After the whirlwind year of 2016 it looks like 2017 is set to continue in the same vein. Over the last three years we have seen two referendums (yes that’s a word), one on Scottish Independence, the other on the UK’s membership of the European Union, a General Election and elections for the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies. That’s not to mention the Local Authority and Mayoral elections that are to come next week. In a short space of time there has been an awful lot of opportunity to exercise our democratic right and I get the feeling that like Brenda from Bristol a number of us are at real risk of democratic fatigue.
Now don’t get me wrong, having the right to vote and a say over the governance of our country is not to be taken lightly. It was only in 1884 that all male home owners were given the vote (hardly any time in the grand scheme of things) and it is less than 100 years since suffrage was extended to women (who even in 1918 had to be over 30 to qualify). Democracy is important, and voting is serious business, but it is exactly because people take it seriously that there is a risk of fatigue. Easy decisions, or decisions of little consequence, are easy to make, whereas serious decisions, ones that have a bearing on the environment, people’s jobs, their health and wellbeing and all manner of questions about how and who we are as a society; well these sort of decisions are difficult and take a great deal of thought and time and energy to make.If nothing else this reminds me that it is these sorts of decisions that our politicians take on a regular, if not daily, basis, and, irrespective of our opinion of them, that cannot be easy. For me General Elections fall into the latter category, they require thought, discussion and a good deal of prayer and even then I’m not sure if I’ve got it right. They also require energy from the political parties and the candidates as they buzz around their constituencies and travel the country, engaging in debates and encouraging people to vote. With all of this energy about to be expended it is understandable that people might ask why we are having a General Election.
So why has an election been called?
Well there are no definitive answers although a number have been suggested.
In her announcement of the snap election the Prime Minister suggested that it was a case of desiring unity in Westminster; she argued that the absence of this was putting at risk the UK’s ability to make a success of Brexit.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-39630009 Others have highlighted the serious questions that are currently being asked about the conservative party’s 2015 election expenses.http://www.electionexpenses.co.uk/ While others still have simply pointed to the fact that current polling significantly favours the Prime Minister. None of these reasons are mutually exclusive and they all could contain a nugget of truth. It is hard to say, and perhaps it is not helpful to speculate, but something we do know is that now that election has been called it is important that we all take part; that’s how democracy works.
What as Christians are we called to do?
Irrespective of if you are in a swing seat, a safe seat or if you think all politicians are the same, your voice and your vote do matter. As Christians we are called to be salt and light, to be in the world but not of it, to be acting in ways that bring forth the kingdom of God in our midst. This does not mean that any one particular candidate or party is the answer. But it does mean that as Christians we have a part to play in the world, that the issues we bring to the table and ask candidates and society to consider are important. It also means that the way in which we conduct ourselves and treat one other during this election time should model a different way to much of the divisive politics we have seen. As Micah 6:8 says we are required to “do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly” with our God. Despite any feelings of fatigue, and irrespective of why it was called, this election could be an opportunity for Christians to live out this calling.
How could this election be different?
So what would an election based on Micah 6:8 look like? I’m sure there are many answers to this question and no doubt you will have your own, but here is some food for thought.
It would make space for those who are often marginalised in society or whom might often be taken advantage of, in biblical terms those often described in the catch all “the widow, the orphan the stranger and the poor”, giving them a voice and exploring how collectively we might “dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion”.Zechariah 7:9-10
The root of the word “Kindness” comes from the old word “Kinned”, that is to be of the same kin or people. I wonder then if one way of loving kindness, or showing mercy (as this verse is sometimes translated), is to acknowledge that we are all created in the image of God. Were we to do that, an election based on Micah 6:8 might seek to see that which is of God in all sides of the debate.
Some decisions are difficult. Whatever our political persuasion by walking humbly we might make space for differences of opinion, seek to understand one another’s point of view and together try to discern how we might walk alongside God during this election time.
These are just some thoughts as we begin the journey. For more thoughts do look at our “This is a Time” resource and watch this space for further resources and blogs over the next 6 weeks as we think, consider, discuss and pray about the decision that awaits us on the 8th of June.
|If nothing else this reminds me that it is these sorts of decisions that our politicians take on a regular, if not daily, basis, and, irrespective of our opinion of them, that cannot be easy.