As I noted here, I am often surprised when church leaders refuse to identify their politics. It has always felt to me like an attempt to compartmentalise life such that Christ appears not to be Lord over our political decisions.
Some try to counteract this appearance, no doubt sincerely, by discussing political ‘issues’ without identifying which party they will support. This can be done well but often leads to vague discussion that doesn’t press too far down any given line in order to maintain the veneer of impartiality. When issues are discussed such that clear conclusions can be drawn, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out how the writer will be voting. This then begs the question why they don’t just admit it?
In the worst cases, this attempt at Christian impartiality smacks of a high view of oneself and not a little sanctimony: I couldn’t possibly voice my view on whom I shall be voting for because it might just cause hordes of church members to follow suit and it wouldn’t be right to lead them to vote for a particular party just because I say so. It either speaks to great arrogance or very poorly of your teaching programme if you think your members hang on your every word and will vote the way you do simply because you expressed an opinion.
Whilst we should all avoid pronouncements such as ‘God says to vote for…’, ‘if you don’t vote for X then you haven’t understood scripture’ or ‘the Christian way to vote is…’ (each of those sentences inevitably ends in a lie), there is a world of difference between doing that and voicing your opinion as a church leader. Nobody should pressure anyone to vote a given way, but there is a world of difference between forcing your church members to vote with you (or making life unpleasant and uncomfortable if they don’t share your views) and simply acknowledging you will be voting a particular way.
One needn’t be a genius to figure out which way I am going to vote. I haven’t overtly said so, but it wouldn’t be hard to figure it out. I don’t expect the rest of my church to vote en masse for my preferred candidate simply because they know how I’m voting. Our members are big enough and independent enough to make up their own minds. I am not so conceited to believe my opinions carry much weight. In fact, I spend my life telling people my opinions mean nothing and they should only listen to me inasmuch as what I say faithfully represents God’s Word (the same applies to them too). So nobody cares who I’m voting for because they know it is an opinion I hold, not a mandate from God himself.
Nonetheless, the Word is clear about where our unity lies:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Likewise, in 1 Corinthians 12:12f:
12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.13 For in one Spirit we were all baptised into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
Our unity does not lie in things political, but in Christ. We are made one body in Christ. We are joined together in him.
So however you vote today, remember to ‘maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond peace’ (Ephesians 4:3). This means putting the kingdom before our politics. We will have Christian brothers and sisters who voted Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, Green, UKIP and potentially others. However much we disagree with their politics, let us disagree well. Good disagreement surely begins with remembering that we are one in Christ Jesus.
This doesn’t mean we cannot share our politics. It doesn’t mean we cannot discuss whom we voted for and why. It just means we are called to a unity that is higher and greater than political differences. We may vote different ways but on Sunday we will still come together and drink the same cup and remember the same death of Jesus. We will affirm our unity together as citizens of God’s kingdom despite whether we sit next to a UKIP, Green, Liberal Democrat, Labour or Conservative voter.
We can choose to fall out because, for the next five years, our government isn’t whom we prefer. Or, we can choose to remember that we are members of a better kingdom with a king to whom we all willingly submit. Let us talk, discuss, even debate our politics, but when we have, let us love one another as Christ has loved us and let us unite around his table as joyful, unified citizens of his kingdom.