There is an admirable tradition of Christian political involvement in this country with people such as William Wilberforce campaigning to bring an end to the global slave trade and the philanthropist, Anthony Ashley Cooper, better known as the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, who reformed the child labour laws and was instrumental in bringing education to the inner cities through his sponsorship of the ‘Ragged Schools.’
These reforms, and many others like them, have enhanced the well being of many and given opportunities to those who, previously, had little, if any, ambition and hope for their lives. They are a legacy of which we can be justifiably proud – even if you don’t share their Christian faith or political stance.
On entering politics, Charles de Gaulle is reported to have remarked: “I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.” Last month the Bishops of the Church of England issued a pastoral letter urging church members to engage in the political process and use their vote. And, whilst some might argue that Bishops should keep their views to themselves, it is worth noting that more people attend Anglican churches on a wet February Sunday morning than the combined membership of all political parties.
Dave Landrum, of the Evangelical Alliance, echoes these sentiments when he comments that Christians of all denominations have a responsibility: “… to speak truth to power.” Christians have a vital contribution to make to these conversations as we speak out for a society that upholds freedom, maintains justice and pursues truth as we pursue the difficult task of loving our neighbour as ourselves.
The Bishops argued that Christians who are ‘trying to make the world a better place’ simply cannot allow cynicism or apathy as an excuse to disengage themselves from the political process and said: “The privileges of living in a democracy mean that we should use our votes thoughtfully, prayerfully and with the good of others in mind, not just our own interests.” And prayer is something each one of us can do at this significant time. We can pray: for our nation and its leaders; for those participating in the General Election; and for a campaign built upon issues of justice and compassion.
This historic moment, especially given the Brexit negotiations, is a time to speak to each other about what we want our society to be. This is not a conversation for our leaders alone, it is for every one of us to make a contribution.
Some people often ask if there anything distinctive about how Christians cast their vote. If there is, it is probably that we vote not seeking what is best for us; but what is best for our neighbour; what is best for our community; what is best for the nation as a whole; and what is best for our world. It is what Christians call working for the ‘common good.’
On Thursday 8 June 2017 many of you will be asking: ‘How can I make my vote count?’ and ‘Which party should I vote for?’ As you reflect on these important questions, why not consider the following:
Don’t be ashamed of supporting Christian values – because those values are best for Britain!
Vote, don’t abstain – make your vote count!
Don’t blindly vote for a party – look for the personal values of your constituency candidate!
Vote for the local candidate first and the party second – politics, like faith, is best lived out locally!
To be living at such a time as this is, surely, a significant opportunity for Christian’s to offer a distinctively different way of living for those who have lost hope and confidence in Westminster by reminding them of the hope and confidence we can have in the Lord Jesus, who is: ‘The same yesterday, today and forever.’
May God bless you as you engage with these important decisions and as you seek to support the ‘common good’ of our community, constituency and nation.
Download a really helpful resource How To Pray For Our Leaders
There is a ‘Hustings’ taking place for the Basildon and Billericay Constituency organised by Churches Together on Sunday 4 June 7.00 pm for 7.15 pm start at Holy Trinity Church Hall, 71 Wickhay, Basildon SS15 5AD.