Q: What should we consider before voting in the November 26 general election and referendum?
Rodney Macann, National Leader, Baptist Union
Are we prepared to break the patterns of voting that have been the norm for us and maybe even our family? In other words, are we prepared to let our voting be a part of that “God transformation” that Paul speaks of?
I was brought up in a typical Kiwi family with typical political allegiances and prejudices. Through my selective use of scripture, I can justify without too much difficulty the way I have voted over the years and, to be honest, it hasn’t changed much. But is it simply habit borne out of prejudice and worldly values, or have I been open to the transforming work of the Spirit?
Over the past five years I have engaged with most of our current political leaders and I can honestly say that a number of them, across a range of parties, have impressed me with their wisdom, sense of justice, and desire for a healthy society that cares well for the poor and marginalized.
The problem is that they come to the fulfilment of their vision following different road maps and those road maps can be important in shaping our society.
Bill Hybels in his book Courageous Leadership talks of three important characteristics for people in leadership – character, competence and chemistry. These are not bad guides to use when deciding who to vote for.
• Character: we are looking for integrity and the ability to cope well under pressure – it’s as simple as that.
• Competence: a given, otherwise the country is going to be badly led.
• Chemistry: this is an interesting one, and where a bit of honest searching is needed.
As a follower of Jesus and a citizen of Aotearoa New Zealand, what is my vision for this country and how does this square up with my understanding of the manifesto of the political parties on offer and those who are standing for them?
If we are going to take this seriously, there’s a bit of work in understanding our biblical world view of what a just, compassionate society should look like and who we really believe offers the best opportunity to see that fulfilled.
Finally, in keeping with Romans 12:2, allow God to do some work on us as we come to vote. Our vote counts, and the preparation of prayer and thinking through the issues won’t go amiss either.
Roger Driver-Burgess, Pastor, Thames Baptist Church
I’ve been preaching through Ephesians, and when I came to the section on salvation as reconciliation – that God has broken down the dividing wall of hostility between us – in chapter 2, my thoughts went immediately to the upcoming election.
Obviously we want candidates whose stance on various matters looks something like our own – or our understanding of what a “Christian” stance would look like. For some people the litmus issues are to do with intimate relationships – abortion, sex education, prostitution etc. For others, it has to do with economics and the degree of intervention we expect from the State in the marketplace and the degree to which we allow or encourage overseas investments.
Some are concerned with restricting or legalising drugs of one form or another – cannabis, alcohol, nicotine, or methamphetamine. Others have broader issues around our justice system – the numbers of front-line police, or the disproportionate arrest and imprisonment rates of Maori compared to other offenders.
All of these issues are important and we find a wide range of Christian opinions about them. So which ones should we be looking for specifically?
I’ll be probing various candidates and party policies on these and other issues, trying to find someone I can give a vote to in good conscience. But I have already decided one bottom line. I won’t vote for anyone who makes political capital out of divisiveness, those politicians who define themselves against some “enemy,” whether that be some segment of New Zealand’s population or any overseas nation, or even another political party.
Those who can work across party lines, who value unity over political point-scoring, who remain respectful of their opponents, are far more likely to get my vote.
Grant Harris, Senior Pastor Windsor Park Baptist Church, Auckland
Every three years the question about how we should vote as Christians is raised. Navigating our way through the myriad of issues gets more complex the longer we look at it.
Some would say we should vote for (perceived) “Christian” parties, but does this undermine the valued and significant contributions of the many Christians who serve in mainstream parties?
Should we vote at all? Some Christians think not and act accordingly.
And just because someone stands up and says they are a Christian politician, does that mean they are a good politician? Or a theologically sound Christian? And that’s according to what I think that means, which could be different to what my wife thinks!
Christian communities need to actively wrestle with the issue of who to vote for, looking at a party’s overall balance of policies and not simply focusing on a few selected issues.
Christians need to have a wider view of the common good, perhaps reflecting upon the words that God gave to the exiles through the prophet Jeremiah (29:7): “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.” It is suggested that this passage influenced both Paul and Peter in New Testament times and is reflected in some of their arguments for civic responsibility (such as Paul in Romans 13:1-7).
It is dangerous to isolate one issue, whether it be marriage, homosexuality or the environment, and to vote on that basis alone.
We need to hold in balance these single issues against what we could call defining issues, exercising discernment in identifying what these issues are as they often have systemic impact on many other areas.
While the Church has lost the public voice it once had into issues that affect the social climate of our nation, that doesn’t excuse us from the responsibility of caring deeply for our neighbours and not being scared to have a voice in the political realm.
I encourage churches to provide contexts where discussions over our voice (or vote) can be exercised. Invite the key contenders to speak about what they consider to be the pressing issues and allow healthy debate within an environment that accepts the diversity that exists within our churches and the political voting decisions that will eventuate.
As for me and my household, we will vote for … hmmm, I’m not quite sure yet. (But I do live in the East Coast Bays – that might give you a clue!)
Alan Utting, Multicultural Ministries
From a multicultural stance, there are several things that will determine my vote in the upcoming elections. The first factor is to do with immigration and refugee policies.
When Pauline Hanson rose to fame during the 1990s in Australia she attracted a middle class white Australian population who supported her largely “close the door to refugees and immigration” policy. People feared a takeover bid.
However, we live in a deeply troubled world where persecution is rife and people are forced to flee for their lives. John the Baptist says that, as a sign of repentance and people coming into faith, “the man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same” (Luke 3:11).
Not only should we share from our abundance here in New Zealand, but multiculturalism enriches the tapestry of life. To create societal integration is a most rewarding experience. I want to support a government that is generous in its policies in this area.
As International Aid’s website states, “The New Zealand Aid Programme is the New Zealand Government’s international aid and development programme managed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The New Zealand Aid Programme supports sustainable development in developing countries in order to reduce poverty and contribute to a more secure, equitable and prosperous world”
(www.aid.govt.nz). I hope that any future government would be increasingly generous in their support.
Finally, Micah 6:8 tells us what God approves of: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” I hope that the election returns people to Parliament who share those goals.
In my work with churches and congregations of many cultures and ethnicities I become aware of the needs of immigrant communities. I shall want to know whether candidates and parties are committed to justice and mercy for those who are most vulnerable in our society.
From a multicultural perspective, I pray that the incoming government would uphold these values.