Simon Harvey believes all Christians should vote.
We're right in the middle of the general election campaign and there's lots more to come. So how should Christians vote? I'm not going to tell you who to vote for but here's my thinking on why all Christians should vote and how they might do so:
- Exercise your rights. If you're eligible to vote, make sure you register before 20 April 2015. It only takes five minutes. People campaigned, struggled and sacrificed for democracy. It's not a perfect system but it gets better with every single person who participates. Teach your children who are too young to vote. Involve them and encourage their questions.
- Make connections between your politics and your faith. Politics is not off-limits to faith or to the local church. It's not an unholy business, from which Christians should retreat. At its best, politics is the way that we find the right solutions to the most practical and pressing questions about how we should live together. I'm glad that members of our church work actively in politics, and I'm glad that they work for different political parties. St Mary's will never recommend a particular party or candidate but our church encourages people to get involved, especially in local issues, to ask questions, to think carefully. We should pray thoughtfully for those in authority and for those who seek it.
- Act selflessly. "Loving our neighbour as ourself" is bound to affect the choices we make at the ballot box. Rather than calculate which set of policies will benefit us best as individuals, can we act selflessly in choosing for the common good? In a democratic process which aspires to give everyone an equal voice, are there groups that are marginalised and excluded for whom our vote could 'speak'?
- Seek to connect with difference. Party politics can sometimes degenerate into a kind of tribalism. There's nothing intrinsically wrong in voting for the same party time after time. But to do so uncritically, or on the basis of our identity, can blind us to the possibility that someone quite different could be the right person at this particular time. I hope that candidates of real integrity, and not just those who are the most successful at playing the party system, will be elected. If you think someone is the best person for the role, vote for them, regardless of their faith or anything else. And in the office, among friends and in the family, don't let fear keep you from talking about politics with people who disagree with you. Practise kindness, generosity, patience and self-control.
- Deal honestly. I also hope that people will vote straightforwardly, without cynicism. It's true that sometimes the political process brings out the worst in us. Naked ambition, distortion and hubris are familiar enough. But most politicians are genuinely seeking to make things better. They need something from us in exchange, an electorate which is capable of giving its trust, without being naive. And we all need to invest in the political process if it's to serve us all properly. The Bible encourages us to "seek the welfare of the city in which we live." That certainly means using the votes we have.