Your how to vote card
Doug Edmonds examines some of the basic principles in deciding how to vote.
It’s been suggested that if you want to get something worthwhile out of the election you should steal the pencil from the polling booth. So many Australians have become so disillusioned with party politics that you would think about stealing the pencil just to get something of value from the election.
However, we do have to have a say in the secular government of our nation. As citizens we do have a responsibility to make our vote count, we do have to make a choice.
Right from the beginnings of Christianity, Christians have tried to be good citizens of their nations and to support constitutional government, within the limits imposed by Christian principles. St Paul writes to the Romans, Chapter 13: ‘Everyone must obey the state authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission, and the existing authorities have been put there by God’.
As responsible citizens we have to make a choice between the alternatives offered. How do we make that decision? I’m not going to tell you who you should vote for. But maybe there are some basic principles we can apply to the choice.
The first Christian principle we can apply to the electoral process is the doctrine of free will. That is, that God gives us genuine freedom to choose between good and evil and has bestowed on us the gift of reason so that we can weigh up our choices. And so it is a choice that we have to take seriously and responsibly.
We should not vote for a party because we’ve always voted that way, or our parents always voted that way. We should not cast our ballot because we like John Howard’s suits or like Kevin Rudd’s smile or because we hate them.
The doctrine of free will means that we have to take our free choices seriously and responsibly, trying to study and understand the implications of the policies the candidates are offering, trying to assess objectively the honesty and integrity of the individual candidates we’ll be voting for.
The second Christian principle we can apply is that of the doctrine of the fall. The story of Adam and Eve is a story about how all of us have fallen, through disobedience, into a state that is less than perfect. We live in a fallen world in which we all fall short of the glory of God.
That has two very important implications in the political process.
The first is that we cannot expect God’s standard of perfection to exist in any political party, any more than we would expect to find it in any other institution – including the church. When we make our choice, we can only look for the policies that seem to come closest to Christian principles.
The second implication of the doctrine is that we live in a fallen world where everything and everyone has fallen short of the glory of God. We need to be wary of seeing people and institutions and issues and policies in stark black and white; of blandly dividing people and things into good on one side, bad on the other.
The line between good and evil does not run neatly between Labor on one side and Liberals on the other, between trade unionists and employers, socialists and capitalists, whites and aborigines, conservationists and developers.
The line between good and evil runs right down the centre of every human heart. Right down the centre of your heart and my heart. Right down the middle of John Howard’s heart and Kevin Rudd’s heart.
So beware of those who offer simplistic black and white answers to complex problems, who go about claiming that their solutions and policies are absolutely right and the other side’s absolutely wrong. You’ll find there is good on both sides just as there in evil on both sides.
The third Christian principle we can apply is that of the doctrine of love as the primary factor in all our relationships. Christ calls us to love one another and his example of self-giving, sacrificial love is one that we can apply to the whole of life, not least to the election policies between which we have to choose.
We can ask, in relation to each policy:
Does it serve narrow self-interest, or the greater good?
Does it uphold God’s high standards of justness?
Does it further the welfare of the poor and oppressed, who are God’s special concern right through the Bible?
Does it encourage peaceable and constructive relationships between people or is it divisive?
Does it uphold the God-given worth of each individual?
Does it reflect our acceptance of all people as children of God or does it discriminate in favour of one group over another?
Does it reflect our understanding of the whole of creation as a sacred trust from God or does it exploit the created world?
Does it call on us to sacrifice a little of our own well-being for those who are less well-off?
They say that religion and politics don’t mix.
Basically, of course, that’s arrant nonsense. Christianity is not some dreamy philosophy or Eastern meditation through which we try to mesmerise ourselves into a higher state of detachment from the world.
Christianity is a faith founded on a down-to-earth event when God came among us, involved himself in the whole of life, and died an agonising death on a cross.
Our faith calls on us to be deeply involved in the affairs of the world and to bring our faith to bear on every aspect of life, even the world of politics.
But, when we go to the polling booth, we also need to remember that all we are choosing is a secular government for our nation.
The important election has already been held. The vital votes are already counted, and the results posted. God has elected us to be his sons and his daughters. We have submitted ourselves to his rule in our lives, made him king over our hearts, we are citizens of the kingdom of God above all else.
Christ our King calls us to take the yoke of his government upon us and to bring his teaching to bear in every aspect of our lives, to allow his sovereign rule to inform every choice and decision we must make – not least our choice of a government for our nation.