Some Thoughts on the Election
Last week I made a comment about never being able to vote Lib-Dem, which raised a few questions from people. The local candidate certainly failed to give a good account of himself at the hustings held at my church – it was almost as if he was trying to be as deliberately off-putting as possible. He made UKIP and the Greens look like sane options. And at a national level, there is very little about the Lib-Dems that appeals to me. So it is almost certain I won’t be voting for them; but to be honest, I’m still not sure who I will vote for come May 7th.
I’ve been looking at Romans 9, in preparation for a sermon. It’s a challenging chapter. Actually, the whole section of the letter from chapter 9 through to chapter 11 is challenging – that’s why in many churches teaching series on Romans have a tendency to grind to a halt at chapter 8. From a Western, Gentile perspective, three chapters about Israel and the Jews can be a lot to take in. We’re not going to wimp out at Gateway though – we’re ploughing right through it!
As I’ve worked my way into the chapter I’ve discovered that it is not as esoteric as it might at first appear, but has real relevance, right here, right now – especially with an election coming up.
The UK electorate seems largely cynical about the political process in general and politicians in particular. I don’t think this cynicism is healthy, much less commendable. It is a worldly attitude, that we Christians should no more mirror than worldly attitudes to sex or money. Romans 9 helps me in this, because in it Paul speaks of a ruler about whom he has no cynicism, “Christ who is God over all, blessed forever.” Yet Paul also has a sober realism (which is different from cynicism) about earthly rulers – rulers like Pharaoh, who God raises up in order to demonstrate His power. God can work through earthly rulers – if he could work through Pharaoh perhaps he could even work through Nick Clegg!
We get frustrated by politics because politicians so often seem to duck the tough questions. Just today a report has been released by the Institute for Fiscal Studies saying that the parties are leaving the electorate in the dark about their financial plans. We don’t like this question ducking. We don’t like the spin. I can’t bear the stage-managed electioneering process which leaves the whole thing looking as convincing as an ill-fitting toupee on a bald man. Romans 9 helps me with this because Paul doesn’t duck the tough questions. The logic of his arguments through the letter poses a tough question: Why have the Jews not received the Christ? Paul doesn’t spin an answer, but comes at it straight, even if the answer is hard for us to hear.
We tend to be disrespectful to our rulers because democracy teaches us that they are disposable. Romans 9 helps me with this because it shows me a God who is utterly sovereign, with the power to do as he chooses. This forces me to make a decision about how I am going to respond to this sovereign king: miserable rebellion or joyful submission?
A lot of the current political debate is centred around fairness. Part of the problem with this debate is that fairness tends to look very different from different perspectives. Is it fair that the top one per cent of the population possess such a disproportionate percentage of the nation’s capital? But would it be fair to penalise the wealthy for their financial success, or is this actually the politics of envy? Romans 9 helps me with this because it shows me that God acts completely within his rights in his actions towards humanity; that I am a creature, not the creator; and that God’s actions are ultimately oriented towards mercy.
I’m still not sure how I’m going to vote. I know I will vote, and I think it is a Christian duty to do so (even though Steve Timmis has accused me of legalism for saying so!). I’m caught in the dilemma of deciding whether to vote for a local candidate because of who they are, or to vote for a Party because of what that Party as a whole represents. The whole system seems to some extent broken. But God is sovereign, and he is merciful, and in that I will rejoice!