I thoroughly enjoy politics so the announcement of a General Election was a bit like Christmas for me. But I have to be honest- this campaign has been amongst the most depressing that I can remember.
I have been disappointed by our Prime Minister- principally at the lack of open honesty. Calling an election having promised not to do so, whilst pretending that it has nothing to do with the polls is not a great look. Equally, I don’t mind politicians changing their mind on policies but doing so whilst insisting that you haven’t changed anything smacks of dishonesty.
At the same time though, I have major problems with the record of a party leader and his associates who have a history of showing sympathy to terrorists, even if they are currently and wrongly insisting this was not the case. Calling evil good, as Corbyn and particularly John McDonnell have done throughout their political careers, is pretty much a deal breaker for me.
From a Christian perspective, perhaps the most significant aspect of the campaign has been that it is now apparent that an evangelical cannot lead a major political party. I actually have some sympathy with Tim Farron’s originally expressed opinion that it is possible for him to hold an orthodox Christian viewpoint on homosexuality without thinking it needs to be enshrined in legislation. But that wasn’t sufficient for our secular media. In reality the only thing more depressing than the hounding of Farron on his views of gay marriage and abortion was his decision to cave in. Of course it was hard for him but the willingness to change his principles for no good reason other than the pressure is not attractive.
It is too easy to scorn our politicians though. I don’t think the choice at this election is great- but we probably get the politicians that we deserve. Perhaps most grievous of all is the impossible expectations that the public has of politicians. We are far too gleeful when a poor exhausted politician forgets a number. More than this, the cry throughout elections- “We need better (insert your favourite Government activity- health, defence or whatever) which anybody earning more than me must pay for” does frankly reflect on the sinful nature of humanity. Anybody stepping up to try to meet such expectations must be mad.
It is very definitely not the job of a pastor to suggest to people which way to vote- and I am not about to do that. As it happens, I still haven’t decided where my cross will go tomorrow. However, I do want to do some broad theological thinking.
In a moment of procrastination last week I took one of these tests that asked me about my beliefs and then told me which party most suited me. In the results, it made the following comment about me- “You are ideologically a centrist.” That is true- I have voted for all three major parties in different elections, probably reflecting which party was closest to the centre ground (whatever that is!). Now that may be a reflection of my personality- I can scarcely look at a fence without wanting to sit on it. But it is also a consequence of theological reflection.
It seems to me that the doctrine of creation sends Christians in a left-wing direction. We are all equal and God has made us to share this planet. It is why there is a rich seam throughout the Bible of caring for the widow, the orphan, the foreigner and the poor. Interestingly, that is applied to the state in Proverbs 31. King Lemuel’s mother (whoever she might be) tells her son to defend the rights of the poor and needy. It should be important to Christians that whoever we vote for has a significant level of concern for those who are most deprived.
However, the Fall moves me back towards the centre ground. Because, in the end, I am suspicious of any claims that the state can deal with the problems facing humanity simply by spending lots of other people’s money. My role here means that I spend a fair amount of time talking to those who are homeless and in need. Do Government cutbacks hurt them? Yes. Is the principal reason most of them are homeless because of those cutbacks? No. Would more Government money eradicate homelessness? No. That’s not to argue against more money but it is to note that money doesn’t deal with the fundamental problems we face. Equally, the fall means that the rich won’t necessarily pay increased tax levels because it would be good for society. Evidence suggests that the higher the tax rate goes then the more people look for ways to avoid paying it. Likewise, the fall means that simply talking to people cannot be the answer to all the threats that we face as a country because there is such a thing as evil.
The above is why I end up in the centre. I want my Government to show compassion to those in the greatest need whilst recognising the limits of what we can do in a broken world. In the end, that is why I struggle to feel passionately about any party for whom I might vote. I am looking for the group who may try to do some good. I don’t believe that they will fundamentally transform the world forever.
Because in the end we are not voting for a Messiah. When will the society appear where there will be no more poverty, no need for defence spending and when there will be complete equality? It won’t be with a Tory or Labour Government. It will only take place when the Prince of Peace returns.