So, we have all carried out our duty and voted! And possibly as you read this Pastor’s Note the decision of how Australia voted will have been made known. But, what is interesting for me, is how Christians form an opinion about who to vote for: were they guided, for example, by party political interests; were the issues canvassed by the parties the critical and decisive factors that influenced them and, if so, which ones; were the leaders the key factors in how they voted; or indeed, did they just vote the same way as they have always done irrespective of the issues at hand.
Karen Tong, an ABC journalist, wrote recently that according to the National Church Life Survey, the overall voting pattern of regular churchgoers in Australia is that they consistently favour the Coalition. Apparently, in 2016, 41% of church-attending Christians voted for the Coalition and 24% voted for Labor. Tong suggests that Christians do tend to rally around a distinct set of ethically based issues particularly conservative Christians, but for more left-wing Christians voting is more complex. However, Tong writes that while the Christian left may not wield the same political power as the Christian right – who have supportive influences from the Australian Christian Lobby – momentum is gaining such that they are being seen as a considerable voting bloc particularly around the Refugee issue. And it is that issue, as suggested by Jonathan Cole for the Centre of Public and Contextual Theology at Charles Sturt University, that is drawing people from both left and right tendencies and is galvanizing the Christian left.
While there is ambiguity about political ideology in the Church, and while Christians do vary in their political views, Biblical foundations should help shape those views and guide where we place our allegiances. And whatever the result, it is right that our prayers go to the duly elected representatives and to the new or remaining Government. And I think, too, that it is right that whatever form or shape or political leaning is now our government, we as people of faith should never deflect our prophetic responsibility to ‘stay awake’ to the needs of our world, and remain resolute to the principles of the integrity and worth of each human person as guided by the life and teaching of Jesus. And perhaps too, in moving forward with the new or remaining government, we can hold to what John F Kennedy said in his inaugural speech as the 35th President, encouraging us to remember and begin anew because: ‘the world is very different now. For man (woman) holds in his (her) mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe – the belief that the rights of man (woman) come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God … Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate … Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us … let both sides unite to heed in all corners of the earth the command of Isaiah – to “undo the heavy burdens … and let the oppressed go free”