We are a nation of disaffected voters. The last three elections have seen the lowest turnout in living memory, and there’s no indication that 2015 will be any different. If there was a box on the ballot for the Apathy Party, voters would flock to their sofas to avoid ticking it.
The common complaint is that there’s no point voting, because nothing ever changes. Those we put in charge of running the country keep sabotaging our economy, backtracking on promises and buying duck houses at our expense. Small wonder that we opt out of politics altogether, if all that happens when we take our chance to change the system every five years is that we get another party, almost indistinguishable from the last.
Common though it is, this view is badly mistaken. Taking the trip to the polling station once every five years is not the beginning and end of political engagement – especially for Christians, who are taught to pray ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.’ We are commanded to seek transformation here on earth, not simply to sit back and wait for the Age to Come.
Votewise 2015 aims to help Christians understand how to think about the issues that affect us the most from a Christian perspective: the economy, debt and austerity; Europe and immigration; the environment; the NHS; education. When we understand more about God’s vision for how our society and communities should look, we can respond meaningfully to the challenges we face – as well as voting in a way that honours our faith.
God did not intend for politicians to bear full responsibility for transforming an imperfect world. That responsibility lies, first and foremost, with Christians. It can take many forms. We are called to pray. Then there are the countless ways of actively participating in our communities – supporting church and charity initiatives, becoming a school governor, getting involved with other local businesses and organisations that are well positioned to address local concerns.
Alongside these bottom up initiatives, there is direct engagement with the political process to effect top down change – lobbying your council, joining a party, offering your assistance or even becoming a councillor yourself, writing to your MP or visiting one of their surgeries: all the activity that occurs the other four years and 364 days before the next General Election. Although change can be slow, it is absolutely valid for Christians to seek to change a faulty system, as well as to address its injustices. As Desmond Tutu said, ‘There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.’
That’s why voting is the last thing we should be doing. It should be but one facet of all our efforts to change our society and the communities we live in for the better, not the entirety of our political engagement.
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