So, the question is: How do we as a Church family handle General Election 2017?
How does Jesus teach us to behave?
John 13: 34-35 NLT:
34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
This fundamental command impacts every area of our lives, and the election is not an exception. I believe that an aspect which `separates politics from many other debatable issues is that it is highly emotive. There is very little fact in most political debate on TV; it is normative which means it discusses how things ‘ought to be’ while at the same time having little concrete information that we can draw upon to back up our opinions. It is a lot like sport in that sense, we support certain teams based on reasons like emotive attachment, familial sentiment or aesthetics such as charisma. It is because everyone has an opinion on it that we let it rule our conversations. Talking about politics is something that I would widely encourage; but the manner in which we do so, especially as Christians, is something we need to seriously consider.
Politics does not transcend our responsibility to one another. We are to love each other based on the example of Jesus’ sacrificial love for us. This keeps us united as a family in a society that is hostile to the Christian worldview. It is difficult to overstate how seriously God takes this command. If we look through the book of Acts or the letters of Paul we see many examples where God spoke to his early Church to ensure that it was built on solid foundations and preserved of its unity.
The story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5: 1-10 shows how seriously God sought to rid the Church at its conception from sin. Now don’t worry, I am not saying that sharing a BBC News article to your friends is synonymous to what Ananias and Sapphira did; but it does show the extent to which God wants us to be uplifting to one another and follow the commandment stated in John 13. It also shows us how disastrous it is to let the fleeting and temporary permeate into Church life. Ephesians 6: 13 says that we should “put on every piece of God’s armour” so that we can turn our back on the enemy. What the Lord is asking us to do is resist evil, build each other up, and turn our eyes collectively on him and him alone.
I have been thinking a lot lately about what my response to the election should be if I am truly to live as a mirror of Christ. The passage above reinforces our responsibility as a family to be united at all times, and that means between now and June 8. When we are not adhering to this commandment we are letting the enemy seep into the Church. Secondly, we must be mindful that we are not elevating the importance of political opinion to above that of the single ideology we all share, the truth of Jesus Christ.
What does this look like in practice?
Romans 12: 1-2 NLT
“And so, dear brothers and sisters I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
Simply, this involves acting as Christ instructs. The fact that discussions on politics may involve you standing up for issues that are close to your heart does not absolve you from the responsibility to be respectful. The only absolute truth we possess is that of the Good News of Jesus and no political party can represent that truth in its entirety. Thus, if we are rigorously promoting a political party then we are broadcasting someone else’s vision of secular morality and not the Christian worldview. No matter who you vote for in this election they will be a widely secular party. Therefore, I would argue that any time we spend debating politics would always be better spent in advertising the Kingdom instead. Irrespective of how deeply we hold our political views they should never take a higher place in our priorities than spreading the gospel. Too often, we see people evangelically show their affiliation to a particular party without mentioning the one who is above it all- Jesus. He is sovereign over all things and will be Lord of all things today, tomorrow and on June 9, irrespective of who inhabits 10 Downing Street.
So, on your media feeds and in your friendship groups I will offer a challenge to you. It is almost a certainty that someone will ask you what you think about this election and I would recommend that you think about how you will answer them. As Christians, we are charged to set an example to non-believers. If we descend ourselves into a similar behaviour pattern of arguing and disrespect then how are we supposed to set ourselves apart from those who do not believe that Jesus is in control of all things? How would that serve in changing our society and promoting the only doctrine that brings about absolute change?
Irrespective of how much you care about politics or I would absolutely recommend that you vote on June 8. We are highly fortunate to be living in a functioning democracy with more than one option to choose from and it is a right that most of the people on Earth do not have. Also, we as Christians have a unique privilege to stand up for God’s purpose in his World. If you think that none of the parties stand up for you or your interests then you can vote so that they may consider them in the future. Only 43% of 18-24 year olds voted in the 2015 general election, compared with 78% of those over 65. It is not surprise that policies are guided towards appeasing older voters as they are the ones who ultimately decide who gets into power. We can change that.
When it comes to the many political discussions that I’m sure you will have over the next three weeks, it is important to remember that you do not know everything. As students, we immerse ourselves in different perspectives and new learning every day. Even if we have watched every episode of question time, read every manifesto or consider ourselves to be aficionados of political gamesmanship, we are still only educating ourselves of the world that has been crafted by political actors. One of the founding fathers of political philosophy, Plato, spoke of the importance of being willing to change your mind and as academics, we should educate ourselves based on fact and wide research. Thus, we should be willing to read sources from both sides, especially those that disagree with us, and respectfully and rationally conclude one way or another. Ascertain why it is you are voting: what are your priorities and why? If you feel yourself being swayed by emotion: start again.
I have put the links to all the manifestos at the bottom so you can read from the horse’s mouth what each of the parties intend to do should they win. If you feel a little overwhelmed by all the rhetoric, then below I have listed some terms which would be useful to understand as they will feature frequently. Learn the ins and outs (I knew a Brexit link would come eventually) and work out what you think about these issues. Just because your favourite party supports something it doesn’t necessarily mean you do.
● Nationalisation v Privatisation
● The various forms of Taxation
● Debt v Deficit
● Idealist v Realist
● Single market
● Free movement of people
We know how Jesus wants us to act with each other and with those who do not subscribe to Christianity. We know that nothing is above him and that nothing else we believe in is more important than the Good News we have in him. This election season is an intriguing moment in our history and we can share in that, but do not let its result define your relationships with other people. We are all united in the single most important thing that this world has to offer and we should remember that above all else. Spread the message that Jesus died for everyone and loves everyone and do that more than you say nationalising the rail industry is a good idea or that Theresa May is strong and stable!
http://www.labour.org.uk/index.php/manifesto2017 - Labour
https://www.conservatives.com/manifesto - Conservative
http://www.libdems.org.uk/manifesto - Liberal Democrats
https://www.greenparty.org.uk/assets/Green%20Guarantee%20summary%20online.pdf - Greens
https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/ukipdev/pages/3485/attachments/original/1489398291/UKIPLocalManifesto2017opt.pdf?1489398291 - UKIP
If you want a bit of procrastinatory fun or don’t know what each of the parties is saying then this is a good thing to do.
Finally REGISTER TO VOTE!
You have until May 22nd to do so.
Politics Masters and Mission Forgee