In the past few days fuzzband and I have been avidly following the political debates - the national as well as Norn Iron ones. We have been poring over the newspapers reading bits out, arguing (ahem I mean "discussing"). It is the big question these days: How are we supposed to vote?
Actually the title of this piece has absolutely no relevance to the choice that we have here in Norn Iron. Nevertheless... the clans, cohorts and names do not matter at this point; the principles of how I vote as a christian do.
I was a bit appalled to read a supposedly thinking "christian" website giving advice to christians on "how to vote". It seemed to boil down to a few myopic perspectives such as "abortion bad", "marriage good", "gay rights bad"...which I need hardly point out is a misguided and grossly inadequate view of what justice, morals, integrity, voting, governance, society and wellbeing of a nation is about. I mean does everything boil down to sex, reproduction, or family life? There are bigger things to think about. Read the Old Testament, and it will demonstrate that God is far more furious, far more passionate about injustice, oppression, greed, dishonesty. To be quite honest, and this might make some of us uncomfortable, God did not really focus too much on the sexual misdemeanours of His chosen prophets and patriarchs. Neither did He root much for the now idolised "nuclear family". Witness, if you have forgotten, the many wives, concubines, affairs and wandering hands of our forefathers. Listen again to the relative silence of God on this, and hear again His thundering statements about His displeasure at the treatment of aliens, widows, the weak, the vulnerable and the oppressed. Listen as God lays down standards for a just society - a society where the weak and vulnerable are important, where personal prosperity and individual success are not encouraged, if the cost is the life and livelihood of the poor.
Now, I do not want to sound anti moral - but it seems to me that a sound overview of the Old Testament can tell us what really is at the Heart of God's thinking in terms of the outcome of the elections. Obviously God cares about sexual purity, about marriage and about family (extended, not just nuclear). However He cares as much, perhaps even more, about some of these other things. Discomfitting!
I have also been thinking of how God selected David to be the King of Israel - how did a young shepherd boy qualify in the eyes of God, to lead a troubled nation.So how should we vote, as Christians?
I listed a few principles for myself about how I should vote, and how I should not vote :) Not that anyone ought to take what I say, but perhaps it is good for us to think through who we vote for and why.1. Do not vote for any party, or person out of
a) habit (I have always voted for the llama)
b) family tradition and generational loyalty (My family has always voted for the monkeys)
No person or party and no policy is infallible enough to demand our unquestioning loyalty.2. Do not vote irresponsibly without thinking about the basis of your vote.
We are called to have the mind of Christ, and to think the thoughts of Christ in all
of our deliberations - be they spiritual, material, political. Or anything else.3. Do vote for a person or party who upholds the wellbeing of not just your own little world, but God's world.
Vote for someone who cares about this nation as well as other nations, who is passionate about the wellbeing of the Earth, and is concerned about the exploitation of the poorer nations and the oppressed in all nations.4.If voting for "the devil you know", do not vote in a vacuum. This is not year zero.
Democracy is a process by which we remind our politicians that they are accountable to us, and that if they betray trust, they will not be trusted. On the other hand, being human, I suppose no political party will be perfect, all knowing. Remember the past actions of the parties - without forgetting that people and parties can (sometimes) change! We are not judging human fallibility, for all governments are fallible. We are judging the failure in integrity, the levels of dishonesty.5. Do not discredit a new party simply because it is new.
New brooms not only do sweep well, but they are often required when old ones have worn out. God did choose a very new and unlikely "broom" to be the King of Israel... :) This said, new is not always good; we need to give the new brooms a fair consideration as to whether their fibres bode well for a good sweep (and clean up).
6. Do read through the manifestos - they are the summary and statement of intention of any party.
As I informed fusband, I will not vote for Nick Clegg on the basis that he looks like Colin Firth ;) Actually, I am in no danger of voting for him as the lib dems do not stand in Norn Iron... but that is neither here nor there! What matters is what his manifesto states. In a similar vein, Gordon Brown's clumsiness at the camera and debates, his gawkiness and absence of social "camera polish" - they do not really count in our decision. What matters is what the Labour party declares in its maniefsto. By implication then, the camera polish of David Cameron's slick "buffed" (as one newspaper put it) appearance has no weight in our decisions. Look where Tony Blair's flair took the nation!
It is the manifestos, the declarations, intentions of a party that matter to me. However ugly, gauche, grumpy, slicked, polished, buffed, or Firth-ian, its leader might be!As far as possible we should vote for a man, or woman, who is someone after the things of God's heart and upholds His care for nations and the world. Even if they are not Christian!