The Confused Christians Guide to the British General Election

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/the.confused.christians.guide.to.the.british.general.election/53406.htm

(Text for my latest article below).

The deed is done. Although the polls don’t open until tomorrow, I have voted in what promises to be one of the tightest and most confusing elections in modern history. As a pastor I am occasionally asked to give advice about who to vote for, and as a pastor I refuse to do that. The equation of Christianity with one particular political position and the bringing of party politics into the pulpit is always a disaster. However that does not mean we are not interested. Organisations such as CARE, EA and Solas have encouraged local churches to hold hustings and give real politicians the opportunity to meet real people. On Monday night I had the privilege of chairing one such meeting. It was good tempered, informative and fun. And I know it was helpful for many people who have still to make up their mind. The trouble is that we have a very confused system in the UK. On the one hand the media present it as a presidential contest – vote for Cameron/Milliband/Clegg/Farage/Sturgeon. On the other we are voting for a local MP. What happens if, as one man said last night, you can’t stand the thought of Ed Miliband being Prime Minister, but your local Labour candidate seems by far the best prospective MP? (The same of course applies for other combinations).

Do I Have to Vote UKIP?

For Christians the situation is made even more difficult because on so many of the issues it seems as though we are out of step with the general zeitgeist. Do I really have to vote UKIP if I am against same sex marriage? It seems as though there is a political class in charge in the UK which has created a great divide, leaving many people behind and feeling disenfranchised. The three main UK parties and their leaders are as The Week described – “liberal, metropolitan elites, broadly sympathetic to gay marriage, the EU and immigration”. At the last general election I struggled to find someone I could actually in good conscience vote for. Are we one-issue voters? Would we vote for someone who supported abortion? Euthanasia? Racism? Do we vote for the least bad option? Do we give a protest vote to the smaller parties? Would we even consider voting for a Christian party? And what exactly is Christian about a Christian party? Is there really a Christian view on Scottish independence, the amount of income tax, or how many tanks we should have? It can be really confusing. Perhaps, as someone who has voted for all the major parties at various times, I can be classed as a typical confused Christian voter. As such I have found the following websites from CARE, the Evangelical Alliance and the Free Church of Scotland helpful.

http://www.engage15.org.uk/

http://election2015.eauk.org/?ea=1

http://freechurch.org/news/who-should-christians-vote-for-at-mays-general-election

Conservative? 

As I think about the various parties I find myself in a position where, although my political sympathies might lie with one party more than another, the priority for me is who is going to be my local MP. In my city there is about as much chance of a Tory getting in, as there is of UKIP – and they are not standing! If I believed the Conservatives had run the economy well, had a good foreign policy, supported a school voucher system and would defend the country, then I could be tempted to vote for them. But in the rush for the supposed middle ground the Tories have alienated many of their potential supporters over issues such as gay marriage and immigration.

UKIP will probably not get more than a handful of MPs, but the 14 per cent of the vote they could achieve may prove decisive in many constituencies. I found their ‘Christian’ manifesto patronising and unnecessary and some of their candidates scare me. Although it amuses me that if ever I take one of those dreadful simplistic online ‘which party are you’ polls, I often end up as UKIP – which just goes to show how unreliable and useless most of these polls are.

Labour? 
So that brings me to Labour. If I believed that Labour really would reign in the worst excesses of corporate capitalism, would bring social justice and would improve education and the health service without wrecking the economy, I might be persuaded. But I am not sure whether New Labour and the New Tories are really any different to one another. The Labour candidate I heard last night was very impressive and given the other options he would have been a strong candidate for my vote, if he had been in my constituency. I dislike many Labour policies (as I do Conservative) and fear that the party is still run by the Islington Elites whose concern is more about liberal social issues than it is about economic justice. From a personal perspective a combination of corporate capitalism and social liberalism is the nightmare ticket. So maybe I should go for the Lib Dems? After all they claim to be in the middle. If we vote for them then we are preventing the Tories from lurching too far to the right, or Labour to the left. Except if I am right that Tories and Labour are essentially walking the same ‘middle’ ground, what difference would the Lib Dems make?

Green? 

Perhaps I should go a bit more ‘extreme’? Anyone for the Greens? They actually have some policies that make a lot of sense to me, but then some of their stuff is Gaia madness. Do I really want to vote for letting rabbits out of their hutches? My local candidate would have to be exceptional before I would vote for a party whose leader says she would constructively consider supporting polygamous marriages.

SNP?

And then there is the SNP. Apparently the most popular Twitter hashtag in England after the TV election debates was ‘how can I vote for Sturgeon’? She is certainly very impressive, which is why the London press are in a panic calling her ‘the most dangerous woman in Britain?’ I don’t believe the direst predictions (for the other parties) that all 59 Scottish seats will be won by the SNP, but polls in Scotland indicate that there is a revolution going on here that will really affect the rest of Britain. Do I want to be part of that revolution? The SNP has proved capable in government, and are certainly different in some respects. And yet they are as socially ‘liberal and progressive’ as all the metro-elite parties.

But now the vote is cast (or about to be). God have mercy on us!

Prayer

Perhaps the best answer to the question, ‘How should I vote?’ is ‘prayerfully’! 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, NIV).

9 thoughts on “The Confused Christians Guide to the British General Election

  1. I have always voted in elections before as I’ve seen it as part of my Christian responsibility of being salt and light in society. However for this election I can’t bring myself to vote for any of the parties (and I’ve voted for three different parties over the years). My evaluation is that they will all be equally bad, just in slightly different ways. A major reason for this is that there is no credible socially conservative option available. Another is that both main parties economic policies, it seems, will end up hurting the poor. Labour because they would bankrupt the country and so hurt the poor in a few years time, and the Conservatives because they will tip things too far in the direction of the rich and not be sufficiently compassionate in the application of needed cuts to the welfare budget. My decision therefore is to go to the polls but to write on my ballot paper ‘None of the above.’ I don’t want the politicians to think that I don’t care and that I can’t be bothered to vote. I do care, passionately, but am deeply disappointed with what is on offer. I encourage other Christians – and other citizens – to take the same approach to send a message to the politicians that there is another constituency out there. A group of people who care, who are engaged, but who just can’t support what is on offer at the moment.

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    1. Your vote is wasted then. I suggest you save your energy and don’t bother going. Id vote for the lessor evil or the candidate who will wisely represent you.

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      1. I appreciate the thoughts and comments here and, like Richard, have come to the conclusion that a ‘none of the above’ option is the only one open to me. Under our current system it is indeed wasted but it is the only way we have to engage with the system and yet disapprove of it. I cannot support a candidate who supports euthanasia, gay marriage, and all the other immoral positions just because they are the lesser evil. That is condoning and endorsing a position that is abhorrent to God. Frankly I don’t care about the financial and economic policy of any of the parties, with out a clear moral compass they will all lead us to even greater ruin and judgement. I have encountered numerous Christians who have come to the same conclusion as I have and I sense a growing trend generally. Fortunately, our confidence is not in man, political parties or systems but in God. Exercising our democratic right does not mean we have to vote for evil which for many of us is the only option available on our ballot papers. Silence would be better than support in such a case.

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  2. As a Christian I cannot support the Greens for the reasons you mentioned and more. I cannot support Snp as they are a divisive party who are pushing a Scotland V Westminster (England) agenda. They are appealing to the masses on nationalism agenda. Some of the hustings I have been too they have been very aggressive to those who support other parties. That leaves the main three my local Conservative is a friend and a Christian. If the polls are to believed he will be thrid behind the Snp and Lib Dem. So mind vote is in the balance.

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  3. Philip here I understand your dissatisfaction with what is on offer, it can be hard to see past how campaigns have been conducted and beyond the smoke screens to see what are to particular issues and policies on offer and make any informed decision without a lot of legwork.

    I cannot agree however that your suggesting not voting is an encouragement, or with what you imply about voting Green is unChristian,

    I don’t say this because of where I am coming from by position of faith or any political allegiance but what I hope is reason. The way to bring about change as I see it is to work with the system (flawed as it is) and vote for representation (flawed as each candidate is). Where there is people, there is politics. Not voting is making a choice not to have an influence in my opnion. I am not impressed by the negative campaigning and the conduct of leaders and other representatives with the aggression shown, personalities taking precedent over policies at times. Nevertheless it’s what we have and our political climate is one which is the envy of some parts of the world.

    I have a particular issue that I am particularly concerned about and I am going to make sure that I use my vote in a way that I think will have most impact on this issue.

    I would respectfully “encourage” you to consider your position and anyone else who is not thinking of voting.

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