The General Election on 7th May is shaping up to be the most unpredictable in modern history. The dramatic rise on the one hand of the United Kingdom Independence Party and on the other of the Scottish National Party means that many traditionally “safe” Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat seats will be up for grabs this time round. Will any party gain an overall majority? Will the most successful party attempt to form a minority government or will some kind of coalition be formed again? Who will hold the balance of power? Which new faces might get a seat at the table?
Should Christians vote Labour, conservative, Liberal democrat, UKIP, Green, Monster Raving Loony party? It’s no surprise that the Bible gives us no specific answer to that question. Modern-style democracy had not been invented in the time of Moses or even in the time of Jesus.
The Bible does not talk at all about political parties but it does have a lot to say about RULERS. Specifically it tells us that there are marks of character which rulers need. I am going to preach one Sunday morning towards the end of April about how we might decide who to vote for, based on the character of the candidates. Key questions of character and integrity and trust. Can we trust that candidate, and that party, and particularly the leaders of that party? Can we trust them to rule over us?
For tonight I want us to discuss together a different important question. How will the stated policies of the different parties influence who we vote for? None of the parties takes an explicitly Christian stand. Each party takes what we might possibly agree is “the Christian line” on some of the issues and directly opposes the Christian line on other issues. So at best we could end up trying to balance which issues are the most important for our vote.
We remember of course that recent history shows us that any party could go back on any election manifesto promises they make – and once elected they probably will! It was the noted politician the Honorable Jim Hacker MP who commented in one episode of “Yes Minister” that promises in a political party’s manifesto are not like ordinary promises, they don’t count, because nobody ever expects anybody actually to keep their manifesto promises!
But as part of voting responsibly as Christians we will want to know what position the different political parties, and our local candidates, take on particular issues. The Bible gives us Christian principles which we can apply to discover God’s will about any of the big issues, and we will want to see for ourselves how the politicians match up to God’s standards in these and other areas.
I have put together a list of 10 issues as Christians we might be concerned about. You may think of others. The question for us to talk about tonight is simply this. Which of these are the most important when we are considering who to vote for in May? Which should be our priority? Are any of them “deal-breakers”? So important that we would not vote for a party which took a position in opposition to our understanding of that issue? Here are my ten topics, in no particular order.
1. The economy – Pensions, taxation, council tax, tackling poverty and especially child poverty, Universal Credit and the Impact on those on benefits.
2. Education – the false god of choice
3. Europe – European constitution and growing pressures from Brussels for “political correctness”
4. Family issues – “homosexual marriage”, abortion and euthanasia.
5. Health issues, The future of the National Health Service.
6. Housing and affordable housing, development in South-East, Transport, The Environment.
7. International development, International security and threat of terrorism,
8. Migration, Immigration and asylum,
9. Criminal justice. Racial justice, equality.
10. Secularisation and the marginalisation of Christians and other Faith Communities.
So many questions – so many different answers from the different political parties and candidates. What matters to us? What matters to God?