By the time you read this column, Australians will have voted for a new federal parliament.
Voting to decide who will represent us in parliament is our sacrosanct privilege. We are also free to openly criticise candidates and parliamentarians should we choose to do so, groan about political processes, argue about legislation and publicly debate government policies. We pray we will always keep these freedoms, with every citizen playing his or her part in providing good government through the democratic process.
Democracy as we know it took centuries to develop. Christianity played a big part in that development, which finally came to fruition under the influence of Christian thinkers, rulers and populations. The roots of democracy lie in the gospel principles of equality, justice, and compassion. Today, as our society increasingly turns away from the gospel, we risk losing the very values that make possible the freedoms we currently enjoy. We should all care about that – deeply.
The right we enjoy to vote in elections speaks to our faith in many ways, of which I list just three:
- It is a chance for us to act for the general good, and not out of self-interest. Do you choose your candidate because of what they or their party promise to do for you? Or do you vote because of what they promise to do for the vulnerable and disadvantaged, or as Scripture puts it, the ‘Levites, foreigners, orphans, and widows’ among us (Deuteronomy 26:12)?
- It is a chance for us to put the moral and ethical health of our society ahead of economic interests. Political speeches and media commentary make it sound as though the economy is the only true indicator of a successful society. Christians can see through that misconception. A healthy and successful society is not just the result of managing money well. It comes about through the practice of justice, compassion, integrity and a humble spirit of public service. That doesn’t mean we force so-called Christian values on everyone. Rather, it means that, as responsible citizens, we give ourselves in service to others, counting them as better than ourselves.
- It is a God-given chance for us to pray meaningfully for our leaders, politicians and parliament. St Paul wrote to Timothy: ‘First of all, I ask you to pray for everyone … Pray for kings and others in power, so that we may live quiet and peaceful lives as we worship and honour God. This kind of prayer is good, and it pleases God our Saviour. God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth …’ (1 Timothy 2:1–4 CEV). According to the New Testament, then, God gives us government so that there can be peace and the gospel can spread!
Each of these is a worthy reason to wholeheartedly participate in our democracy. I pray that God blesses you whenever you vote, and you do it so that others may be just as blessed as you are. I pray that he blesses those elected with generosity of spirit, wisdom, grace and truth. Thank God for democracy and the free and peaceful society in which we live.