The Reformed tradition is political – it had to be. In the 16th Century the Church in Europe was bound up with the State. Those whom the Church condemned were often punished – even killed – by the State. The State supported the Church’s status and the Church gave the State legitimacy. The Reformers had seen the sharp end of this and many early Protestants were killed across Europe (sadly they, in turn, often killed Catholics). Happily, we live in a more enlightened age.
Calvin wasn’t content to merely separate Church and State. Instead his view was that God, being sovereign, cared about politics. It wasn’t enough for Calvin to express faith through Creeds and Statements but through politics and economics. Wealth, for example, is given by God to meet the needs of all the community: “the hungry are defrauded of their rights if their hunger is not relieved”.
Today the United Reformed Church is committed to expressing God’s will in practical politics. We condemned the war with Iraq, have called for military drones to be outlawed, are involved in the Make Poverty History Campaign, have called for nuclear disarmament and are against the renewal of Trident. We highlight the growth of food banks in the UK. As a Reformed Church we always seek to be a little suspicious of how power is exercised. Those with power are tempted to ignore or belittle those who offer a critique and we are reminded of the words of the, Catholic, bishop Dom Helder Camara:
When I give food to the poor they call me a saint.
When I ask why the poor have no food they call me a Communist.