I recently spoke to a journalist who was berating a Sikh UKIP supporter because he believed the party’s policies went against Sikh values. This got me thinking – is it possible to support a political party if you’re religious?
Many, if not most, politicians will lend themselves to a particular faith, but how religious they are is down to personal perspective. When they follow a party, I wonder if their faith plays a part in who they decide to support…
We often hear the government say we’re a Christian country (especially after growing allegations of radicalisation). The British constitution was developed at a time when faith meant a lot and the men who ran the land claimed to be God fearing. So whether we realise it or not, religion has – directly or indirectly – influenced modern day policy.
But can you be both politically active and religious?
I am born into a Sikh family, I went to a Catholic school, and have grown up with Church of England, Hindu and Muslim friends. So I have had some exposure to a multitude of faiths. I don’t consider myself ‘religious’ per se, but I do believe in God and the fundamental principles of Sikhism, which include equality – a phenomenon advocated 500 years before the anti-discriminatory act we now have in the UK – voluntary service (charity) and making an honest living (working). I suppose the latter could make me more inclined to support the Tories who advocate working and discourage benefits culture. But I don’t agree with everything the Conservatives stand for.
Likewise I don’t agree with all Labour or Liberal Democrat policies – UKIP doesn’t even come into the equation for me – but I do support elements of each party, such as boosting entrepreneurship, supporting first time buyers, getting rid of tuition fees.
I work in news and there is a buzz in the office as we run up to the elections. I asked colleagues whether they thought it was possible to practice a faith and be politically active. The majority responded ‘yes’; because you would support a party that, generally – and this is the crucial part – generally reflects your views, not necessarily wholly (pun not intended!)
And speaking generally, regardless of whether you follow a faith or not, maybe you are swayed to one party more than another because you agree with the majority of what they advocate.
And that’s a probable likeness of the electorate – they agree with a mixture of policies from all the political parties but one party may, overall, best reflect how that person believes the country should be run. I guess that’s where you would think a coalition would help bridge the gap but when one party has an overriding majority, a coalition seems to mean very little.
The 2015 elections will be exciting – to say the least – because for the first time, in a long time, a coalition is almost determined. To me, that proves none of the major parties reflect what the electorate wants. Or maybe their policies on certain issues – like security and immigration – are loosely the same but fluffed with rhetoric.
So where does that put people who feel policies are a mockery of their faith? Or maybe they don’t realise it and simply vote for what they think is best for the country.
I suppose the only firm conclusion I can make is that it isn’t fair to judge a person’s religious integrity by their political persuasion, because I doubt anyone could be fully in support of a single party’s policies. Moreover, no party fully reflects a single religion. Thus, people will support the party that is closest to their personal views, be they religious or otherwise.