The Australian federal election is over once again. Christians have responded in very different ways. The mess with all the ‘Christian’ micro-parties (see the comments at the bottom of this post) kind of makes you wonder about our political engagement!
I’m hoping something else is happening this year. There’s been talk amongst Australian Christians about ‘casting your vote for others’ since the 2010 federal election, and that sentiment seems to have spread this year. But perhaps another realisation has been growing too.
Our friend Lorinda comments:
The election has made me ponder, at what point do we stop relying on the Government to help those living in poverty and start doing it ourselves, by say: sponsoring children… Or perhaps rather than spending money on standard presents for birthdays etc., buy something from this? Does your frustration at the parties move you to more action than just what your pen will do when it comes time to vote?
Lorinda’s angle is fleshed out in two articles that appeared a day or two before the election. Richard Glover and Michael Allison write:
Politics is about more than voting, governments and governors. Politics is primarily about citizenship — how you conduct yourself in the community.
… Christian political engagement is gospel-shaped, meaning it is characterised by concern for others and expressed in our communal life.
… Regardless of the practices of the wider community, Christians must live out the “royal law of love” (James 2:8).
If your Christian conviction is that abortion is a terrible tragedy, ask what your church is doing to care for single mothers.
If your Christian conviction is that more care needs to be given to the disabled, think and talk through how your Christian community could care for the disabled in your midst and around you.
Christian political engagement doesn’t end when we step out of the ballot box. It is grounded in the day-in, day-out life we live with our brothers, sisters and neighbours.
The spirituality of the early church put Christ’s “policies of love” into practice. Central to the early Christians living of Jesus’ politics of grace was the belief that it had to be voluntary. Receiving and living God’s love could never be enforced on others because it would then cease being Jesus-like. … The early Christians didn’t form “The Palestinian Christian Lobby Against Equine Senators and Bestiality”. They just rolled up their sleeves and got busy living God’s love in the power of Spirit, especially amongst the poor.
What does all this mean for me, engaging in a democratic system in 2013? Well, I’m not looking for salvation from getting in a cardboard box and ticking boxes once every three years or so. This is not just a horrible understanding of faith, it’s an anaemic way of deepening democracy.
Voting is not my voice — letting my life speak is my voice. Voting is just saying one thing in one place on one day. If that’s democracy, we are all stuffed. So have your say, but don’t silence yourself by outsourcing your power to politicians. Regardless of the result come Sunday, I’m still going to daily seek to live the politics of God’s love, especially for “the least of these”.
This election could draw us back to what the church is all about.
The sort of transformation God is interested in is more than a top-down strategy or something that can be legislated. It’s something that flows out of the shared life of God’s people. (Theologians have some fancy names for it — faithful presence; alternative polis; embodiment of stewardship — but it’s the same deal.) Knowing that society will never get everything right, and knowing that God’s new society is somehow seeping out of our life together, we can learn how to truly be the church: neither the same as society, nor trying to conform society to ourselves, but living as a witness to the Kingdom of the Living One.
For now, I’ll leave the final word to Chris Swann:
What if having some of our key concerns marginalised drove Christians in our nation to prayer?
To call upon the Lord instead of looking to ourselves — our influence, insight and strategy — to make things right.
To cry “Come, Lord Jesus” instead of plotting the second coming of Christendom in Australia.
Even to risk social (if not literal) death in order to testify to the perfect, just and compassionate rule of our Risen Lord instead of desperately trying to bend the instrumentality of our society’s organisation towards our ideas of justice and compassion.
On the Christian micro-parties, Mike Bird commented:
In every state, except SA, the Sex Party just out polled the Family First party. Only in NSW did a Christian party (CDP) do better than the Sex Party. Can’t help but think that CDP/AC and FFP need to join up if they want to have a Christian party capable of winning federal senate seats. But then again, why not just try work in with and for the major parties?
[In the micro-party preference deals] most of the tiny parties got together and agreed to preference each other ahead of the major parties. This means that whichever micro-party can keeps its nose ahead of the others ends up collecting virtually all the micro-party preferences from those who vote above the line (generally about 95% of people do). The result is that people who voted above the line for conservative Christian values parties like Family First and the Democratic Labor Party have elected either one or two Senators who want to legalise (or keep legal) all of these: same-sex marriage, euthanasia, abortion, porn, prostitution, marijuana, gambling. And they want a flat tax rate. And 0% aid.
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.