How should we vote as Christians?

So it’s general election time again, and in less than a month we will have a prime minister who has been democratically appointed by the United Kingdom, along with MP’s representing each constituency. As a christian sometimes it’s difficult to know where to start, when you begin thinking about all the different policies and impacts of your decision. The bbc has a helpful overview here of what the parties are pledging in their manifesto, but you can also visit individual party websites to find out more. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2017-39844115

I’m a Lib Dem supporter but I think if I lived in the centre of York I’d vote for Labour as the current MP Rachael Maskell came to a local event recently and I was really impressed with her humility, and gentle approach to talking to people with dementia from Minds and Voices, a local charity. She has also campaigned to try and keep a mental health hospital on the political agenda for York and has been widely respected for her views.

In my area, York Outer, the MP Julian Sturdy voted to leave the EU and I would fundamentally disagree with this, and the way the Conservatives will lead us in this process. If you want to find out how your MP voted head to Theyworkforyou at https://www.mysociety.org/wehelpyou/find-out-how-your-mp-voted/

Ultimately the EU question is the defining one in this election, but there will be many others to consider. Only the Lib Dems and Green party are keen to see a second referendum on the final outcome of the negotiations, so we can see if the UK is still fully behind us leaving the EU when the final deal is on the table.

So this passage from the bible I think is helpful in trying to determine our decision about who will be the most “fruitful” in their work for our communities and our country. Whether someone claims to be a christian or not, is actually not that helpful I don’t think. There are many people like Donald Trump who say they are a christian, but their actions may not support this, such as him bragging about sexually assaulting women.  It’s better to look at who they are, what kind of politician they are, and what they stand for, both at a local and a national level.

Matthew 7:15-27 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

A Tree and Its Fruit

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will know them by their fruits.

Concerning Self-Deception

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

Hearers and Doers

24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell—and great was its fall!”

Living on the edge

So life in the UK is currently fairly bonkers. Our esteemed politicians are fortunately not in charge of anything major right now; we have a fantastic civil service to do that for us! That leaves them free to worry exclusively about what other people think of them and how current events might make them look in the long term. 

When I say all our politicians, I’m being unfair as I’m sure there are some like the late Jo Cox and indeed Yorks Rachael Maskill who seem able to remember why they are paid by the British people; that is to serve us not their own political purpose. 

I think the lesson for me as a Christian is that old joke “if you want to make God laugh -tell him your plans!”

I’m really struggling with this myself right now – I had imagined once the church agreed to take me on as a trainee priest that a clear way forward would emerge. Over two months later I’m still waiting for some answers.

Waiting with God has been a key part of my journey and I’ve found it really tricky – I think what I’ve learnt though is doing the right thing for the right reasons is not only hard but basically essential for survival in this world. Why? Well otherwise you can be blown around like a leaf in the wind. 

Communicating what you think God has in store for you and others around you,  isn’t arrogant, it also helps others do the same.

Putting down foundations whether in a marriage, career or as a parent takes time, energy, commitment, sometimes standing up for yourself and often completing lots of boring tasks!

I’m optimistic that God can guide us as a country but I think we need to do the work too – refusing to tolerate racism, working for unity and accepting different perspectives, and putting the things that matter first. We need politicians who will show up for us and inspire us, especially when we are divided and the stakes are so high 

As the apostles had to when building the early church we need to challenge tradition as “We believe we are all saved the same way” Acts 15 v11

Selfies

This week has been really depressing, hearing about Orlando shootings, and the death of Jo Cox. I can’t remember really such a terrible time for ages. The shock of this has put the normal things into context, like politics, religion and all the debate about Europe. It makes me appreciate the little things that I take for granted, and those things that make me an individual. The way I feel about my husband, how the garden grows, the things I’ve seen develop in my family, my grey hair, they are all part of what makes me unique. In accepting my calling to leave my current job and move into the church full-time, I’ve had to accept that God’s calling me, not a better version of me, just plain old me.

I think the sadness I feel about Orlando, is that the guy who murdered all those young people had a conflict about who he was that was driving him to violence. I’ve been to gay nightclubs and felt uncomfortable being in the minority, but not because I thought it was something people should be ashamed of.

The man who killed Jo Cox had an opinion that led to violence. I’ve listened to lots of people talking about Brexit, but never wanted to harm them. Violence  can never be of God, as love, peace and humility have to be trademarks of anything God is saying to you. If those aspects are not there, it’s just not of God. Believing violence can be justified was the Old Testament. Jesus brings a final peace to us, that is new and scary, but ultimately different to “an eye for an eye”.

It’s fine to feel like commiting a violent act, and to feel angry. There are lots of examples of Jesus getting angry in the bible. I’m sure Jo got angry about the issues she campaigned about, but she did something constructive to make the world better, not destructive.

The beauty of God’s love is that we can all be ourselves fully in unity in his mind’s eye. He has a catalogue of selfies taken of us, and he can see it as one big picture. The radical nature of the way christianity spread, was such that even his disciples struggled to comprehend what was asked of them. Share the gospel with Gentiles who ate unclean food? That can’t be right!

I hope Jo rests in peace, and that her family are held in God’s love at this terrible time. I am still praying for the families of those who died in Orlando. I hope to see a world one day where people who are gay or straight, rich or poor, young or old, white or black can live in harmony together. As a christian I pray that faith is never a barrier for this to happen.

Galatians 3: v26-29 “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”