Last month (ET, April 2015) Evangelical Times interviewed Christian MPs in each of the three main parties. This month it interviews a Christian politician supporting another political party.
A few days before his 30th birthday, high-flying, Porsche-driving Alan Craig became a Christian. He has since run various community organisations (including the Mayflower Centre in Canning Town, from 1995 to 2004), as well as founding the Christian People’s Alliance Party.
Recently Alan left election politics, but has now returned to take a stand on subjects close to his heart. Here he discusses faith, politics and controversy with Sheila Marshall.
SM: What immediate difference did being a Christian make to your life?
AC: I was still chief executive of a manufacturing company in my first three months of being a Christian. We were bidding for a large contract in Saudi Arabia and, like everybody else, you have to pay bribes to the royal family. We had to submit a large amount of money, to show we were a big company and knew what we were doing. If we withdrew, they would keep the money.
I thought, ‘I’m a Christian now. I can’t go along with this’. So I discussed it with the board. The meeting went on all day. They were all against me, but I saw the Holy Spirit at work. I said, ‘We cannot do this. We cannot pay bribes’.
Eventually they said, ‘OK, we’ll back you on this’. In the end, the Saudis didn’t give anybody the contract. They handed us all back our money.
SM: What is life like outside politics?
AC: For a long time, I thought God was calling me to be single, which I enjoyed. I was single until I was in my 50s. When I got married, I had to give up lots of my activities, but I love family life.
I used to play a lot of sport, but I ruptured my Achilles tendon last summer. I sing in a Christian choir. The main thrust of my work is political activism from a Christian angle. That’s really important and what I spend my time doing. I enjoy that most.
SM: Which historical person of faith do you admire?
AC: Two people: Assuming I can’t have Jesus, then St Paul and John Wesley. Their single-mindedness is what I admire about them.
SM: How has public life affected your faith?
AC: My faith has driven me into public life. I stood for parliament with the Conservative Party before I was a Christian. When I became a Christian, I lost all interest in politics.
For 20 years I had no involvement in politics, but then, together with a friend, we stood for the local council as Christians and surprised ourselves by doing very well.
In 2002, I helped found the Christian People’s Alliance Party and got elected to Newham Council. I absolutely loved that. I had complete freedom to get in Christian values, like care and compassion, and be a voice for the voiceless.
In 2010 all the small political parties lost, but other doors opened for me. For instance, I do quite a lot of work with Baroness Cox. She got a bill through the House of Lords to tackle gender discrimination in sharia courts.
I have been abroad for the persecuted church in Pakistan and Northern Nigeria, where Baroness Cox has a humanitarian organisation called Heart. That’s my real passion, the persecuted church.
We campaign on areas where I think Christian morality has something to say to society. Society doesn’t want to hear it, but, nonetheless, we still need to say it.
SM: Why have you returned to election politics?
AC: The freedom to debate is being closed down before our eyes and the people I now respect most are UKIP. They have changed the agenda on issues like immigration. I also agree with them on Europe and the fact that they stood their ground on gay marriage. They’re outside the bubble and anti-establishment. So I’m campaigning for a UKIP candidate.
SM: How has public life affected your relationship with other Christians?
AC: A lot of professed Christians don’t agree with the stance that I would take, especially around the issue of family. I wrote an article about the ‘Gaystapo’ and the gay agenda. The Bishop of Buckingham wrote in the Guardian condemning me. Twitter went mad about the whole thing and that post got 250 comments.
Many were from church people attacking me, saying I’m anti-gay. Jesus tells us to love our neighbour; I have no choice but to love gay people the same that I love atheists, but I’m allowed to criticise their politics. We live in a democracy.
SM: Have you ever changed your approach over any belief you hold?
AC: When I was a new Christian, I took a very strong line on personally keeping Sunday special. I saw it in the 10 Commandments. What I try, is to make Sunday different. I enjoy going to church. I try to stay away from my emails, but don’t feel condemned if I do look.
SM: Tell us about a hope that you have for the future.
AC: The church is so weak and unwilling to engage in political, social or cultural life in any way that is different. They run soup kitchens and that sort of thing. That’s fantastic, but so do non-Christians.
If you’re absolutely clear that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, this belief contradicts every other religion. Either Jesus Christ is the Son of God or he is not. The two points of view are mutually exclusive.
Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, is the head of the national church. Stephen Fry makes some fatuous comments about what a monster God is and Archbishop Welby says that Stephen Fry is allowed to have his views. The Archbishop of Canterbury should have pointed out that Stephen Fry completely misunderstood the Christian God.
SM: Do you have a secret talent?
AC: I should have stuck to the piano and music. All my mates were playing football and I was sat inside playing, so I gave it up. I regret it now. I did start to learn the piano again, but then didn’t have time to play when I got married. I get completely lost listening to a Mozart piano concerto; it’s a bit of heaven coming down to earth.
SM: What verse centres you on God in the busyness of life?
AC: ‘Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God’ (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Hebrews 11 lists heroes of faith; then chapter 12 says, ‘With all these witnesses around, focus on Jesus’.