Inevitably we have to be selective about which issues to highlight. There are many issues that we ought to consider. Not all of those issues are equally important. But bible believing Christians will debate which one are the most significant.
The Christian Institute made a decision to promote the Christian faith in six main areas
- Marriage and the family
- Medical ethics
- Religious liberty in the UK
- Matters of public morality
- The constitution
You will notice that there’s no explicit mention of environmental issues, foreign policy and issues of social justice. CARE have produced an election digest which I found hugely helpful. It takes a broader view and includes things like human traffiking, gambling and issues of social policy.
For my money there are three main issues that we as Christians ought to think through before we cast our vote. This is not to say that they are the only issues, they’re not. But they are hugely significant and I’ll say why.
1. The protection of the vulnerable
The fundamental role of Government is to administer justice. They are supposed to protect the innocent and punish the guilty. Governments ought to be especially good at maintaining justice for the oppressed, the marginalised and the vulnerable. Among the most vulnerable in our society are the elderly, the disabled, the terminally ill and the voiceless unborn. These groups of people need Christians to champion their cause.
Psalm 82 says,
‘Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’
And so when we read the manifestos we need to think through the impact on others and in particular the marginalised, the disadvantaged and the vulnerable. The others we especially ought to be thinking about are the poor, the unborn, the elderly and the immigrant. And so we’ll need to think about poverty, youth crime, the environment and ethical issues like euthanasia and abortion, immigration and asylum policies. And we need to ask what each party will do to protect the vulnerable.
If you get the opportunity it’s worth asking where a candidate stands on abortion, on the status of the embryo and on assisted suicide.
Since the legalisation of abortion in 1967 there have approximately 7 million live shave been ended in the womb. In the last year 99% of those were carried out for social reasons. I know that this is a sensitive subject and it may well be that there are people here for whom it is especially uncomfortable. But if that many people had been killed in any other way we’d call it Genocide. Someone has rightly pointed out that one of the least safe places in our society at the moment is inside the womb.
In 2008 the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill Act was passed. This gives new freedoms in which the human embryos can be used and then discarded for scientific purposes. It allows the creation of ‘saviour siblings’ and animal human hybrids.
Recent guidelines issues by the Director of Public Prosecutions weaken the law and remove the protection for the elderly and vulnerable in our society will respect to Assisted Suicide.
Why this issue? Because it’s literally a matter of life and death. For my money that makes it a big issue. I am not a single issue voter but I find it very difficult to vote for someone who is pro-choice rather than pro-life.
Vote for someone who will seek to protect the vulnerable.
2. The promotion of the family
In biblical thought the family is fundamental.
It’s the context in which children are raised. Ideally two parents one male and one female, joined together in marriage seek to nurture, educate and form the character of the next generation. Marriage is the publicly declared, lifelong committed relationship between a man and a woman. This is the only proper context for sexual union.
This is the biblical position. Of course, not all families will correspondent to this ideal. And many people work away heroically in situations they wouldn’t choose. Many in our own church would not fit this neat definition. And, as Christians, we want to throw our weight behind those that are trying to do the best they can with the circumstances that they’re in sometimes through no fault of their own. There’s no place for self righteousness, condemnation and judgmentalism. There is every place for support, encouragement and compassion for those that solider on in spite of great difficulty. I happen to think that some of the modern day heroes of our societies are some of the single Mums who seek to raise kids that will contribute positively to society.
It used to be commonly accepted that a family constituted a Father, a Mother and some children. Not any longer. Though not admittedly Government Minister, the Liberal Democrat Families Spokeman, Susan Kramer has said,
‘Liberal Democrats recognise ‘real’ families, as they exist in all their variations and complexity – traditional families, families centred on heterosexual but also gay and lesbian relationships, multi-generational families, step families, extended families and single parent families’.
Our society is undergoing a huge cultural shift with respect to the family. There is a growing view that we need to redefine the family. That’s evident in the legislation that’s been passed since the Labour Party came to power in 1997. But the solution to the growing numbers of broken families and of children being born and raised outside of marriage is not to pretend that these arrangements are the same as marriage nor to embrace new understandings of family. There are vast amounts of evidence to show that the impact of family breakdown has been terrible for the family, society as a whole but the children particularly.
Why this issue? Because the family is the fundamental building block of society.
Vote for someone who will seek to protect the family.
3. The preservation of religious freedom
The fundamental freedom of religious expression has been systematically challenged over the last decade. People are willing to tolerate Christians who hold their views in private. But they are intolerant of Christians who bring those views into the public square.
Recent legislation has been on a trajectory that will make it increasingly difficult for Christians to live as Christians in public. In recent years religious liberty has been eroded by the following pieces of legislation
- The Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006
- The Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008
- The Equality Act 2006 & 2010
- The Sexual Orientation Regulations 2007
If legislation such as this continues to go before Parliament it will have huge impact on the lives of Christians and churches.
- It will become difficult for churches to have full control over their employment practices.
- Christians will be prevented from acting according to their Christians conscience in the work place.
- Christian charities will be forced to choose whether to lose their Christian ethos in order to receive public funding
- It will become a criminal offence to cause offence by publicly stating the truth
Why this issue? Because it’s an issue that leads to so many others. If the Christian voice is muted in the public square then we lose our prophetic edge. We won’t be allowed to speak about any of the other issues. If the Christian faith is not allowed into the public square then it brings to an end open debate on these issues. We may feel that it’s selfish to throw our weight behind this issue. It does look self concerned. But the Christian faith is not simply for us, is it? God’s word is for others as well. And it’s good for others.
If you were only going to ask one question of the candidates in your constituency I would make it this one. Ask them whether they’d protect your freedom to live as a Christian, even if if others found it offensive.
Vote for someone who will seek to preserve religious freedom.
Vote this Thursday and do so with these two thoughts in mind
Firstly, vote prayerfully. The act of voting is part of our Christian service and we should pray about it. Pray for wisdom and discernment in choosing who to vote for, for the candidates running in our constituency and that God’s will to be done in the election.
Secondly, we should vote thoughtfully. Don’t just vote as you always have done, try and really think about the issues involved. Find out what the main parties’ say on the key issues, and also try to find out the views of your local candidates.