The upcoming general election is predictably a source of much discussion and speculation. I don’t know about you, but I am finding it challenging to watch much of the coverage of the different parties and politicians as it feels like so much of the coverage and rhetoric is about making interesting television or social media “click-bait”, rather than providing information which the public can use to make an informed choice.

We at Leeds Sanctuary recently released a podcast conversation with Dr Sally Osei-Appiah discussing “Women in Politics” – this was a really interesting conversation about how women in the political field are portrayed and discussed by the media, and which led to some discussion about ideology (you can listen to the podcast here). It is no secret that ideology influences what we hear and see from the media, and indeed there are some profoundly xenophobic and racist elements of the media which have become mainstream in the last few years. How can we in the Church engage with people who share such contrasting ideologies, while also being a safe space for those who are the victims of such views?

The answer to that question is surely too long for a blog post like this! However I believe the question is one that we must ask ourselves and discuss in our communities in order to bring about real change in our culture, which benefits those who need safe spaces. In Matthew 9:13, Jesus says “… I have come to invite the outcasts of society and sinners, not those who think they are already on the right path.” (TPT). I attended a seminar earlier this week in which the host, Osoba Otaigbe, said “we see things as we are, not as they are”, and I think this is a beautiful way of acknowledging the gap between the validity of our lived experiences and fears, and the truth of what is happening and what could be.

My last blog was about discernment, which we must practice as we wade through information and media coverage in this general election season, but I believe we must all of us also be willing to listen and have conversations on a personal level. So much of the division in our society today comes from contrasting ideologies which refuse to listen to each other, becoming more entrenched in a sense of “right-ness”. Followers of Jesus have a unique ability to offer truth which is enshrined in grace – people’s lives and experiences have inherent value which we can sympathise with, but we must also challenge, and in this gentle way we can bring diverse communities together. We do not need to be afraid of people disagreeing with us, or of no immediate change, for we are not making this change happen alone! Our job is to use our voice and plant the seeds of unity and change, and God will do the rest.

Visit the Leeds Sanctuary website for informative and challenging podcast recordings such our Women in Politics episode, and details of communities which welcome debate and discussion.

By Emily Smith, Leeds Sanctuary