Election fever! (Ros' Blog)
Unless, like Richard III, you live buried under a car park, you can’t have avoided noticing that we are in the run-up to the general election on May 7th. There have been TV debates, debates about TV debates and media reporting of debates about TV debates, until we are in danger of losing sight of the real issues that matter at this election.
Through the Roof is apolitical. We are not about to tell you whom to vote for! There are some online tools available to help you make up your mind. The current issue of IDEA - the magazine of the Evangelical Alliance – contains much material to help you understand where the parties stand on issues of concern to Christians, and you can download this from http://eauk.org/idea/mar-apr-2015-issuu.cfm.
Another useful source of help is an online tool called Vote for Policies. This enables you to read various policies on a wide range of topics, without knowing which party’s policy you are reading. You can choose the topics you want to read, and the level of detail that you read. You select the ones that most reflect your own views and at the end it tells you which parties most closely match your opinions. Probably it won’t be 100% one party – when I tried it I came out at 60% for one party, and 20% each for two others. You can find this tool here: https://voteforpolicies.org.uk/.
I contacted the Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Green Parties, all of whom told me that their manifestos will be produced in all accessible formats, including for people with learning disabilities. I also contacted UKIP. They were unable to say either when their manifesto would be produced (although they were hopeful that it would be by the 10th April) nor whether it would be in any accessible formats – it will be a case of checking their website from time to time to see whether it has been published, and in what formats.
Whatever happens, I hope you will make an effort to vote, especially if you are a woman – our grandmothers and great-grandmothers made great sacrifices, including in some cases their lives, so that we women could have the vote. There is still (just!) time to apply for a postal vote if you can’t get out to a polling station (follow this link for details) – your local Electoral Registration Office needs to receive your application for a postal vote by 5pm on 26th April. Or you can appoint a proxy to vote on your behalf (follow this link for details of appointing a proxy) and you have until the end of April to apply for this. If you are not registered to vote at all, the deadline for registering is 20th April.
For Christians, especially those concerned about the wellbeing of disabled people, there are some principles we can apply when choosing how to cast our vote. The Bible is very clear that we have a responsibility to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31. 8-9) We need to make sure the voices of the marginalised are listened to – any party which does not take their needs into account is not worthy of our vote.
We should look for a government that will act justly, and will uphold God’s laws, so that His blessing will be on our country. “For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off; the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.” (Psalm 37. 28-29) “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6.8)
We should look for leaders whose motive is not self-aggrandisement, but to serve the people who elected them: “But Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (Matthew 20. 25-28)
A good government will care for the needs of the poor. I found at least 70 Bible passages spelling out our responsibility to the poorest people in our community. Here are just a couple of them: “There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be open-handed toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.” (Deuteronomy 15. 11) “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” (James 1.27)
Leaders who share God’s heart for the people will never seek to benefit from oppression: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed those who are ill or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.’” (Ezekiel 34. 1-4)
A godly government will protect our right to worship God, and to teach our children to do the same. “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deuteronomy 6. 6-7) Yes, even when the things which the Word of God tells us to teach our children go against the received wisdom or some of the societal norms of our day.
And finally, although the Old Testament kings were charged with defending and protecting their nation, in the New Testament Jesus also urges us to be peacemakers; and so we should look for parties and leaders who will seek to make peace in the world: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” (Matthew 5.9) “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (James 3.17)
So I hope you will exercise your right to vote – especially if you are disabled, as statistics show that disabled people are less likely to vote, whereas disabled people’s lives are affected to a very great extent by the decisions made in Parliament. Above all, once the election is over and the next government begins its term of office, let’s keep in mind the words of Paul: “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2. 1-4)