Equipping Christians for the General Election

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Could life issues be a vote decider?
Could life issues be a vote decider? avatar

Who to vote for?  It is a rare to find one party or one candidate that you think has all the ‘right’ views. Most of us will have to decide what is important to us – sometimes it will be the party, sometimes the candidate or maybe a single issue will make the difference.

Deciding your vote on a single issue might seem quite narrow, but the position a candidate, or a party, takes on ‘life issues’ could actually be incredibly significant. It need not just be about the position a candidate holds on abortion or euthanasia, important as they are. But what does a candidate also think about the care of the lives of the weakest and most vulnerable in society? Will your candidate, or party, fight for the person with a disability, the elderly person needing a good care home, the frightened teenager in an abortion clinic, the young child whose father has just left them, the embryo in a test tube with three genetic parents, the dying, lonely, patient with no sense of hope?  What value does a candidate place on these lives? Are they lives worth fighting for and if so, how?

Indeed, concern about ‘life issues’ could extend even wider, perhaps to the desperate lives of those in a downward spiral of debt, those suffering bullying at school or in work, the poverty stricken, the broken families, or the homeless. The list could go on.

The gift of life, at whatever age, is a precious gift and it needs protecting, not because of what a person can do or contribute to society, but because of who we are. How we value, and look after the most vulnerable lives in our society, from womb to tomb, speaks volumes about what we value. So thinking through where a party or candidate stands on life issues is not just a narrow peripheral issue to consider in this election.

Written by Philippa Taylor, Head of Public Policy at CMF

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The Confused Christians Guide to GE17
The Confused Christians Guide to GE17 avatar

I’m glad that we don’t have the tradition in the UK church of members of congregations asking their pastors, ‘how should I vote?’   If I was asked I wouldn’t know what to say, other than pray and make your own mind up!

The trouble for me as an ordinary Christian and citizen of this great nation is that I feel as though I am both confused and disenfranchised.  I have my own political opinions but I find myself struggling to decide how to vote.  Even as I write I am sitting with my postal ballot in front of me and don’t yet know what I am going to do.   I am a political geek – I even read party manifestos and watch political interviews and I will do an all-nighter on June the 7th/8th.  But even so I still struggle.

In Britain we have a parliamentary constituency system, not a presidential one.  So first of all I am voting for someone to be my local MP.   My choice is limited because only four candidates are standing – two of whom have no chance of getting in. One is a from a party I would normally vote for but recently they have adopted polices which I disagree with and I am not overkeen on the MP’s somewhat scandalous behaviour.  The other is from a party I have an emotional and traditional aversion to, but that is surely not an intelligent and rational response?  And yet how many of us vote from traditional, tribal and cultural perspectives?

So perhaps I need to think of the wider picture.  Am I going to vote for May, Corbyn, Sturgeon or Farron to become Prime Minister?  The latter two of course have no chance and I can see weaknesses and strengths in both of the others.  Besides I really do not like turning our democracy into a personality contest. So what about policies? Can I decide that way? For me the main concerns are Brexit, the economy, justice, defence, poverty, the NHS, liberty, education, immigration, religious freedom, the family and the right to life and liberty.   None of the parties ticks all the boxes for me, so I now have to decide which are more important.

But here is the real rub – I don’t really think there is all that much difference between the parties.   I don’t know the personalities well enough to make a judgement based upon any kind of real knowledge and in terms of most things I find that the political parties are all much of a muchness.  From a Christian perspective they are all socially liberal and economically capitalist.  I cannot help but feel that none of them are facing up to the long-term realities our nation faces.

Our rejection of God and his law has led us into a confused mess where our finances, welfare system, NHS and education are all under great strain and may buckle.  Politicians can offer financial solutions (without any real way of paying for them) but they dare not face up to what has happened.  As the basics of our society, family, justice, Christianity and its values, have been undermined, so our communities have become increasingly fragmented.  We are materially rich and spiritually poor.  Which one of our leaders is going to admit to that?  And if they don’t recognise the core issue, how can they effectively deal with the resulting problems?

How am I going to vote?  I still don’t know…but I will pray for our politicians and the whole United Kingdom.  Lord, have mercy and forgive our foolish ways..

David Robertson
St Peters Free Church
Associate Director Solas CPC

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We have the right and privilege to vote for our representatives
We have the right and privilege to vote for our representatives avatar

Q.   What are elections for in the UK?

A.   To elect 650 MPs to the House of Commons, (approximately one for every 92,000 people, or one for every 68,000 electors.)

Q.   What do they actually do?

A.   One candidate (who is standing for re-election) describes the job in these words: MPs split their time between working in Parliament and working in the constituency.  In Parliament, MPs spend their time fighting for the interests of their constituents, attending debates, scrutinising and voting on legislation, and attending meetings.  They consider and vote on legislation and use their position to ask government ministers questions about current issues.

In the constituency, MPs hold advice surgeries for their constituents to come and talk to them about local issues and problems, attend meetings and community events, as well as visiting local organisations and businesses.

Members of Parliament are able to help with all matters for which Parliament or central government are responsible and are able to take up issues with other government departments on (your) behalf. 

By any standards this is extremely important and demanding work – which is why it is so important that all of us who are eligible to vote actually help that process to work by doing so.

Yet, like so many others, I am becoming weary of the constant calls to vote. In the past 20 years we have gone into our polling stations on no fewer than 20 occasions (including the upcoming election in June).  However, if I opt out in few weeks’ time, I am passing the responsibility of choosing my elected representatives to others.  That means that I cannot expect whoever is elected to actually be my representative and ‘fight for (my) interests’ as just described.

Being that representative is tricky, for (s)he will face many competing demands from people and groups with exactly opposite views.   An MP said to me recently that he had all sorts of groups lobbying him, but rarely did church based groups come to see him about an issue. He deeply regretted that, and made the obvious point that if people don’t make their views known to him, they cannot expect him to represent them or their views in the corridors of power.  This perspective is not one that many Christians embrace easily.  We lapse all too easily into thinking that what we believe is right will be done almost by default, and that we can let our elected representatives get on with that job without further input to them, discussion with them, or prayer for them.  Not so.

Being that representative also means that they will need great wisdom.   So I will not be impressed by the candidate who shouts loudest.  Nor will I vote for any candidate who is abusive or aggressive towards others in the debates before this election.  Bad behaviour is not much commendation for being a good public representative.  I am looking for rigorous and thoughtful debate; for evidence of a listening ear and for a desire to build the relationships that will oil the wheels of worthy change and steady progress. The character and temperament of the candidate matter to me.  The party manifesto is certainly not the only consideration, because it takes wise and thoughtful people to deliver it.

I have only one vote out of the 68,000 (approx) in my constituency. I have the privilege of using it.  I must not devalue that privilege by abstaining.  And, before God, I will try to use it wisely, and follow through on the Biblical command to be concerned for the common good, and not merely my own preferences.

Written by (Very Rev Dr) Norman Hamilton  OBE

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Both Lives Matter and your vote matters
Both Lives Matter and your vote matters avatar

We are a local campaign based on the simple idea that when it comes to pregnancy and abortion, both lives matter. The campaign is based on influencing culture, services and law. Although abortion is a devolved issue, your vote matters in this general election.

When we launched in January we acknowledged the difference made in Northern Ireland, because the Abortion Act 1967 was not enacted here. Our law recognises and protects both lives in every pregnancy and because of that we believe the culture around pregnancy crisis and abortion is very different. We believe this has led to lives being saved that may not otherwise have been.

In 1967 Stormont was functioning. In 2017 without a working local Assembly and potentially a period of direct rule, the voices of our representatives at Westminster are more important than ever.

There is an active campaign to extend GB abortion law here. For the good of women and unborn children, we need local representatives in Westminster who will say no to any attempt to impose abortion reform upon Northern Ireland. We need voices at every level of government that recognise and demand protection in law for all human life, regardless of sex, health, ability, circumstances of conception or wealth. We need representation that will advocate for a life-affirming culture, and work for life-enabling services and support.

Here and across the UK some organisations and political parties, are calling for the most extreme form of abortion provision, potentially providing unrestricted abortion up to birth. The decriminalisation of abortion may sound like a positive move and it’s certainly framed as “compassionate” and “progressive”. We are told that women shouldn’t be “forced” to be pregnant and should beallowed to choose what to do with their own bodies.

But a pregnancy means that at least two lives are already in existence and because Both Lives Matter compassion and justice requires that society enables every woman in every pregnancy to choose life.

Supporting a woman facing pregnancy crisis means more than offering to “Trust” her to choose abortion. Progress is working for structural and systemic change to ensure that women are empowered in their fertility, pregnancy or motherhood, not instead of.

A friend shared with me the trouble she’s having with birds nesting in her roof space. Nesting birds are protected in law so the nest can’t be disturbed. She was angry, not because the law protects that nest, but because society is giving value to baby birds yet would see the discarding of the youngest and most vulnerable of our human family as a private “choice” that should sit outside of law.

She asked me, what kind of a society protects and enables the development to maturity of a bird’s egg but not a human being?

Your vote counts.

Written by Dawn McAvoy from Both Lives Matter

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So, what would I like to see from our politicians? – I suppose a moral vision
So, what would I like to see from our politicians? – I suppose a moral vision avatar

In Luke 11, Jesus, the storyteller par excellence, teaches about prayer and uses the example of an unexpected visitor. There are many principles in the passage, including God’s willingness to look after us and our need of persistence in prayer. But here’s a point – sooner or later life will surprise you like the unexpected visitor in Jesus’ story – this request to write a few lines, came knocking on my door like that unexpected visitor.

I am not a particularly political person or supremely loyal to one party. Maybe it’s because I primarily serve a King whose Kingdom is not of this world. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in being salt and light. I believe in engagement with society and not withdrawal. I am also fully aware that Paul tells us that God puts people in authority (Romans 13:1) and exhorts us to pray for those in authority (1 Tim 2:2). Both Paul, Peter and the writer of Hebrews tell us to submit to those who have the rule over us. More importantly perhaps Jesus taught us to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Mt 22:21).

What currently challenges me most in British politics however is the question “Where is God in politics”? God tells us how we should behave towards our leaders, but it also tells us how our leaders and indeed each one of us, should behave in relation to God. We know we are to give to Caesar what is Caesars but what about giving God what is rightfully His? He is, after all, the supreme ruler. I realise that in an increasingly secular Scotland, there are forces at work that want to keep God at arm’s length. However, God is interested in both the temple and the market place and even parliament.  My guidebook, the Bible, tells me that righteousness exalts a nation, it teaches me about honour, about loving my neighbour, about ministering to the poor, speaking up against injustice and caring for the vulnerable etc. Surely nobody could argue with such values – indeed some are engraved on the Scottish Mace.

So, what would I like to see from our politicians? – I suppose a moral vision and a return to Biblical values and honouring God again in our nation. The mottoes of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Greenock all reflected that at one time. Politics won’t solve that but the people of God praying “Your kingdom come” and living out kingdom values will. Maybe this is too big an “ask” – which brings me back to my opening story – perhaps our greatest need in Scotland is not more politics but more prayer.

Michael Rollo, pastor at Larbert Pentecostal Church (http://www.aoglarbert.org/)
Instagram: @AoGLarbert
Twitter: @AoGLarbert


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“Give to Caesar…”
“Give to Caesar…” avatar

The question of how we’re to view our relationship with government as Christians is bound to arise during election season, and there is one scripture that is consistently mentioned in the majority of articles thinking through this issue: Mark 12:17. Here, Jesus is asked who the taxes of the people should go to, himself or Caesar:

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply completely amazed them.

The question of what belongs to ‘Caesar’ in today’s world is one that will divide opinion on the best of days, so I want to avoid that discussion altogether and focus on the verb which is used at the beginning of Jesus’ answer. That verb is ‘give’.

It’s easy to read this verse and impute a tone of disregard for government into what Jesus was saying, almost like he trivialises everything done in connection with the Roman authorities, saying that what is done in relation to Caesar means nothing, and what is given to God is separate. But notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “Give to God what belongs to God, and I don’t care what you do what anything else.” No, he instructs the crowd to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Could it be that God desires for us to have an attitude of generosity when it comes to our interaction with government?

I think that our engagement with government, especially during an election, must come from a posture of wanting to give something to our society. Our giving to God (with our love, service, lives and worship) is not at odds with our giving to society. The boundaries of one are only on hostile terms with the other when we substitute our worship of God for the worship of politics. Far from saying that he wasn’t concerned with the political governance of the land, perhaps Jesus was instructing people to give of themselves to government because this is an important part of what it looks to give to God. When we invest our time, effort, skills and vote into creating a just and fair society for all, we are demonstrating a love for others which is entirely in fitting with God’s desire for us on this planet.  We are a pleasing aroma to God, and whenever we carry this aroma into how we interact with an election, he is glorified.

During an election, part of how we can give to our society is to use our vote wisely, to prayerfully think through each candidate and to be active in interceding over our land in these turbulent times.

Let’s not sit back and refuse to give of ourselves to our society and government this election period. Make this time count.

Tim Houston, CARE in Northern Ireland Churches & Development Officer.

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