All of which will guide my vote this year’s general election. There won’t be a CDU on the ballot paper and, even if there were, our ridiculous first-past-the-post electoral system mocks our democracy. When the Liberal Democrats struggle to maintain a toehold in parliament, despite being a widely credible alternative in many Tory seats, what chance for a more esoteric political initiative?
An argument may be mounted that with the Church of England established in law, 26 bishops sitting in the legislature of the House of Lords as a consequence, and the head of state as the Church’s supreme governor, Christian Democracy is already pretty well served in the UK.
Wisely, British Christian Democrats have endeavoured over the past three decades and more to be a movement within politics, rather than a political party (though no disrespect is intended here to the Christian People’s Alliance). This is Christian Democracy as an idea, rather than a voting option.
For this idea to have traction, it needs a political ideology, which may or may not be along the lines of the one I’ve adumbrated. But ideologies need ideologues and Christian Democracy’s problem in the UK is that we have not too few, but too many and too varied. So it may be as well to look to a contemporary historical leader of thought.
The nearest thing that European Christian Democrats have to a uniting figure is the French Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, who died in 1973. To read Maritain at length is to leave one breathless with anticipation for what could be.
An albeit dangerous summation of Maritain is that he calls the West to a “New Christendom” that defines the state not by Christian faith, but attempts to define our faith through a secular prism, to make it active in the public square.
I particularly like the way this is described by American theologian William T, Cavanagh: “[T]his means in effect that there is trash to be picked up, businesses to be run, wars to be fought. These things are not our ultimate end, but neither are they simply cut loose from any spiritual significance.”
If we’re able to unpack that sense of purpose, then just maybe we can approach an election with this unifying political slogan: Vote Christian Democrat.