Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Christians and Politics

So, it's election time and I'm gearing up to vote. Those of you who know me, know that I pay attention to politics and that there are certain parties that I have more time for than others'. Election time gives me an opportunity to voice any dissatisfaction I have with the current governments by voting for someone else. It's not much, but it is my right as an individual within a democratic nation. A recent discussion on Facebook has made me consider my perspective on being a child of God, but also being a member of a democratic society. I'm using three questions to get my point across, feel free to ping any more at me.

First question: Should I vote?
Simple answer, yes. Longer answer...

There is an argument that Christians, being sojourners in a fallen world, should not engage with politics. That God ordains those in power and that we just need to be content with the political lot that they get and leave the politics for the unrighteous. After all, Jesus wasn't political.

Can I first point out, that Jesus was highly political. That his statement 'give to Caeser what is Caeser's and God what is God's' (Mark 12) wasn't a safe, non-offensive, non-political comment. It was highly political (check out Tim Keller on this passage or NT Wright on it). The cleansing of the temple was a political statement of dissatisfaction with the way that the temple (the religious and political authority of the day) was being run. Healing people on the Sabbath was an example of  Jesus undermining the religious and political authority of the time.

Secondly, as Christians when we see injustice, like Jesus, we feel anger and want to see it put right. We can't help but think, "this isn't how it is supposed to be!" When we look around in our country and see injustice, we can't just accept it, we need to do something about it! Part of that is in our own actions; the charities we give to; the people we spend time with; the effort and energy we put into things; the role of the church in helping people. But part of that is understanding governmental policies that have a negative impact on the marginalised and the needy, need to change. That often the injustice we see is part of systematic failure that needs to be looked at. One small way that we can have an impact on this is through voting. Making sure we vote for the people we think will do the best job for those who need it. Making sure that those in positions of influence are held accountable for their actions.

Thirdly, we need to understand that the 'enlightened' world view of a seperate church and state is not necessarily the right one. We've been brought up on it; indoctrinated in the religious and secular split, but is that really how it is supposed to be? We know, as Christians, that Kingdom Principles eschewed through the teachings of Jesus are beneficial not just to individuals, but to societies. We should yearn to see these principles applied to our communities, not just in the Kingdom that is to come, but now, within our government. We want the best for people. When the Clapham Sect - a group of evangelical Christians in England in the 18/19th Century - saw the injustice of the slave trade and the general depravity of society around them, did they just sit by contented in the knowledge that one day God would put all things to right? Were they satisfied in the knowledge that God ordained those in power. No! They acted. They lobbied. They politicked. They voted! And the result was a great many policies that positively impacted English, and world, society. Policies that we still see the benefit of today. They sought God's Kingdom on earth and acted politically to see it done. We need to do the same. The more christians in politics, the better. The more christians voting, the better. The more christians lobbying for kingdom principles to be applied to our society, the better. For everyone!

Second Question: Who should I vote for?

No political party is perfect. Unfortunately they, like us all fall short. That does not mean that they can do no good. My thinking around voting, is that I look for areas where my spirit yearns for something to change and vote for the party that will address that area. Unfortunately, that usually means overlooking policies that I am less happy about - the political spectrum is not nearly as neat as that. There is no poltical party that all christians should vote for. It's a matter of conscience and prayer; which party will have the more positive influence on society. Again, can you imagine how great it would be if more christians were involved in politics and were actively influencing policy?

Third Question: Who is the answer?

I like politics, but I am aware it's not the answer. Jesus is. If I really want to see things change for the better, both here and around the world, then I look to Jesus to do it. Yes, my vote matters, but ultimately I long for revival - when church and state get reunited as people get swept up in the good news of Jesus. When governmental decisions are not made on the basis of fiscal sense, but rather which decisions are the most Christ-like. I look forward to the day when I can vote for a party and agree with everything they put in place, rather than choosing between the lesser of two evils.

I'm not sure this will ever happen on this Earth. But I hold true to the knowledge that on Jesus' return, that is exactly what the world will look like. I just have to make sure that my actions - in the here and now - reflect my desire to see God's Kingdom come. And that includes my voting.

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