How to vote
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. (1 Timothy 2:1-2, NIV)
The Bible doesn’t speak about General Elections, but it does have principles we should bear in mind as we decide how (or whether) to vote. Here are some:
1. There is such a thing as corporate responsibility. In the book of Amos, God holds whole nations / city states to account for their behaviour. Damascus is guilty of vicious violence; Gaza, of human trafficking; Tyre, of treaty-breaking; Edom of war crimes; Gilead, of ripping open pregnant women; Israel, of trampling on the poor and of pricing people out of the justice system. In each case, the whole nation was held to account, and the whole nation should expect God’s judgment. To our individualistic ears, this is surprising, but of course we do share in a society’s values more than we think. We are guilty of evil if we participate in it, but we also bear some responsibility if we silently tolerate it. This corporate responsibility is enhanced in a democracy, for in a direct sense we all have opportunity to influence policy. So we must take elections seriously. And it follows that we should vote along moral lines, not just out of personal expedience.
2. Jesus told us to love our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:31). This must apply to voting as well as to everything else. The parties will tempt us with offers of this or that to suit us - but we need to bear in mind the common good.
3. God’s priorities are not the same as ours. ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor my ways your ways,’ declares the LORD. (Isaiah 55:8). As we read the party manifestos, are the issues they flag up the biggest ones for God? For instance, it’s hard to see how, Biblically, Brexit would be as significant to our Maker as the horror of abortion, or any other attacks on human life or the vulnerable. Or is broadband provision (promised in some form by both Labour and the Tories) as important as their policies on marriage and family? As a society we are shockingly unaware of what really matters; Christians should not be guilty of this! Deciding between parties each with an array of policies inevitably involves ranking the importance of different issues: we should do so with a Bible in our hands.
4. We should vote with honesty. An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips [!] (Proverbs 24:26). For this reason, I find myself a bit sceptical about tactical voting. Our support for a party will be taken by that party’s analysts as indicating the popularity of their position on various things. You may well find policies in a party’s manifesto you simply can’t in conscience vote for, whatever the tactical advantage.
5. We should not be afraid to engage canvassers about their parties’ policies. Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks what is right (Proverbs 16:13). Although they are seeking to win us, what’s said on the doorstep - especially if there are enough of us who speak them - may filter back to party HQs and even affect future policy.
6. Finally, we should pray. In the famous passage at the head of this post, the Apostle Paul tells us to pray for those in leadership. By extension, we should pray for the Lord to provide us with good leaders.