Unless you have been out of the country, you must surely know that our country is rapidly approaching a General Election. I know that there are some clergy who make their political views public and some who use their pulpits to encourage parishioners to vote for a particular political party. I've never believed that to be right, unless we were in the context of extremism such as facing up to facism or apartheid – for example, I once led an interfaith movement in Lancashire against the British National Party. But I do believe that church leaders should usually keep their political views fairly private so as to not alienate the people whom we serve but who do not share our political perspectives. However, that doesn't mean that Christians should be apolitical or passive about key national issues.
The Church of England has produced its own document on this issue and you can find it here:
I commend it to everybody.
I believe that there are three key principles for Christians at election time:
1. Being able to vote is a wonderful gift. Anyone who knows about British history will be aware of the Reform Bills of 1832, 1867, 1884 and 1918 (expanded in 1922). Social reformers, many of them commited Christians, fought hard and long for ordinary working people to have the vote. For many of them the belief that all people were made in the image of God and that Christ died for all meant that everybody was important and had the right to express their opinions through having the right to vote in a free democratic country. Our political system is far from perfect, but it would have left social reformers dumbfounded to discover that in our generation many people didn't think that the vote was important. Added to that is the reality that there are millions of people around our world today who still haven't got the right to play a part in choosing their own leaders. It is therefore a theological requirement that Christians value and activate the gift of democracy.
2. Given that Jesus spoke so much about God's love and care for the poor, the marginalised, the downtrodden and the excluded (just read through Luke's Gospel), it seems to me that concern for these groups of people should be a major concern for us when it comes to voting. However, I don't believe that there is a simple corrolation between this concern and which party we vote for. The issues are complicated and Christians need to think through carefully how this concern should be politically expressed.
3. Concern for the environment must be a priority for Christians. God created the universe and it was good. He then told us to be stewards of it (Genesis 1), something that we have been neglectful about. Of course, environmental issues are not the concern of only one political party. But it is an important issue, for we are stewards of creation and have a moral duty towards our God and our children, grandchildren etc to pass on our planet to the future in good order. Clearly, we are currently failing to do this.
I simply wish to commend all Christians to use their vote wisely and not to ignore the gift that they have been given.
Roll on Election Day!