In the build up to next week’s general election, Richard O’Dair brings an encouragement for us to be politically engaged.
I am sure that everyone knows that there is a General Election on 8th June. But what happened on the same date 104 years ago? On that date Emily Davidson threw herself in front of the King’s Race Horse and subsequently died of her injuries. She was a suffragette and wanted to protest that women were wrongly being denied the right to vote.
But does the right to vote still matter that much? Did it ever? After all, isn’t David Gauke going to win whether or not any of us choose to vote? And aren’t Christians “citizens of heaven” primarily concerned with seeking to share the gospel? On this view politics is at best a bit of a distraction and at worst a moral minefield.
I would argue that that politics matters a lot and that we should all commit ourselves to giving some serious thought about how to vote for between now and June 8th. Having done that we should turn out on 8th June to vote accordingly, whether we choose to vote Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat or something else. This is because Jesus clearly cared deeply about the our lives in the material world. He came to proclaim the Kingdom of God, healing the sick and feeding the hungry.
In our complicated world, bringing the Kingdom may require at least some degree of collective action through the State which is why democratic government and thus elections really matter . One of the most glorious advances of the Kingdom I know of is the abolition of the Slave Trade. This occurred because William Wilbeforce and his fellow abolitionists campaigned in Parliament for a change in the law. In his letter to the Romans Paul made it clear that government is part of God’s plan for the restraint of evil in our fallen world in (see Romans 13) and in his letter to Timothy he urged Christians to pray for rulers (1 Timothy 2:1).
It is true of course true that in our particular constituency the “first past the post” electoral system can leave us all feeling very disempowered, but it still matters that we choose to vote. How we vote and the thought we put into it is a litmus test of whether or not we care about the state of the nation. The more we care the more likely we are to vote whatever the likely outcome. It says something about who we are.
Political engagement of this kinds helps to counteract a common misconception about Christians. However unfairly, outsiders often see as Christians as being preoccupied with outdated theological debates and as having little to say about the big issues of the day. The ability to give a coherent account of why we are going to be voting Conservative, Labour or Lib Dem is an important antidote to this view.
Emily Davison was not alone in sacrificing a great deal for democracy, Nelson Mandela had similar concerns. Pro-Democracy campaigners continue to suffer persecution throughout the world. It is important not to undervalue the privilege of being able to vote.