13th March 2023

“When people say that religion and politics don’t mix, I wonder which Bible it is they are reading.”

I had that well-known quote from Desmond Tutu on a poster on my bedroom wall as a teenager. I think it was a Christian Aid poster, published at the height of the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa. It has been my approach to politics ever since.

Perhaps this weekend we should broaden the quote – how about: “When people say that sport and politics don’t mix, I wonder which Bible it is they are reading”. Should a TV sports presenter be free to express a political opinion that is critical of the state? The consensus among his colleagues appears to be “yes he should”.

What do we make of the other sports and politics story in the news this weekend. That same government writing to sponsors of the 2024 Olympic Games to pressure them to support maintaining the ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes. Not an easy one to discern – to what extent do the athletes represent their states or are they just elite sportswomen and sportsmen who happened to be born in those countries? Sport and politics are mixed, one cannot avoid that.

So then, what do we read about politics in the Bible? We can start by recognizing that “politics” is not about a few privileged individuals in Westminster but is fundamentally about how we live together as communities. And one cannot do better than hear Jesus’ words from Matthew 7.12 (NLT): “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

Ian Waddington