Christian Socialist values
The values underpinning the Christian Socialist Movement
In November 2006, the Christian Socialist Movement voted to change its statement of values. This came after a three year consultation process that I led. I was keen for as many members and branches to be as involved as possible. We now have a values statement of which we can be proud and that provides the foundation for all that we do today. Below, an article I wrote at the time.
Throughout the Labour movement, there has been a thread of Christian Socialism. It has motivated leaders, members and supporters. It has provided Labour with a moral purpose; one that it doesn’t have to look for but one which has been there from the beginning.
But what are the values of Christian Socialism? Are they still applicable today? Even if they are, how can we actually apply them to our daily political life?
Values matter. We are radicals, progressives; holding in our hearts visions of the Common Good and in our heads devising the means to obtain it.
Our values drive us forward and are also the measure by which we test our actions. If we lose sight of them, our politics becomes sterile and managerial. Political momentum might carry us forward for a while but soon we would become tired and unable to renew our radical edge.
Of course, ends should not be confused with means. The specific policies change over time but the values that inform them remain. We can say this while remaining socialists. In fact, our Christian Socialism demands it.
The values renaissance
Labour politicians are discussing values. CSM is part of this renaissance. We too, have been thinking about our values and how to explain them today. CSM ran an extensive consultation over three years. Individual members made submissions and values were debated by branch meetings, executive committees and AGMs. Together we revisited the central tenets of Christian Socialism and celebrated values that stood the test of time. Moreover, there was a firm desire to explain them to a 21st Century audience. We do that in this new statement.
We are clear that Christianity is about politics. Our faith compels us to be involved. Moreover, it has led us to progressive politics and a concern for social justice in a way that has made CSM a unique organisation.
Each human being is of equal worth because all are made in the image of God. There should be equality of opportunities for all – and that means intervention to ensure that this genuinely happens everywhere. Inequality does matter. Moreover, it matters on an international scale. We cannot be ignorant of the plight of the global poor. Therefore we have a moral responsibility. This matters in a world that is clearly not going to meet the Millennium Development Goals without further effort.
Christian Socialists believe in individual freedom, exercised with others in community, and embrace civil liberties along with social and economic freedom. A commitment to liberal democracy is vital in these times. Christian Socialists want social justice – we are in politics because we want the institutional causes of poverty to be abolished.
Finally, we believe that people are called to common stewardship of the Earth, including its natural resources. This we see from the book of Genesis onwards, when men and women were divinely appointed as stewards of the Earth. The climate change happening now speaks to our failure to live up to that ancient responsibility.
Objectives and aims
We have also better defined the objectives of Christian Socialism. For the first time we stress the importance of developing better understanding between people of different faiths. This reflects both the times we live in and CSM’s work. We have embraced goals of peace, reconciliation, and disarmament, and laid out the economic and social implications of our key principles.
In a clear statement of aims, we emphasise our political work and campaigning role. We affirm that we will “in all our transactions seek to create and sustain a spirit of Christian fellowship and seek the Kingdom of God through deepening knowledge of God.”
But there is a challenge. We need to think afresh, holding firmly to our Christian Socialist values but finding ways to implement them in the world of today.
Sometimes that will mean guarding with new determination our heritage and existing policies. But it will also mean dreaming new dreams and devising new policies as we work to move our country, and indeed all countries, towards that vision of the Common Good that has captured the hearts of Christian Socialists for over 150 years.
That is the task before us.
CSM's values statement can be read here