“Accidents will happen!” ... And the accidental instigation of Brexit by the Government last June was a mis-calculation that continues to cause seismic shifts up and down the land. It was never meant to happen but here we are a year later with the latest in the chain of events that began in June 2016: a general election.
Of course, remembering how we got here is all very interesting, but it doesn’t help us decide what to do next, indeed, who to vote for. Do you have a clear idea who to vote for? Brexit has resulted in many voters not knowing who they will vote for, and I think I’m one of them.
So far I must admit I have felt quite impassive – unmoved – by anything I have heard from any politician. Brexit could change everything - and I just don’t know how this country will look afterwards. So, talking about the NHS, social reform, the latest tax raising initiatives, even national security is all fine, but it kind of feels like moving my furniture around while someone’s coming to build a road through my house.
And not only that but all our major party leaders are saying very similar things. Everybody cares about the under-privileged. Everyone is keen to stress that society must be fairer and the economy stronger. Everyone will be tough on terrorism. In fact, all our parties have shifted towards the centre, and capitalism and socialism have never sounded so alike.
Recently The Spectator labelled Theresa May as "Red Theresa – the most left wing leader the Tories have had in 40 years." At the same time, according to certain broadsheet newspapers, Labour have so little chance of winning, they can promise us anything they like. And the campaign debates are ending negatively with Theresa May’s "coalition of chaos" uncannily similar to Hilary Clinton’s strapline "he’s not fit to be President". (…And that backfired in a big way).
But this sort of negative thinking won’t do. We are privileged to have a political process and it’s our job (…and my job) to get to a place where I can exercise a considered vote – as a Christian.
But what has faith got to do with politics?
For some Christians combining faith and politics leaves a bad taste. We prefer to separate politics from faith. Politics is a bit messy and its much nicer if we keep Jesus out of it. We prefer our sanitised Jesus who wore clean white robes, told good stories and made people better. And that’s a far cry from the cynicism, the grubby insults, and the fake promises we associate with politics.
He wasn’t "party political", but Jesus was one of the most political characters ever to walk the earth.
But let’s ask a similar question: was Jesus political? Well think about it. Jesus constantly berated the governing authorities, he attracted huge crowds at public events to tell them the kingdom of heaven belonged to them. He stood up against injustice and regularly gave speeches pointing to a new order. That sounds pretty political to me. No he wasn’t "party political", but Jesus was one of the most political characters ever to walk the earth.
Christian faith is relevant to all aspects of living – even politics. But then what is the overriding issue for Christians?
Its less about issues this time and more about character
I don’t see an overriding issue. Not that issues are unimportant, but the eclipsing effect of Brexit makes them less directly relevant.
Maybe this was the idea in the mind of the final questioner on the BBC’s election debate on May 31st: “In what way does your leadership have the talent and the character to take this country forward?” What a great question! It completely undermined all talk about this issue and that issue. And when we don’t know what’s going to happen anyway isn’t it more about who you are, than what you say?
When we don’t know what’s going to happen anyway isn’t it more about who you are, than what you say?
Sadly most of the speakers in the debate either didn’t understand the question or didn’t want to talk about it, which is a shame. But that doesn’t mean it’s a question we should duck as well. Surely it is more about who you trust to stay true to what they have said. It’s more about authenticity, humility, resolve, trust, courage, and a genuine concern for the poor. And it’s also more about who these people are today - less about what we think they might have done decades ago.
If you have a Christian MP seriously consider voting for them. There’s never been a more critical time to have men and women in Parliament who realise a higher calling over and above whatever issues are going on. And accept there will be some views they hold with which you will seriously disagree.
Recognise that whoever you vote for you will be disappointed
This is not about politicians breaking promises – our politicians fail and mess up just like we do but they are largely in politics for all the right reasons. It’s just inevitable with this country facing so many uncertainties over the next two years that, whatever promises are made today, they may prove impossible, untimely, or will simply be overtaken by greater events as we approach Brexit.
…and keep disagreeing well
When the election was announced the ecumenical Joint Public Issues Team urged Christians to disagree well amidst unpleasant and divisive rhetoric in this election. Sound advice, and we need to carry on disagreeing well. We need to support whichever flavour of government and opposition we end up with and look out for those who are inevitably always marginalised (whichever government we end up with). What happens after June 8th is more important that what happens on June 8th The election doesn’t end the uncertainty, the questions, the debate.
There’s a lot more disagreeing to be done but it’s up to us how to disagree.