During the election campaign I met Robin Miller, the Conservative candidate for Arfon. It was during the Church’s hustings it became clear that Robin was a Christian and a pentecostal one at that. A lot of what he said struck a chord with me so after the hustings ended I made sure I got a chat with him before leaving. First of all I told him straight away that I wouldn’t be voting for him because he held unionist views and he politely told me that he respected that but that he still wished to discuss things with me. He told me that he was working at the Centre for Social Justice, a’n independent (but Conservative leaning) think tank researching and developing policies on poverty.
It all sounded very interesting so after I got home I turned to Google and went to the CSJ’s website and found that Robin’s boss and CSJ Director was the now famous Philippa Stroud. Over the past few weeks the name Philippa Stroud became a swear word for the liberal-secularists and although she didn’t get elected as MP her appointment by Ian Duncan Smith as special advisor sugests that she’ll be a punch bag for some time to come. Google her name and you’ll see what I mean. Basically she was involved with a Church that, allegedly, prayed over to ‘cure’ gay people. I say allegedly because Philippa Stroud denies the allegations and The Guardian has now pulled the story sighting unreliable sources.
This is, of course, a very sensitive issue but I feel compelled to contribute to the very public discussion about Philippa Stroud. First of all let me dare to defend the practice of praying with gay people who ask you to do so. For people who believe the Bible one can’t deny that gay sex is seen as sin, if you do not believe this I respect that, but you must recognise that this is what the Bible teaches even if you don’t believe that yourself. So, if a gay Christian (note, I believe that a gay person can be Christian) want’s to turn his or her back on gay sex in order to walk in the light of the word and asks me to pray with them about it I see no problem with that. It wouldn’t be any different to praying over any Christian who struggles with any other temptation.
But let us put the specific issue to the side at the moment because I think the witch hunt Philippa Stroud’s had to endure is a sign of a deeper shift in society. Her view of homosexuality isn’t the true bone of contention I don’t think, but rather the fact that she publicly confesses faith in Jesus and membership of his Church. The tone of most articles, reports and blogs about Philippa Stroud suggest that people who hold a faith perspective are essentially unfit to hold public office. This view is symptomatic of the anti-Christian liberalism which is rampant throughout society today. Secular society needs to understand that Christians give to God what is God’s and give to Cesar what is Cesars and that we, nonconformists with pentecostals included, strongly believe in the split between state and church. There is no evidence whatsoever to suggest that I, Robin Miller or Philippa Stroud or whoever else have any intention to enforce our Christian values on society through the secular state if we ever get to hold it’s rains of power.
Finally, what is rather ironic about Philippa Stroud is that she is rather left-wing by Conservative party standards. There’s no denying that the work of the Centre for Social Justice under her leadership has been responsible for putting forward a Conservative vision of social justice that is much more progressive and to the left than what we would expect of the party.
Now, I don’t know why I’ve felt a need to defend Philippa Stroud? I’ve never met her and it is quite possible that she is a rather unpleasant person! But I feel that I have to defend her as she, whatever her personal quirks are, is a fellow follower of Jesus and her track record of working with the poorest people on the margins of society suggests that her attitude towards social justice policy will be beneficial and a salt like influence to any future Conservative government. The primary role of the church is to save souls, state and government has a different role to play and I trust Philippa Stroud knows this.