General Election 2019: let's get engaged and pray
Revd Paul Goodliff, CTE’s General Secretary, encourages us to be prayerful and actively engaged, rather than succumbing to cynicism…
The 2019 election is like none other that I can recall, and the impact of Brexit upon British politics partly accounts for that. We are so dominated by this one issue‚ admittedly one of huge importance and long-lasting significance, that other domestic issues are skewed. The financial crisis of more than a decade ago, and the ensuing austerity, has had a significant impact on our society. Add in the influence of social media, possible illicit meddling by foreign powers, the strange character of American politics at present, and a global growth in popularist politics, and this election looks to challenge even the most experienced of pundits.
How might Christians respond? First by getting engaged, and certainly by voting. The privilege of a democratic system is to be prized. I hope that all those who vote for their favourite couple in BBC's Strictly Come Dancing will also make the effort to vote for their preferred candidate in their constituency.
Second, by challenging ourselves when we succumb to the cynicism that labels all politicians as corrupt self-servers. Most politicians are dedicated public servants, who – despite the human toll from long hours at work, time away from home, and the more recent online threats and abuse – stay in that role election after election (if voted for!) because they genuinely want to serve the common good. We might not always agree with the way that they interpret the common good — which is why we have different political parties and policies — but for most MPs and candidates their motivation is not primarily governed by a simple hunger for power or personal gain. Rather than being cynical, why not pray for them, and let them know that you are doing so? For many MPs that makes a world of difference at the end of a stressful week.
Thirdly, take the time to check the facts. One characteristic of politics worldwide, which Britain is not immune to, is the discounting of truth and the temptation to say whatever seems most palatable to the electoral base. And some find more sinister causes behind the withdrawal from truth-telling. For Christians, truth is important. Jesus says it sets us free, referring to the most important truth which we proclaim – that Jesus Christ is Lord. However, truth generally is the only ground upon which to build trust, and trust is important if the social contract between the governed and those who govern is to be maintained in good order.
The government appointed through the ballot box on December 12th might not be the one you personally voted for, but the Scriptures still require us to pray for them.
Let us also hold our new government to account for its promises, and encourage it to legislate in ways that do not simply serve the five-year electoral cycle. That will, most importantly perhaps, include issues around the care of our most vulnerable (be they the very young, or the very old), and the care of the planet, together with generous concern for the poorest of our fellow human beings wherever they live. For when our compassion starts at home, but travels no further beyond, we have missed something of the universal gospel of Jesus Christ and the costly call to see everyone as created in God's image.