In a fallen world there is no perfect political party, no perfect political candidate, and no perfect political policy. Indeed, we must always keep in mind Psalm 146:3: “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save”. But we must also recall that God has ordained the institution of the state to maintain justice and punish evil (Romans 13:1-7).
Thus we all have obligations as to how we best live as citizens and what sort of government we support. Christians can and do disagree about these matters, and biblical Christianity ultimately transcends mere party politics. Having said that, some political parties and policies may be closer to biblical concerns than others.
And so too political leaders. In this election we have a pro-life and pro-family Catholic up against an atheist, socialist, and pro-abortionist. But of course as we all witnessed recently, unlike the American system, Australia’s political leaders can come and go – it is the caucus which ultimately decides who will be the leader and what policies will be advanced.
So beware of focusing too much on the high-profile leaders. It is the policies and platforms of Labor and the Coalition that must be closely and prayerfully examined by believers. To help in that process a number of Christian leaders prepare a Christian Values Checklist ahead of each election (state and Federal).
It examines the main parties and a number of smaller parties on around 25 different issues, ranging from educational policies to their stance of marriage, family and life issues. For what it is worth, the smaller Christian and family parties (CDP, DLP, FF) consistently come out ahead, followed by the Coalition, then Labor, then the Greens.
Of course one’s assessment of the parties will depend on what the believer sees as key Christian values. Many believers of the right are concerned about the steady assault on marriage and family, the abortion holocaust, etc. On those and related fronts the Coalition is usually ahead of Labor.
The religious left will speak much about social justice. That can be a vague and misleading term, but however it is defined, it usually translates into votes for the Greens or Labor. But a few things can be said about this.
It sometimes appears that believers on the left think they have some sort of monopoly on social justice matters, and they seem to occupy the high moral ground about it. But if social justice is concerned about economic and politic policies which are to help all people, then it is not so clear that the left side of politics can claim so much here.
Yes there are plenty of Bible passages speaking to these matters. But the key issue is which political and economic mechanisms best secure this justice. Why do we assume that only leftist policies are in fact so good for people, especially the poor?
The truth is all political parties deal with economic issues, and it is a question of which economic policies in fact really do benefit all Australians. Indeed, the real question to ask is not, is this party concerned about the poor, but, what economic policies will in fact best help them?
Does a more or less free market approach in fact best address issues of poverty and wealth, or the more statist or socialist model? These are empirical questions which must be assessed according to fact, rather than theory. So one needs to set aside rhetoric here, and examine how actual policies impact on all this.
Moreover, it does very little good to talk about social justice when we kill 100,000 unborn babies each year. Where is their justice? How are they shown compassion and acceptance? Sadly, the parties of the left are much more cavalier about human life, whether in the mother’s womb, or towards the end of life.
Leftist rhetoric tends to speak of humanity in general terms, or in class terms, whereas a Christian ethic of justice should consider actual people, especially the most vulnerable. Scripture speaks much to this. Consider for example the following passages:
Proverbs 24:11 Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
Proverbs 31: 8-9 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
Prov. 31:8 Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction.
While these texts do not speak solely to matters such as abortion, they surely are key texts about this which cannot be ignored. Parties which minimise or ignore the right to life of our most vulnerable and defenceless citizens surely must be queried in terms of their Christian ethic.
C.S. Lewis once warned about the dangers of “Christianity and…” Whether it is Christianity and socialism, or Christianity and liberalism, etc. In a fallen world no political party will fully reflect all of God’s concerns, nor will any one policy or politician. Thus we must wisely and prayerfully consider where our votes are going.
As mentioned, rhetoric alone will not suffice. For example, Julia Gillard has been trying to out-Howard John Howard since becoming PM. She knows full well that to win this election she must clearly distance herself from her radical socialist past, and put out an image of a very centrist and even conservative leader.
But if elected, all that is going to change. It is the large forces of radical and leftist sentiment in her own party that will certainly come to the fore. Her own abortion on demand position will be allowed even further free rein, as will the very strong push in her party for same-sex marriage and adoption rights.
Believers of course vote for their own local members. Where they stand on issues is important, but so too is where the whole party stands on issues. All this must be taken into consideration. While the smaller Christian parties will not be fielding as many candidates, they certainly should warrant some support.
They may not have it all correct (no one and no group ever will) but some of these groups are not bound by party solidarity and caucus chains. They can seek to fully reflect their biblical faith in the public arena, and in their party’s policies.
Individual Christians in the larger parties simply do not have such freedoms. They are bound to follow the dictates of the party. Indeed, the Labor Party allows no dissent, except for a conscience vote on abortion matters. Otherwise Labor MPs are bound to follow the party platform. So even if an individual Labor MP has strong Christian convictions, he or she will be bound by the constraints of the Party.
But God may well lead believers in differing directions here. He is far too big to be adequately represented by any one political party or position. But in this world we must seek for God’s best in the political realm, tainted though it will be by sin.
I for one will see a Gillard win as a real step backwards – spiritually, morally and politically. Indeed, the newly released Canberra Declaration reminds us of some core Christian values and goods which are under threat in this nation. It is clear that a Labor-Green government will in many ways be quite inimical to these values.
It seems that a Coalition government on the other hand will be much more sympathetic to the three key areas highlighted in the Canberra Declaration: the importance of marriage and family, the sanctity of life, and religious freedom.
Indeed, just as there are major differences between the two leaders, with a pro-abortion socialist and atheist over against a pro-life, pro-family Catholic, so too, there are very real differences between a Labor/Green government and a Liberal/National government.
But each believer must prayerfully and thoughtfully seek God on this. The stakes are high, and failure to carefully seek God on this will be tragic indeed. At the very least, we must keep 1 Tim 2:1-2 in mind: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”