God and Politics: Election Reflections, and 11 things that matter…

Posted by on May 1, 2022 in Blog | 8 comments

person holding a vote sign

Relax – I’m not going to tell you how you should vote, but I thought I couldn’t let the upcoming Australian election pass without a mention. That would imply that Christians are unconcerned about the well being of the state and good government, which is simply not true. If you tried to tell any prophet from the Old Testament that believers should not care about how the land is governed they would have looked at you in sheer disbelief, for that concern saturates their writings. 

So are there issues that we, the followers of Jesus, should specially think about as we consider how to use our vote. Of course there are! These principles apply regardless of if you get to vote in the Australian election – or in any country where you have the privilege to vote. Let’s not forget that few of our ancestors had this right, while large numbers of people on this planet still don’t have it. We should not take lightly what others can only dream of having.

While it is up to you to decide who best represents your key concerns – and politics invariably involves some compromise – I’d like to suggest some broad categories that Christians cannot bypass. Here are eleven things that I think really matter…

The earth matters

The Bible’s first explicit instruction to humans is to be fruitful stewards of the world God has entrusted to them (Gen 1:26-28; 2:15). They get to name the animals and the birds, while God watches to see how they go (Gen 2:19-20). Names matter, for they shape how we experience things. We are called to be engaged with the well being of the earth.

We have not stewarded the world well. The earth is groaning. We need political leaders who will point us in the right direction. Climate change is one of the greatest moral issues of our time, and any political party which does not adequately address it, has little to offer.

The world matters

Most elections are a little parochial. They focus on national concerns, and valid though these are, the Bible’s vision is always larger. All the people of the world matter. St Augustine was right. Christians are citizens of the city of God. Their agenda is not dictated by national boundaries, but by the heartbeat of God. And God loves all the people of the world. We need politicians who will serve our local concerns while being equally insistent that we take our place on the world stage and work together to build a world where all – regardless of nationality – can flourish.

Justice matters

Justice is one of the key themes of the Bible. Amos 5:24 is as pertinent today as it was 2760 years ago: “Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.” In a world of enormous inequality, we need to support those politicians who genuinely strive to ensure that as many as possible (and perhaps one day all) get a decent shot at life.

First Nations Peoples Matter

We have a very long way to go – but even the longest journey begins with the first step. Have we taken the opening one? Perhaps, but it is clear that many more lie ahead. We need to find new ways to listen to the stories of others, and to think of our own story with a more inclusive lens, one which is able to sense what it would be like to be on the other side of the stories we tell.

Refugees matter

The United Nations Refugee agency estimated that in 2020 at least 82.4 million people had been forced to flee from their homes and that 26.4 million people are refugees. In other words, there are more refugees in the world than there are Australians. Can our country house more of them? Of course it can – and it should. Christians should have a special heart for refugees. After all, Jesus was one. Remember how shortly after his birth his parents had to flee with him to Egypt. Egypt does not always get a good press in the Bible, but in this case it was the land of refuge for the Messiah.

Vulnerable People Matter

The Bible expresses special concern for the vulnerable. Time and again we are told to look after the orphans and widows. There are many reasons why some people are more vulnerable than others. Many struggle with mental health issues. Our concern for people at risk should be reflected in social policy. Not that we should be patronising. We don’t need to wrap people in cotton wool but we do need to make sure they have a realistic chance.

Family Matters

The fifth of the ten commandments instructs us to honour our parents if our life in the land is to be long (Exodus 20:12). Our children are our future and we need to support those who raise them. Times change, and families now come in different formats, but we need strong social policy to support those who take on the role of parent.

Work matters

While some Christians associate work with the fall (Gen 3:17-19), and therefore view it as curse rather than blessing, this overlooks that the first humans were told to work in Eden’s garden (Gen 2:15). Far from being a curse, this was a creative privilege. Ephesians 4:28 is interesting: “Those who have been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.” There is great dignity in work and in being able to give something back to life. In one way or another (and it isn’t going to be the same way for everyone), the vast majority of people are able to give back – most commonly through work. We should support politicians who creatively engage us all in the task of contributing to the common good. Welfare should be to empower, not to entrap. There is a lot more thought that needs to go into this area.

Outcomes matter

While good intentions are wonderful, in the end outcomes make the difference. Promises and words are cheap – results should be allowed to speak. True we must be fair, and consider the circumstances faced. Likewise we must make some space for those who are as yet untested to have a go (some space – not all the space). A little pragmatism can go a long way. Outcomes will often have a financial measure, and sound financial policies and disciplines are important.

Conscience matters

In an age where group think dominates, and individual politicians mindlessly repeat the party line, we should support those who have a developed conscience and allow it to guide them. Likewise we should respect parties that allow for some internal dissent and diversity – for there is then a chance that some honest words might be spoken. I am not talking about obvious disarray and confusion – just a respectful dealing with differences. Oh, and why not support politicians who refuse to try and get in cheap shots when the opportunity arises – and do so because they are actually decent people.

God matters

The Bible opens with the words: In the beginning God… God is our beginning our centre and our ultimate end. A failure to respect faith is a failure to respect life’s highest quest and meaning. There must be freedom for faith – and people of faith must make sure that this freedom is used to do good. Religious freedom is not the freedom to do harm to others in God’s name – and there should be appropriate laws to stop that – but we must be free to follow our noblest dreams. This is a sensitive area, but let’s always remember that for Christians (and for many people of other faiths) the freedom worth having, is the freedom to do good.

Well, how’s that for a start? What’s your top eleven? Feel free to list them in the comments – but let’s remember my opening sentiment. While this post is intended to get you thinking about how you vote (if you get one, and in whatever election that is), it certainly isn’t going to tell you who to vote for – that’s always between you, your conscience and God.

As always, nice chatting…

Feel free to repost with acknowledgment or to pass on to any who might find this helpful.

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

8 Comments

  1. Comment *great summary Brian
    So when are you standing? ?

    • Given I’m still a New Zealand citizen it could be a problem, lol.

  2. Your timing is very helpful. Our community plans to share together next week the core issues we feel are important as we seek first His commonwealth. Perhaps truth.coruption could be added to the list. It seams to me that falsity is creeping into every facet of our society. Thanks again. Steve

    • Glad the timing works Steve, and hope the discussion goes well. Think you are right about truth and corruption.

  3. Comment *a friend said the other day we should vote for who gives the best for all the country not just what affects us personally. My friend is an immigrant. I liked her comment.

  4. Is this still being offered online, I can’t find zoom details anywhere.
    Thanks

    • Hi Kristy. Sorry I am only seeing this after the online event, but it was on.

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