Next week in our Evening Service program we are going to look at some of the biblical considerations behind the upcoming Federal and State (NSW) elections. This will include a look at passages of the New Testament that encourage us to serve, support and pray for our leaders as well as an important passage in the Old Testament that reminds us that government is not beyond the sovereign control of God. The significance of these passages is borne out further when you consider that, though democracy was birthed in Ancient Greece, and Greek culture permeated the Roman Empire of the 1st Century, the freedoms and democracy enjoyed by citizens then shares little in common with what we would consider political freedom today. That aside, there are abiding principles that influence our relationship to our governing leaders and how we can seek to be more or less involved in policy decisions that affect anything from tax, company governance, employment legislation, welfare, immigration and education (and LOTS more!).
How then, or for whom then, should a Christian vote? Should being a Christian be a determining factor in who I chose to vote for? i.e. both me being a Christian and whether or not the parliamentary representative is a Christian. Are there other factors and issues I am neglecting if I make my vote based on whether my local member expresses similar moral or religious views to mine? As noted by John Dickson, my typical vote has been one vested in what I saw as my personal and immediate interests. This differs little from the majority of the electorate. At the moment I am on a very low and fixed income and have a young child in primary school so guess what I’m listening out for when the politicians make their promises. Curiously enough my key points of interest are served by opposing sides in the upcoming election. So which direction do I turn?
Dickson suggests, ably and convincingly, that the Christian vote is not as simple as siding with the (wrongly labeled) ‘Religious Right’ but that a Christian, if acting consistently with the ethos of grace, generosity, and selflessness, will vote in the interests of others.
Christians ought to resist the temptation to vote for the party they think will shave more off their tax bill or add a percentage point to gross domestic product. They should be thinking of others. Nothing else can be called a Christian vote.
Voting for a member simply because they claim to be a Christian is “religious favouritism” and a weak attempt at establishing a legislated form of religious government opposed in the New Testament.
Some of the broader issues to consider include; “which party or policies will promote values of justice, harmony, sexual responsibility, honesty, family and mercy” as well as whether “a particular policy may work against a Christian’s freedom to proclaim Christ.” Dickson continues; “a Christian vote is one sincerely motivated by a concern for the disadvantaged – be they elderly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, unemployed, homeless or seeking asylum.”
So the matter is not as straight forward as you might have expected. A key point made by Dickson at the beginning of his article should serve as both a reprimand against stubbornness and a reminder to think carefully before putting pencil to paper in 3 weeks time.
Christians should be willing to change voting patterns after Christian reflection on particular policies. A believer who cannot imagine voting for the ”other side” has either determined that only one party aligns with the will of God or, more likely, is more attached to their cultural context than to the wisdom of scripture.
Do Christians need a Christian Prime Minister by Greg Clarke, Director of The Centre for Public Christianity
The Federal Elections, How then should we vote by Dr Armen Gakavian. This is a PDF presented as a Zadok Discussion Paper