field, to join his comrades on the other side, before Axis forces overtook him. He didn’t really believe in God, but he prayed simply, “Lord, if you’ll get me through this minefield, then I’ll serve you.” Having done so, without any further thought, he put the jeep into gear and drove on, straight through the minefield. God listened to his prayer and he emerged from the minefield unscathed, to the astonishment of his compatriots.
True to his word, once the War was over and he was demobbed, he served in the Lord’s army, being put to good use in the spiritual war that is all-around us.

Even into his nineties he served the Lord, seeking to show people Christ, in his own unique way. Once when on the beach, witnessing to a group of rowdy lads, they began to get ugly at this old man talking such drivel. “I’m gonna beat you up,” said one of them, towering over the elderly figure.

Les looked him in the eye and smiled, “Well, judging by the looks of you and the looks of me, I shouldn’t think you’ll have much trouble.”

“You know what, I like you,” grinned the lad, antagonism gone. And Les had an opportunity to tell them of Christ the Rock of ages, who had been with him throughout his long life.

Another remarkable deliverance, I know of, a world apart from desert minefields, happened on the little island of Malta: The small island with a fascinating history, well worth looking into, from the apostle Paul, who was shipwrecked there (the archaeological records of which make for interesting reading) to the Great Siege of the 16th century against a handful of knights called the order of St John, to German and Italian attempts to obliterate the place and doing their utmost to prevent British convoys getting through during the Siege of Malta in the War.

During this last siege (1940-42), a dear lady in our church (a teenager at the time) was with her father, a harbour-master stationed in Malta, taking refuge in a single room with some other civilians. The bombs rained down, heavier and closer at hand than they had experienced before. They crouched under a table nervously waiting and listening, until the all-clear sounded. Her father cautiously opened the door and stepped out, “I think you should see this,” he said shortly. Looking out, the entire area was flattened, obliterated. The building they had been taking refuge in was devastated, but for the room they had been hiding in. The full weight of this remarkable deliverance only struck home later on in her life, when she realised this was the ‘unseen hand of providence’ clearly at work. She can tell of many such experiences.

Discovering forgotten tales of providence

To all you young men and women keeping yourselves to yourselves in your own little corner of the church, playing Pokemon Go on your smartphones: have a natter with some of the older members of the church, and ask them to tell you a story! Once you get past the ‘new technology-can’t-keep-up’ versus ‘old fuddy-duddy’ generational barrier, and laugh off the “How you’ve grown!” comments (their way of breaking the ice), they’ll not only amaze you with how like-minded they are but will be able to relate amazing tales of the Lord’s providence throughout their lives, perhaps stretching back to the War. These might otherwise remain unknown and thereby sadly forgotten. The experience will leave you buzzing, and they’ll be delighted to tell you about the ‘old days’. There’s a challenge for you… do it! Pray about it and for blessing in your conversations. Get a notebook and pen or bring a friend, if it helps. Either way, do write it down!

War and Grace

Don Stephens wrote many of these accounts, in just such a manner, through personal correspondence with those who experienced them.

The first book features some key players’ personal testimonies, from all sides, including: the lead Japanese pilot in the infamous Pearl Harbor raid; the US airman (and former athlete) adrift at sea for weeks before being captured by the Japanese and tortured, the exploits of whom were recently portrayed in the 2014 film Unbroken; the prayerful Royal Navy submarine commander stuck on the bottom of the ocean; the US chaplain who witnessed to Hermann Goering and other leading Nazi war criminals; and a German pastor who gave his life in the Lord’s service.

They are all amazing stories of the Lord’s grace, irrespective of any of the divisions, cultural and diplomatic during that period. He was at work amongst the Allies and the Axis.

War and Faith

Smaller things and little people matter as well as big things and big people. They can all encourage us equally. This is the focus of the second book. Individuals from various backgrounds and ‘denominations’ caught up in the war, including a test pilot, holocaust survivor and a martyr in a land not her own, stubbornly refusing to give in, instead trusting in her Lord till the end.

 

Such stories are so vitally important for us today. Much is forgotten, and so little survives, so we should treasure it all the more. We can learn valuable lessons from them, as well as take encouragement from these rousing tales of God’s grace in troubling times. If we think we’ve got it bad then maybe we ought to think again! I would wholeheartedly recommend having a chat with some of the older folk, with an open mind.

I think it would be fitting to end with the hymn that was the watchword of dear Les Walker’s life on earth (as a young lad, my two memories of him were of this hymn and his love of the book of Isaiah, we always sang and read together), as well as many others:

Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home:

Under the shadow of your throne
your saints have dwelt secure;
sufficient is your arm alone,
and our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood
or earth received its frame,
from everlasting you are God,
to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in your sight
are like an evening gone,
short as the watch that ends the night
before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
soon bears us all away;
we fly forgotten, as a dream
dies at the opening day.

Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
still be our guard while troubles last,
and our eternal home!

Why I am not a Calvinist

I am not a Calvinist. This may be a shock to some of you who know me, and those who don’t know me, well I doubt you worry as much!  Before there is total uproar at my statement, let me explain myself in this post.

Firstly being a ‘Calvinist’ means that you are labeling yourself a follower of Calvin. This has many problems, one of which is that Calvin was of course was just a man, a sinner, who should be looked at critically as with all reformers, so we can distance ourselves from treating them as ‘special’. Calvin, for example, was involved in the burning of a few Protestants at the stake for heresy, through hazy circumstances.  Something that has worrying connotations!  We should not be followers of a man who has a set of ideas; instead we should strive to class ourselves as followers of Christ, of the Way.  Therefore I am not a Calvinist, but instead a Christian, who focuses on the word of God before any works of man.  In 1 Corinthians 3:10-17, we see Paul’s appeal to the church not to follow men

11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: one of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas[b]’; still another, ‘I follow Christ.’ 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised in the name of Paul? 

Christians shouldn’t be going round labelling themselves as a Calvinist, Lutheran, Arminian or such like because it can be a massive stumbling block. These are man-made traditions, and terms that smack of pride and smugness.   I’ve known scenarios when people have gone and said straight away “oh, I’m a Calvinist by the way”, it can be an immediate obstacle, if the other person in  this conversation didn’t believe in the ideas set forth by Calvin, it could cause division and even argument.  Such labelling detracts from the fact that, first and foremost we are followers of Christ and not of Calvin, Arminius or any other man.

So I recommend to all those who think that John Calvin was right with his ideas on the doctrines of Grace, to focus on the gospels. Don’t follow Calvin; instead centre your focus on Christ. If other Christians believe in the ideas set forth by Luther then cool, that’s fine, it is not something that should divide the church, and even when any fundamentals are compromised (as is sometimes tragically the case in the extreme wings of these theological positions), let us tackle the issue in love and prayer.

Secondly, Calvin’s ideas are somewhat problematic for me (and many others). These set of ideas are often referred to as the five points of Calvinism, otherwise known as ‘TULIP’.   The points can be huge stumbling blocks and should never really be preached from the pulpit on their own.  I personally disagree with the way Limited atonement and Irresistible Grace are set forth, by so-called ‘Calvinists’. They seem to contradict essential Gospel truths. I do think that they are red herrings, as it’s a debate that can split churches, families even.  Yet they do not change our attitude towards Christ.  The doctrines of Calvinism do not bring salvation and definitely should not be the main focus of our lives.  The point is: let us focus on the fundamentals, on the fact that Christ died for us and that we must be sent into the world to evangelise and do his will.  Josh would say he accepts the teachings of the ‘Doctrines of Grace’ and that is cool, personally I think it’s a better way of going around this whole subject of ‘Calvinism’!

This post isn’t meant to be long, full of lengthy paragraphs about who Calvin was as a man and explore deeply his theology. It is meant to be simply stating that we should not call ourselves ‘Calvinists’, that we shouldn’t follow a man, and that some people such as myself have a few problems with the term often called TULIP.  It is often said that the Doctrines of Grace or TULIP bring the assurance needed, and it might do.  In further study it may help, but remember the simple truth, that we know we are saved as God is love and thanks to the Spirit, we know his truth.  Knowing we have been accepted by God and can’t be let go is wonderful.  For quite a few Christians, being a so called ‘Calvinist’ leads them to smugness and puts themselves, puts man before God, before Christ.  We shouldn’t focus on what men teach, or on what they say is good for you, but on the cross and on what God has given us, his spirit and his love.  At the same time, I do not mean to offend any Calvinists or those who call them the doctrines of grace.  I love you brothers and sisters, and I accept most of what you say.  Being in a wide church means that we can disagree on these secondary issues, let us work together for Christ, whatever our secondary or tertiary thoughts are!

Let us therefore focus on the Cross, on Jesus, and give him our full attention. May we long for the Holy Spirit to renew our hearts and when we do disagree on issues such as those mentioned in this post, that we do with a brotherly love and listen to others and respect their views on the Bible.  I doubt any of us are 100% right, and we shall find out in heaven!