Advocating for the weak and the vulnerable isn’t the only thing to consider when voting but it is one that I believe Christians give too little attention to. We already give lots of air time to hot-button issues like opposing same sex marriage and abortion, and protecting the religious freedom of Christians. Since the Holy Spirit first managed to see the gospel grow in a society with all sorts of sexual deviancy going on, and since in today’s world it’s exploding in places like China where Christians may face persecution, I wonder whether our focus is misplaced. I’m not saying those things aren’t worth considering, and Arthur and I are supportive of organisations who advocate for marginalised Christians, but my point is that the progress of the gospel is not dependent on government policy.
Much of the time, the policies above are couched in terms of defending the rights of the weak and vulnerable, but they are most often the ‘vulnerable’ who align with our own values: marriage, family, proclamation of the gospel. When it comes to the ‘vulnerable’ who are also ‘other‘, many middle-class Christians would also add the poor overseas and, perhaps, at home, including indigenous people, to their list. Perhaps you can think of others. I’ve heard people with disabilities mentioned in a sermon about welcoming the vulnerable, though I’ve rarely heard it connected with politics. However, all these people are either our own, or, as we see it, vulnerable through no fault of their own. Perhaps they haven’t been born, or have been abandoned, are sick, live under a corrupt government, or have been subject to injustice at the hands of others (possibly us!).
I want to suggest two more categories of the vulnerable that Christians ought to be advocating for: single mums and those who are same-sex attracted. I raise these in particular because they are often seen as a direct threat to that holy Christian institution: marriage and family. They are truly ‘other’!
Christians campaign against abortion but we are often silent on policies which would be of enormous value to single or struggling parents: paid parental leave, funding for childcare, and the public education system. Are we silent because we believe that unborn babies are somehow more valuable than a struggling parent? Or because children are only vulnerable when they are unborn?
Likewise, we campaign against same-sex marriage because we say it’s not in God’s good order. That may be, but those who are same-sex attracted also experience significantly higher levels of depression and suicide ideation than the rest of the populace. Even if you think this is a direct result of their ‘choice’ (and I don’t) they are still people in need of care. Why aren’t more Christians advocating for better mental health services? In our haste to legislate for God’s good order, have we taken to seeing LGBTI people as the enemy and purporters of sin? We are all sexually broken; some of us experience marginalisation because of that, and need special consideration as a result.
By all means, be anti-abortion or anti-euthanasia if you think that will help the vulnerable, but being others-centred must include advocacy for those who make us uncomfortable or who don’t seem to fit in our conception of the world.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.