Making Sense of the Election
We wonder what will be in people’s minds on Thursday when they cast their votes in the General Election? It is a reminder of the different times in which we now live when we realise that several million people have already voted, by virtue of postal ballots. There is something to be said for keeping to the traditional way of doing things: to be able to vote is a privilege as well as a right and where possible we should be willing to show our appreciation of it by making the effort to go to a polling station and mark our cross.
Opinion polls tell us that even at this late stage and after five weeks of ‘official’ campaigning a large proportion of the electorate is still undecided as to which way to vote. That tells us something about politics today. It is increasingly difficult to separate the main parties on fundamental issues: they spend their time arguing instead about managerial matters – how things should be done rather than why. And if that provides voters in general with a dilemma it presents a particular difficulty for Christians who seek to honour the Lord with their vote.
As Christians it should be relatively easy for us to recognise the illusory character of much of modern politics and the delusory nature of the claims which many politicians make. These things are the norm but they become more obvious at elections. The deception is seen in the selective use of statistics, the promises which are not in man’s power to keep and the efforts to hide from one’s actual record. Then there is the misrepresentation of one’s opponents, who are painted in the darkest colours. Most worryingly of all there is the unwillingness of politicians to look beyond the next election and to consider the impact of their proposals on the generations to come.
At the same time we should perhaps feel some sympathy for our politicians. The public are often willing participants in this fantasy: they want their politicians to promise them the earth. In a day when religion is in decline party leaders are the new ‘messiahs’: they can transform society for the better, cure it of every ill and bring prosperity and happiness to all! In our heart of hearts we know that they can’t do this but we hold on to the hope that somehow they will.
Gone are the statesmen who were above this, being only too aware of their limitations. They could hardly survive in the present climate – one in which politicians are expected to mix with celebrities and be familiar with every aspect of popular culture, even the most absurd. They must talk knowledgeably about football, soaps and the latest music and appear in ‘selfies’ with members of the public: can we imagine Lloyd George, Churchill or Attlee doing that?!
What is really lacking in most parties is a coherent philosophy determining their policies. Politicians may speak of their ‘values’ but how thought-through are they? Increasingly policies are made to match trends in society or to please certain lobby groups. It was from that perspective that David Cameron could say during the last Parliament that the legalisation of same-sex ‘marriage’ was “the right thing to do” – even though the idea was not in his party’s manifesto, was opposed by a majority of his own MPs, is in no sense ‘conservative’ and cannot be reconciled with the facts of nature, the testimony of history or the word of God!
As believers if we are to give our support to any candidate we want to see at the very least a respect for our Christian heritage and our historic religious and civil liberties. We want to see a recognition that at the foundation of our nation is the Protestant faith and that the laws of the land ought to reflect God’s moral law in the Bible. We want to see an upright personal life which is a good example to others and a willingness to put principle before party if necessary. (We could add that ideally we would like to see an acknowledgement that according to its constitution Scotland is a Presbyterian country, having cast off prelacy as well as popery. That might be a lot to ask for nowadays: have our politicians even heard of John Knox and the Reformation?!)
If these things are lacking then the best course may be to not vote at all. That can be a principled option. Remember, the MPs we elect will not be voting merely on budgets or mundane legislation: they will be dealing with important moral issues. In the last Parliament, in addition to same-sex ‘marriage’, assisted suicide, gender abortion and human embryology were all under consideration. Do we wish to be in a position where we have helped to put people into Parliament who take an atheistic or agnostic approach to such things?
It is said that every nation gets the government it deserves. If that were the whole truth then we would have every reason to be fearful of the outcome of this Election. The Lord has a controversy with us, as He did with Israel, “because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land” (Hos. 4:1). We too have forsaken the Lord, provoked Him to anger and are “gone away backward” (Isa. 1:4). We are not only ripe but overripe for judgment.
Yet the Lord has been pleased to leave a remnant in our nation and where there are praying people there is always hope. Christians may feel helpless when they find that so few of their fellow-citizens share their convictions but we must trust in our sovereign God “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Eph. 1:11). It is awesome to consider that truth in the context of this Election: here are millions of individuals, each with their own power of will, all reflecting on which candidate to give their support to, perhaps swithering this way and that way and then finally making their choice – and yet the result of the Election is known to the Lord and determined by Him!
Does that mean that we have nothing to do in this Election? By no means. As well as voting where we believe we can with a good conscience it should also be our desire that in His mercy the Lord would grant an outcome which would lead to a reviving of His own cause. It is not for us to say what that outcome ought to be: the One who declares “the end from the beginning” (Isa. 46:10) knows and He is well able to bring it about. May our prayer at this Election be, “Thy kingdom come”!