With the general election just days away, you may be feeling excited about the chance to engage in the democratic process. Alternatively, you may be feeling numbed by the wall-to-wall media coverage, as parties attempt to win your support. Perhaps you’re feeling both.
The Evangelical Alliance recently polled more than 2000 evangelical Christians in the UK and found out that only 6 per cent think politicians can be trusted to keep their manifesto promises, with half saying they’re less likely to believe what a politician says now compared to five years ago. Furthermore, only 55 per cent say they’re going to vote for the same party as they did in 2010.
Yet eight in ten evangelical Christians say they are certain to vote on 7th May (double that of the national population), with evangelicals a lot more engaged in political activities than the average person. 78 per cent have signed an e-petition in the last parliament (vs. 9 per cent nationally), 57 per cent have contacted a local councillor or parliamentarian (vs. 8 per cent) and 28 per cent have taken part in a campaign (vs. 2 per cent).
Clearly, evangelicals are engaged politically. But come election day, who should you vote for, and how should you decide?
Half of those surveyed said that they pray about their vote, but just one in ten felt convinced that God had led them to vote in a particular way, whilst no one surveyed said their church told them how to vote.
Compare that to the US and India, where in some churches it is commonplace for Christians to be ‘strongly urged’ which of the two main parties to vote for.
In contrast, the UK has a more ambiguous relationship between its parties and its churches. This may be because in an election where each party struggles to differentiate itself from the rest, we struggle to derive a clear idea from the Bible as to which party seems most ‘biblical’, and how the Bible views government in the first place.
The State We’re In
On one hand, we’re called in Romans 13 to be good citizens, the state pictured as that which ‘God has established…God’s servant to do you good’, a bulwark against anarchy and lawlessness to bring ‘punishment on the wrongdoer’.
In 1 Timothy 2 we’re told to pray for our leaders. Esther and Mordecai lobbied the authorities of their time and Joseph and Daniel both served in senior government roles. As Christians, political engagement is part of our Christian service.
Yet on the other hand, Revelation 13 pictures the state (the same Roman authorities that Paul wrote about in Romans 13, albeit later) as deriving its power from Satan (!), the state actively enticing its citizens away from worshipping the true and living God.
Evidently, being responsibly engaged biblically and politically means recognising the ways in which government is God-given and for the common good, whilst also recognising that each party is undergirded with a secular-agenda that at an extreme attempts to trump our allegiance to the God of the Bible.
So given all this, here’s who you should vote for…(drum roll please)…somebody. As a Christian living in a democracy, this is a responsible choice, in contrast to not voting at all.
As for who that somebody is, that is left as a matter between yourself and God and the ballot paper, given both the justification for and the warnings about the use of power by the state in the Bible.
So come 7th May, engage biblically and politically…pray about who to vote for, pray for other Christians to vote, pray for Christian MPs and pray that we at Cambray would see political engagement as part of our mission field.