The only party that has attempted an explicit appeal to Christians is the BNP. They have even wheeled out a certain "Reverend Robert West" to suggest that their policies "support our traditional Christian faith". This is not true. The BNP's policies are discriminatory and unjust. They do not match the compassion and universal perspective of the Christian faith. The Old Testament demands fair treatment of migrants and in the New Testament we find the early church readily welcoming all people, of whatever ethnicity. The so-called "Reverend" West is not a member of the Church of England nor any other mainstream church. Despite enquiries, no church has ever admitted to ordaining him, suggesting that he's merely self-appointed.
So how should Christians vote?
The helpful leaflet that explains the choices facing Londoners in tomorrow's elections is thirty-two pages long. So it's not unnatural that people will sometimes ask local church leaders about how they might use their vote. We'll never recommend a particular party or candidate. But we do have some ideas to share:
- First, politics is not off-limits 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. We're glad that members of our church work actively in politics, and for different political parties. We encourage 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.
- "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 on whose behalf our vote could 'speak'?
- 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. We hope that candidates of real integrity, and not just those who are the most successful at playing the party system, will be elected.
- We 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 vote we have.