How can we better exercise our vote in a principled Christian way, free from the mind fog of misleading myths?
Prayer- let God renew our minds
As a Christian I would say the starting point before making any difficult decision, including voting, should be to ask God for his wisdom (James 1:5). This requires not just going through the ritual of asking for his guidance, but submitting to God in humble prayer. Too often our thinking is molded by what the rest of the world thinks rather than what God thinks. We need to align our thinking with God by allowing his Holy Spirit to renew our thinking so that we can “test and approve what God’s will is” (Romans 12:2).
Following the Maker’s instructions- the Bible
Having asked God for his guidance, I believe we should then look to the Maker's instruction manual, the Bible. It's chiefly through the bible that God’s Spirit can guide and teach us in everything and that must include our politics.
"All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right." (2 Timothy 3:16)
To take the bible seriously means understanding God's word in its context and through the lens of God the Son, Jesus, and the Kingdom he preached. He is the ultimate Word (John 1) and the Truth (John 14:6). If we feel that God is telling us to do something but it does not align with the principles in the bible then we have got it wrong and are being deceived. And that is just as true with our politics as anything else.
The bible contains plenty of practical wisdom to help us when making difficult decisions:
1. Make an effort to understand the evidence & issues.
“The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7)
To get wisdom over difficult decisions like who we should vote for requires effort. We should not just rely on our gut instinct about what “feels” right. We should examine the evidence and look into the issues so that we gain some understanding of them.
2. Listen to wise advice
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14).
Part of our effort to understand should be to listen to advice from others, people who appear to be wise and know what they are talking about- experts in their field. We should also listen to advice from more than one other person and more than one point of view. We shouldn't simply listen to politicians spinning their policy or journalists making headlines. It is better to listen to real experts in their field; e.g. the views of doctors over the NHS, of economists over the economic impact of Brexit, of climate change scientists over the environment. Of course, experts in their field may take many different views. But where there's a large consensus of expert opinion we should take that quite seriously.
3. Look at the signs of the times- is a storm coming?
"A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The fool goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” (Proverbs 22:3)
"..you say...'Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. (Matthew 16: 2b/3)
To make a wise voting decision we also need to carefully consider “the signs of the times”. Is there evidence of a storm coming that requires sensible precautionary action? This is also where listening to the advice of experts in their field may be important.
4. What best promotes justice and compassion?
“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
In exercising our vote, just as in everything else we do, our actions should be dictated not simply by what serves our own personal interests but what promotes justice and compassion to wider society.
5. Beware false prophets
We should not be swayed to vote for a politician because they claim to be a Christian, nor because they say they are pursuing Christian values in their policies; “…many shall come claiming to represent Me, saying that I [Jesus] am the Christ, yet shall deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4-5). We need to be sceptical over how politicians may appear in the media. Often leaders who appear to be “good” leaders can be the very opposite. We need to be wary of “…false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. By their fruit you will know them." (Matthew 7:15) Paul talks about the “super apostles” that some rated more highly than Paul because they who were evidently better trained, more charismatic speakers than he was. However, they were actually deceivers leading people astray (2 Corinthians 11). Too often our idea of a good political leader can come down to who is the more media friendly; who is the more eloquent speaker or who comes up with the best soundbites.
Instead, we should be judging politicians by their “fruit” i.e. their character and most of all by their actions rather their words. “… faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead." (James2:14). If a politician or party has been in power what good (or bad) have they done with that power? How honest and trustworthy have they been? If the politician or party has not been in power recently we can at least examine what their actual policies would potentially do to achieve (or not) good Christian ends and how honestly and honorably (or not) they have conducted themselves.
6. Look at the bible’s “red letter”/Kingdom of God values- God’s priorities
More than anything we should be looking at a leader/party’s proposed policies in the light of the values the bible most emphasizes, sometimes referred to us "red letter" values. How would this politician or party’s policies actually realize (or not) those key Christian values?
So, I guess the next question is what are the key Christian values we should be looking for in the policies of parties we might vote for? I will discuss that in my next blog.