The writer Gregg Easterbrook (The Atlantic Monthly; New York Times) was interviewed this week on Radio National and he said,
“By almost every meaningful measure the modern world is better than it’s ever been. People want to believe the worst because they think that optimism means complacency. Optimists are not the ones that have a ‘sunny disposition’, who think everything’s going to be fine. Rather, optimism is the belief that problems can be solved, that reforms can address the problems in society. Why then do so few of us not look optimistically to the future? That everything is worse than what it is? To say it’s better than it looks and to make a case for optimism is not the same as saying everything is fine. It isn’t. The world is full of problems. There are a lot of things you should be worried about/cynical about/angry about. Pessimists think the things you should be angry and cynical about are going to overwhelm us. Optimists can be angry and fixed, but think things can be fixed”.
So how does this impact on how we vote in the South Australian election on 17th March? How do we vote for the ‘common good’ and how might the ‘common good’ impact not only our politics but also our personal lives, families, churches, neighborhoods, and world? And the environment? How do we tap into the ‘belief that problems can be solved, that reforms can address the problems in society?‘
Dr John Dickson, Director of the Centre for Public Christianity has provided some ‘how to’ and ‘how not to vote’ tips for the upcoming State Government election on 17 March 2018. The full article “Mixing religion and politics” can be accessed here.
How Not to Vote
1. Precedent: ‘how we always vote’
Voting patterns are sometimes based on little more than family heritage (‘We have always voted for x’) or geographical location (‘Most people vote for y where I live’). I want to suggest that voting by personal or demographic precedent is not a thoughtful vote, and whatever else a Christian vote must be it must be thoughtful.
2. Christian favouritism
Secondly, and perhaps a little controversially, voting for a candidate simply because s/he is a Christian, or our brand of Christian, is morally suspect; it is a religious form of favouritism. Having Christians in parliament is no guarantee—or even indicator—that our nation will be marked by peace, justice, compassion, truth and so on. Sadly, history is littered with counter-examples.
3. Economic prosperity
Thirdly, the main parties and most of the major media tend to make ‘economic prosperity’ a central election issue. This is a window into the soul of a country. However, Christians must seriously question a fixation with the ‘bottom line’.
How a Christian Ought to Vote
1. Vote for others
Firstly and most importantly, a Christian vote is a vote for others, not oneself. It is fundamental to the Christian outlook that life be devoted to the good of others before oneself:
Honour one another above yourselves (Rom 12:10).In humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4).
2. Vote for the moral health of the community
Secondly, the moral health of our community provides another motivation for the Christian’s vote. Personally, I think the church has no right to seek to impose a Christian way of life on a largely secular society (‘What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?,’ said Paul in 1 Cor 5:12). Having said that, as citizens who believe that a society’s health depends (in part) on living as the Creator designed, Christians will want to ponder: which party and/or policies will promote the values applauded by the Creator, the values of justice, harmony (nationally and internationally), sexual responsibility, honesty, family and mercy.
3. Vote for the poor and weak
Thirdly, in voting for the ‘other’ the Christian will principally have in mind the poor and powerless. We will use our vote for those who need our vote more than we do.
4. Vote for the gospel
Fourthly, almost by definition, Christians are to live for the eternal good of others (1 Corinthians 10:31-11:1). Concern for the advancement of the Christian message throughout Australia, therefore, will potentially play a part in a Christian’s voting patterns.
5. Vote prayerfully
Finally, a Christian vote is a prayerful one. The Scriptures urge believers to pray for leaders and for governments. And, ultimately, believers will see this as more important even than their vote.
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
See also the Pilgrim Worship resources website related to Elections.