A good question: How should Christians vote?
Each month we ask one question and get four answers. This month: How should Christians vote?
Many of us inherit our politics and our religion. For that reason, both require examination and re-evaluation from time to time. It can be difficult to accept that familial and tribal loyalties may, if not subject to discernment, become barriers to truth, fidelity and justice.
The political scene which faces us now, with the general election upon us, has changed profoundly. The old duopoly is gone, coalition has become familiar, smaller parties are making significant inroads into once safe seats and post-referendum Scotland is the new electoral kid on the Westminster block. The signs of the times challenge us to scrutinise long-held perceptions and question partisan reactions.
Austerity, division, inequality and xenophobia work their malign influence amidst the new plurality as increasingly insecure parties struggle for advantage in uncertain territory. The weakest, poorest, and most sick are bearing the burden in their bodies and minds; privilege has blinded many to their plight and unexamined assumptions deliver even more people into acceptance of an agenda which has little to do with the way of Jesus…
As the US activist and writer Jim Wallis often says: God would rather we worried less about keeping up with the Joneses than making sure the Joneses are OK. The Bible is shot through with a concern that people look out for one another. Its model for communities is one where everybody is treated with respect and compassion, not least those most often overlooked or ignored, the “stranger”, the “widow” and the “orphan”.
The jubilee commanded in Leviticus 25 seems to have been designed specifically to ensure that everyone had a stake in their community. As debts were cancelled, slaves freed and land bought cheaply returned to its original owners every few years, no one became permanently dependent upon the goodwill of others. All had the opportunity to flourish – not just a few.
In the New Testament, Jesus both affirms the Jubilee and speaks about the possibility of all having “abundant life”. He draws upon passages in his own scripture to sum up the law in two short phrases: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”..
“It is impossible to love Jesus Christ and not to care about the welfare of people in every respect,” the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said at the Joint Public Issues Team conference in February. Some would say politics is too corrupt – a dirty game that maintains the status quo. Others say voting is selfish, a question of “who benefits me the most?”, or about waving a tribal flag and refusing to listen to others. Voting can be far more than that. At its best, the process allows us to “love our neighbour”, to raise a voice for those cannot participate in the democratic process. Voting need not be about what I want; it gives us a chance to speak out and defend the welfare of those most in need.
We have a unique privilege on 7 May 2015 to reset the values that currently hold sway, or to reaffirm them. We have the chance to choose who we trust to protect us, maintain rights and responsibilities, work for a common good and seek justice.
So, how should Christians vote? I do not believe any party can lay claim to the Christian vote. I do believe, however, that we should listen to our conscience, seek guidance through prayer and from the Bible and properly listen to what candidates are saying. I believe we should seek the welfare of others…
What kind of person would Jesus vote for? From what I know about Jesus and faith, he would vote for somebody who loves the Lord with all their heart and their mind and their soul, because that is the basis of who we are and who Jesus was.
Jesus said: “Love your neighbour”, so the Jesus I know would vote for a candidate who would clothe the naked, feed the hungry, heal the sick and visit the prisoners. The Jesus I know would vote for somebody regardless of their gender. He would not pay much attention to whether you are a Jew or Gentile, or whether you are a slave or master. We know this from the choices Jesus made when he was here on earth. I think, at the back of his mind, when he chose where to go and what to do, was always: “What is good for humanity?” So we, who are co-managers of the earth, should be making decisions for the common good, for all people regardless of their ethnicity, regardless of who they are and where they live and what they do.
Jesus came into the world for all of us, so he is beyond partisanship in politics. He is beyond and above political issues, he is about humanity and how we can lift people out of the squalor the world has found itself in. I believe Jesus is neither Conservative or Labour; he would look at the track record of the individual and decide who can deliver for the dignity of all and the common good…
This is an extract from the May 2015 edition of Reform.