Yesterday I had an interesting discussion with some Christians about the local and general elections on May 7th, preceding a time of prayer in which we prayed regarding the elections and for those who will be standing, which we are encouraged to do, e.g. 1Timothy 2:1-2. I shared regarding the prospects ahead of us that I was depressed, even though I believed that God is in control, because I didn’t trust any of the parties, especially nationally, to deliver in terms of leading this country for the better. Yet I made the point we need to engage with the democratic process if we truly do love our neighbour and to use our influence and our vote wisely. While not definitive, it is non partisan and this guide may help in weighing the issues. It strikes me that these days, Christians in general are taking more interest in elections and politics, and engaging in the process by wanting to use their vote wisely, based on knowledge of the facts.
In our discussions, someone pointed out that my own background was Plymouth Brethren and that it was often the case in the past that PB members did not vote. I agreed and cited one J.N. Darby (1800-1882) who much influenced that movement. Reading about this man, it struck me that he understood more than most what would be good for the people. One example indelibly etched on my mind concerned an issue that arose as to whether the London parks should be opened on Sundays. One might have expected that Darby would have sided with the Lord’s day observers, but he didn’t. He argued that it was the only day that poor people could enjoy this aspect of God’s creation and that the pedestrian gates should be kept open but not the main gates, given the rich, with their horses and carriages, could visit the park on other days. It got me thinking that if Darby had engaged in the political process, and he was certainly able, how much good he might have achieved. That is of course what Wilberforce managed to do in the abolition of slavery and Lord Shaftsbury in the passing of the Factory Acts – both of whom were earnest Christians. A recent example was when the wealthier western countries decided to cancel certain third world debt. It was largely as a result of pressure by Christians on their respective governments, realizing the suffering of the poor in those countries.
As those who follow my blogs and my postings on Facebook know, I keenly follow developments in the lead up to the elections, and share my views. I also engage with several of our politicians, albeit more at a local level. I am mindful, for example, of the need to balance the need for a strong economy and the various social justice issues, and I am particularly keen on that which pertains to the heart and soul of the nation and matters like values and conscience. I have observed the divergence of opinions among my Christian friends, who more often than not tend to focus on certain issues and not others, which thereby influences their voting intentions. While I can truly say at this precise moment I have not decided who I would vote for, I do intend to vote come May 7th. I do not intend to throw my hat in the ring when it comes to seeking election, feeling this is not something God has called me to do, but I will continue to encourage and advise those who do, irrespective of their politics or religion. While I have come to see first hand that our politicians are flawed in many ways and can easily become corrupted, I also recognise that many are well intended and can and do achieve a good deal of good.
If I have a parting word, it is to engage in what is a far from perfect system, even if you mistrust politicians and have come to a view, rightly, that your main focus should be on the kingdom that is to come rather than the temporal ones of the here and now, with all their many contradictions and incompatibilities with the kingdom of God. It is as I say, all about loving our neighbor, which has all sorts of ramifications and implications, not least having to work in a system that is less than perfect and often with those who do not share one’s own values. I would encourage folk to try to understand the important issues and where the individual candidates stand on these, both by being bound by their own party’s manifestos but, just as importantly, as a consequence of their own convictions and character. One thing you might consider, if in my constituency, Rochford and Southend East, is to attend the hustings held at Belle Vue Baptist Church, Wednesday 22 April at 7.15pm, for it does help in coming to a view, or if you are in another constituency, the equivalent hustings being held there. It may be more difficult for the local elections as most wards won’t be holding hustings, but you owe it to yourself and others to find out about your local candidates.