Who should I vote for? A Christian View of The Scottish Parliamentary Elections – May 5th 2016

 

Debating_chamber,_Scottish_Parliament_(31-05-2006)

This Thursday – those of us who are Scottish voters get to decide who sits in these seats.

I suspect that many Christian voters in Scotland are like me, thoroughly confused/depressed/concerned about the upcoming Scottish Parliamentary elections this Thursday. Who can I vote for? Is there really any choice? What is happening to our country? As moderator of the Free Church I wrote to all the party leaders and sought their answers to some questions that I hope reflect many of our interests. You can read the responses on the Free Church website by clicking this link  – Who Should I vote for?

These were the questions that were asked:  Sometimes more is said by the ones they chose not to answer than the answers they gave:

Questions from Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland:

As a church that covers the whole of Scotland we are clearly interested in everything that involves the Scottish parliament. We pray for you and we honour you as the political leaders of our nation. We realise that there is a legitimate and right separation of church and state, and therefore we would not seek to impose our views on everyone. We also realise that sometimes there are areas of overlap where what the parliament does directly affects the church. It is in that latter regard  that I wish to ask some questions on behalf of the church.

1) Are Christians and those of other faiths welcome to become members in your party, to participate within them and in the political process, without discrimination?

2) Would your party support another cross-party group on religious freedom in Scotland at the Scottish Parliament?

3)  Do you think that Christianity has a role in the public square, especially in politics, education and the media?

4) How will your party ensure Scotland has a strong influence protecting the rights of persecuted Christians around the world?

5)  What is your party’s position on state-funded faith schools, whether they be Christian or Muslim?

6) We believe a diversity of schools would create a healthy competition of ideas and outcomes and improve educational standards across the nation. Should Scotland lead the way by democratising our education system by allocating vouchers to parents to produce financial support for faith schools?

7)  As the state education system becomes increasingly secular and removed from its Christian roots and values, if the Free Church were to set up its own schools, open to all, would you support this?

8) Do you agree that children being bullied and taunted at school because they go to church should also be included in new anti-bullying advice being prepared by the Scottish Government?
9)  Do you agree that sex education should be inclusive of a wide variety of opinions and views on the nature of sex and sexuality?
10) Will your party support moves to reconsider the Sunday trading issue in Scotland so that we can move towards a more continental approach?
11) Given that babies can survive at 24 weeks outside the womb, and that France, Germany and Italy have 12-week limits, is there any scientific or logical reason not to reduce the age limit on abortion in Scotland?  Would you support a reduction in the time limit?
12)  Do you agree that the named person scheme needs to be refined, if so in what way?

13)  What are your proposals to alleviate poverty in Scotland?   How do you think that government can work together with the churches on this?

14)  Do you believe that we should accept more refugees in Scotland?

15)    Do you think that children have the ability to choose their own gender?   How many genders do you think there are?

 

Response from the SNP

Response from Kezia Dugdale, leader of Scottish Labour Party

Response from Donald Mackay, Central Scotland candidate for UKIP

Response from Dr Donald Boyd, leader of the Scottish Christian Party

Response from Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party

Response from the Scottish Liberal Democrats

Amongst some of the more interesting reactions are the following:

UKIP are opposed to faith schools and said they would definitely not take any more refugees in Scotland.  The Scottish Christian party advocates improving mental health in the work force. The SNP answered the question about faith in the public square by talking about individual politicians being allowed to express faith and stated that Christians were welcome in the SNP without discrimination.   They reinforced their belief that young people can ‘make informed choices about their gender’. They promised not to change the law on abortion. They also support denominational education.   Scottish Labour welcome Christians into their party, they answered the question about Free Church schools by stating that they do not support the creation of new schools outwith the state system. Which was not the question.   Would they support Free Church schools within the state system? Like the SNP, ‘Scottish Labour support people to determine their own gender identity’. The Scottish Conservatives indicated they were for ‘diversity’ within the state education system. They want a tool kit for transphobic and homophobic bullying to be dealt with, but said nothing about people being bullied because of their faith.   The Greens and the Lib Dems did not think we were worth responding to. (note the Lib Dems sent in their reply a week late – see above.  They did not answer most of the questions).

I must admit that I find this election confusing.   I would normally vote for one particular party but in recent elections have primarily voted for the local candidate I like best, whatever the party. In my local constituency I was thinking about changing my vote from my usual party, but then I received the manifesto of the party of the candidate I was thinking about, and it depressed me so much, I will probably return to my original choice. Many Christians seem tempted to give up in despair (and we are not the only ones – the alienation of much of the electorate from the political elites is a Europe wide phenomena).   But can I encourage my fellow believers not to despair. And to reflect upon the following:

Honour – There is far too much cynicism, anger and rudeness when we discuss our political leaders. I have been as guilty of this as the next person. But I was wrong. We are to respect the king and those in authority – even if that king is Caesar, Pontius Pilate, David Cameron or Nicola Sturgeon.   The authorities that be have been established by God. They are God’s servants. If you want a biblical attitude to government then read Romans 13:1-6. We should be thankful that we live in a country where there is a functioning government and be grateful that we are not in a society that has broken down. Think Aleppo. I am thankful for the Scottish government, and the opposition parties. They have done much good and they deserve respect and honour. Yes – there are aspects of their policies that I don’t like and some that are just downright daft and dangerous, but overall they do the best that they can.   We must not be those who just snipe from the sidelines. We too must play our part in the body politic.

Humility – We need to show a lot more humility when we critique government. Sometimes as Christians we come across as those who have all the answers and who have a tone of contempt for others. That is not helpful and it is not Christlike. If we were in government I suspect we would make as big a mess of things as any of the current politicians! Humility does not of course mean that we say nothing, or that we just fawn and cringe. But if we are to have a genuine prophetic voice in the nation we need to learn to see all people as made in the image of God, and to treat those with whom we disagree with respect and compassion.   Again I just simply state – mea culpa!

Why would we expect non-Christians to behave like Christians, or to have a Christian philosophy or Christian worldview?   We are not to judge those in the world (including politicians) but rather those in the church. We are not to promote one political party as ‘the Christian’ choice, but rather recognize the common grace that works in each.   It is certainly not our job to tell people who to vote for, or indeed who not to vote for. I know I said that I struggled to see how Christians could vote for the Greens given their radical pro-abortion stance, but I think I was wrong in at least this one respect – I would vote for a Green who was prepared to go against the party view. And there is great difficulty in making one or two issues the shibboleth issues because that ends up leaving us with no one to vote for. Sometimes we have to go for the least worst option.    From a personal conviction I could not vote for someone who is so anti-life, but I don’t think I have the right to tell others how to vote.

 Hope – Trust not in princes, says the Good Book.   Our hope is not in any of the political parties or any of the political leaders.   When we see some of the anti-Christian and anti-human ideas, as well as some of the inept practices of our political leaders, we can be tempted to despair.   As the Psalmist says (at least in the old metrical version) ‘trust not in princes, nor mans son, in whom there is no stay”.   But our hope is in Christ. He has renewed and reformed this country before – and He can do so again. I am thankful that I know believers in every party, including some fine Christian candidates who are standing in every party, and some fine non-Christian ones. I have voted in my lifetime for someone from every party, except the BNP and UKIP! None of this is to deny the seriousness of what we face, or the folly of some of what our political parties are proposing. I believe that this country is going down the tubes and that what we are sowing today will have devastating effects in the future. Unless the Lord shows mercy. But he often does….so what can we do?

 Pray – that after all is our first responsibility –

1 Timothy 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.

Vote – we have a responsibility to vote. Even if it is just to turn up and write ‘none of the above’. I once voted Scottish Socialist, not because I wanted all their policies or thought they could get elected, but as a kind of protest vote against the banality of the rest – and I knew and liked their candidate.  Use your vote on Thursday.

Work – get involved, get our hands dirty. We need more Christians actively involved in all spheres of public life, including politics. May God grant that we would be salt and light and that Scotland would once again have that ‘righteousness which exalts a nation’.

 

 


13 thoughts on “Who should I vote for? A Christian View of The Scottish Parliamentary Elections – May 5th 2016

  1. A timely reflection David.I’m hoping to attend the hustings this evening in Dingwall Free Church.I have been utterly disillusioned with politics for a long time but never more so than now.Its good to step back and get a bit of biblical perspective.I’m at a loss as to where my vote may go this time round and ,after reading your piece on the forthcoming referendum, I’m probably going to change my mind on how I originally attended to vote on that.Elections never used to be this difficult !!

  2. If I may be so bold (for, lets say, an imaginary Douglas McLellan party):-

    1) Are Christians and those of other faiths welcome to become members in your party, to participate within them and in the political process, without discrimination?

    People of all faiths and none are welcome in this party. We have a manifesto of policy positions and believe that if a candidate is standing on that manifesto then they should be prepared to defend it. That said, we also recognise that there are issues that prompt a difference from the manifesto and candidates should be free to make that clear during selection and the election. We also recognise that voters and their elected representatives benefit from open discussion about the basis of beliefs and voting positions. We also recognise that voters should be able to choose a candidate that shares their own beliefs. We therefore also recognise that voters should be able to freely decide not to vote for a candidate whose beliefs differs from there. Religions should not have a privileged place in an equal society so just as people should be able to participate in the political processes using their beliefs, others should also be able to participate in the political process rejecting those beliefs.

    2) Would your party support another cross-party group on religious freedom in Scotland at the Scottish Parliament?

    Cross Party groups are a matter for MSPs and various associated groups. We believe that there is very much a space for further discussion in the parliament for religous freedom and tolerance. We would urge that group and its membership to be respectful of other groups and those who perhaps have a different agenda. There is no point crying for religious freedom when the self same members of that CPG constantly cry against people who disagree in writing and words as militant.

    3) Do you think that Christianity has a role in the public square, especially in politics, education and the media?

    Yes. All voices, including the religious, have a role to play in informing public discourse. If you mean should Christianity have a special voice then no. We believe in an equal Scotland which does include viewpoints from Christians who have a different position than you. .

    4) How will your party ensure Scotland has a strong influence protecting the rights of persecuted Christians around the world?

    We will work with any and all groups to ensure that persecuted groups around the world are protected.

    5) What is your party’s position on state-funded faith schools, whether they be Christian or Muslim?

    Our position is that there should be no state-funded faith schools. Raising children in a faith is not the role of the state, it is the role of parents, family and the community that is involved in raising those children. Segregating children based on the beliefs of their parents is not something that we feel needs state funding.

    6) We believe a diversity of schools would create a healthy competition of ideas and outcomes and improve educational standards across the nation. Should Scotland lead the way by democratising our education system by allocating vouchers to parents to produce financial support for faith schools?

    No. We believe that the role of the state is to provide a school system that is free at the point of use and available to all members of the community. Our school system is democratic in that both national and local education policies are put forward by democratically elected representatives. Competition of ideas is an interesting way to frame the education of children but perhaps would could support that via ensuring that children are exposed to ideas that their parents disagree with.

    7) As the state education system becomes increasingly secular and removed from its Christian roots and values, if the Free Church were to set up its own schools, open to all, would you support this?

    We believe that the school system reflects Scottish society and its values. Groups are free to develop their own schools within the existing regulatory framework for fee paying schools.

    8) Do you agree that children being bullied and taunted at school because they go to church should also be included in new anti-bullying advice being prepared by the Scottish Government?

    No child should be bullied for their beliefs and we agree that anti-bullying advice should include all types of bullying.

    9) Do you agree that sex education should be inclusive of a wide variety of opinions and views on the nature of sex and sexuality?

    We believe that sex education should be taught from the perspective of its biological processes and that no child should be removed from that education. No child should be in a position of not knowing what sex is and how pregnancy happens. We would welcome discussion and debate about different ways to teach about when people have sex and in what relationship context, including the use of contraception. There should be a minimum set standard of what young people are taught about sex and relationships and then further discussions about healthy relationships and sex that parents may wish to consider withdrawing their children. That said, we in no way believe that teaching a child about something is the say as teaching a child to do something. Such thinking is, frankly, odd. For example, we would teach the dangers of sexting to young people and the purposes of contraception. No child should leave Scottish education and find themselves ignorant of the dangers of inappropriate relationships, unclear of how or why to remain disease free and not knowing how to avoid becoming pregnant.

    10) Will your party support moves to reconsider the Sunday trading issue in Scotland so that we can move towards a more continental approach?

    We believe that Sunday trading laws are fine as they are with the exception of purchasing alcohol and we would seek to regularise those with the rest of the week. Continental trading hours involve later hours on weekdays than happen in Scotland so the Continental system may not be as appealing as you think. Furthermore, we are unclear as to why its only retail outlets that should be restricted on a Sunday. Cinemas, bars, restaurants, golf course, football matches and many other leisure activities take place on a Sunday and to change the rules for only one section of the retail and leisure industry would be unfair. Unless you are proposing that we close Scotland on a Sunday we believe that its hypocritical to view trading as the only sector to be changed.

    11) Given that babies can survive at 24 weeks outside the womb, and that France, Germany and Italy have 12-week limits, is there any scientific or logical reason not to reduce the age limit on abortion in Scotland? Would you support a reduction in the time limit?

    Babies can survive at 24 weeks but not in every case and often with lifelong consequences. Science and logical can only be applied with proper ethical discussion as well. We would not, at this time, support a reduction in the time limit for abortions. Just because we can save a baby born very early, we need to be sure we should and why we should (see http://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/mar/20/nathan-born-premature-life-death). However, we would enter discussions on the topic of abortion. We believe that the only way to reduce abortions is to reduced the number of unwanted pregnancies. Many studies have shown that proper education about, and easily available, contraception is a key tool to reduce abortions. Proper sex education, based on actual evidence, is vital.

    12) Do you agree that the named person scheme needs to be refined, if so in what way?

    No. The named person scheme has been subjected to a number of lurid and fearmongering headlines. It has operated in parts of Scotland for some time with no adverse consequences for children. We would welcome input and actual evidence when the named person scheme has been operational and any changes are being considered.

    13) What are your proposals to alleviate poverty in Scotland? How do you think that government can work together with the churches on this?

    There should be tax raises at a national level for those on a higher income and more effective taxation at a local level to increase resources available to tackle poverty. We also need to review large areas of local and national government spending to assess their effectiveness. Poverty is something that can start at birth and be a lifelong problem. We need to address the causes of poverty (including lack of education, poor employment opportunities and being trapped on benefits). We need to increase college places and other learning opportunities for adults. Primary schools, in particular, need to be one of the key battlegrounds against poverty.

    14) Do you believe that we should accept more refugees in Scotland?

    Yes. Without a shadow of a doubt.

    15) Do you think that children have the ability to choose their own gender? How many genders do you think there are?

    Children should be free to express their own identity and parents should be supported to have that conversation with them. Part of a persons identity includes both their sex and their gender. Properly used, these are not interchangeable terms. From the gender spectrum website:

    “[Sex] includes physical attributes such as external genitalia, sex chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, and internal reproductive structures. At birth, it is used to assign sex, that is, to identify individuals as male or female. Gender on the other hand is far more complicated. It is the complex interrelationship between an individual’s sex (gender biology), one’s internal sense of self as male, female, both or neither (gender identity) as well as one’s outward presentations and behaviors (gender expression) related to that perception, including their gender role. Together, the intersection of these three dimensions produces one’s authentic sense of gender, both in how people experience their own gender as well as how others perceive it.”

    From one perspective, there are over 6 billion genders as each person self defines themselves and claims certain traits for their gender. For example, there are men who are clear that they have complete and total power and dominion over women and that any that any man who disagrees isn’t a proper man. Even assigning a sex at birth is slightly problematic without a complete set of information as being intersex can sometimes come as a surprise. Look at Caster Semenya for example.

    We believe that we are the product of evolution and complex chemical and biological processes. We all start in the womb as female and the hormones that dictate what happens next are not programmed to deliver what you want.

    I dont think my party would get your vote!

      1. They dont really. If they did you would be even more despairing about schools as I move education ever further away from being based on religious texts and based on real evidence. I really do believe that the best way to reduce abortion is to reduce unwanted pregnancies. Since you like continental models I would look at the evidence that shows sex and relationship education that starts at a very young age with appropriate content happens in countries with the lost rates of unwanted pregnancies and abortions. A humanist education system would see the value in imparting that education and knowledge to children. The barrier to that type of needed education is, in Scotland, the various religions who think (against all evidence) that telling children about something relating to sex is the same as telling children to have sex.

  3. As well as UKIP and the Green Party, the Christian Party is also opposed to faith schools being funded by the state.
    “Christian schools are symptomatic of the failure of state schools to provide such an ethos, and to fund them and other faith schools at the taxpayers’ expense is to capitulate to the secularist agenda.”
    This demonstrates that the so-called Christian Party does not represent a very large element of the Christian community in Scotland. ie. Roman Catholics. It would be more open and transparent of political parties if they named themselves in a way which was more accurate of their beliefs.

  4. Hi, Hows you? I think I owe you an apology! I saw this on the Free Church page, & I blogged it, not knowin u have ur own blog! REALLY SORRY! I was definitely not tryin 2 steal ur work!! Promise! I went bak and added a cpl links to this page and your home page. I hope that’s ok? If not just gimme a shout and I will happily remove the blog!
    I wood also like to say thank you. This helped me see a cpl things a wee bit clearer.

    Thanks again, xx

  5. I enjoyed reading your blog, especially your reflections at the end which I found uplifting and inspiring. However you make a comment which, to those who might quickly read the blog but not go into the surveys, might get the wrong idea. You wrote that “UKIP are opposed to faith schools and said they would definitely not take any more refugees in Scotland”. Firstly, I don’t know why you chose to highlight two negative comments and fail to mention the more positive comments Mr McKay made. Secondly, while Mr McKay wrote that he is not in favour of state funding for faith schools he would be supportive of the Free Church setting up their own schools. Your comment gives the impression Ukip are against all faith schools full stop. I would also like to mention in the interests of fairness that Mr McKay has not given the official party position on accepting refugees. The Scottish manifesto states “As Scots, we are generous and we should always welcome those in dire need of refuge in to our country”. Individual candidates though might have different views on this and it’s important to know what the candidates views are as well as the party’s.

    1. Stefan – as I mentioned my comments were only about what interested me…the fact that UKIP were opposed to state funded faith schools was fascinating for me – they ally with the Greens on that one! And we asked for the party views….although UKIP does seem to be very confused about many things….!

  6. Mr McLellan,

    A well formulated and written article, but please, please, PLEASE, come clean on this. It comes from the atheists “Road to Nowhere ” manifesto with all its hidden existential angst, as set out in their secret dosier, the book of Ecclesiastes.

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