When the Prime Minister surprised the nation with the announcement that there was to be a General Election on June 8 you could almost hear a collective sigh of exasperation: not another election! Between the Independence Referendum of 2014, the Brexit Referendum of 2015, the local Council Elections in 2017, and now the General Election, it feels as though we’ve never been out of the polling booths!
Now, not by any stretch of the imagination would I describe myself as a political (with a big P), person. By that I mean that I don’t espouse any one particular Political party. In fact, I don’t believe party politics has any place in the Church. I do, however, believe that Christians are called to be political, in the sense that we are to be engaged in the process of making decisions that are for the good of all peoples, and particularly in the context of social justice and equality. At the heart of the word politics is the desire to create a society that is equitable and just.
Each Political Party, in their Manifestos, has set out their own particular vision for a just and equal society. However, laudable such visions might be, they all tend to be coloured by one ism or another, whether it be conservatism, socialism, or liberalism.
This election I want to respectfully suggest that we be persuaded by a different Manifesto. In the Gospel of Luke, and very early in the ministry of Jesus, we are presented with God’s Manifesto for humanity. Jesus is at worship in the local synagogue, and He is invited by the elders to read the Scripture for the day. This is what Jesus read, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ Once He had finished the reading, He sat down and said, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ (Luke 4:18-21). These words of Jesus could be summarised into four words: love, truth, justice, and freedom. These virtues seem so simple and yet they are revolutionary ideas that have transformed society down the centuries. Love that turns the other cheek and goes the extra mile. Truth that seeks only the good of the other person and not personal gain. Justice that sees others as people regardless of their colour, creed, gender, or ethnicity. Freedom that seeks order and justice for those who need it most.
As we prepare to make our choice on June 8 and as we engage with our candidates will we be swept along by the media, the personalities and the ‘clear choices on offer’? Or will we look for the higher and the deeper, for the values that must drive our politics in a better direction? As the people of God we should help our nation ask the question of what kind of society we truly want to be.