"Christians can’t afford to vote National because if they do they will align themselves with the wealthy landowners of which the Bible speaks, and in doing so will alienate themselves from Christ’s love and presence."You will not find any disavowal on the internet of this statement by any of our bishops, which is not to say any agree with it, but it is to say that they seem unwilling to check this kind of statement being made on one of our church's websites, as an expression of a viewpoint from one near the top of the administration of our church. I note on the original site of the posting that 159 people "Like" the posting, one of whom is another prominent leader in our church. I consider at least one of the commenters to the post who supported it to be another prominent leader of our church.
The statement above, being charitable, is simply an excessive expression of a viewpoint among our senior leadership over many years now in which the National Party and its approach to economic and social issues is always part of the problem not the solution.
In the citation above it is taken for granted that the National Party is solely and exclusively the vehicle of 'wealthy landowners'. But that is not how the people of Aotearoa New Zealand see the situation our country is in. I think John Armstrong of the NZ Herald is on the money about what happened on Saturday as he gives six reasons why National won the election. Reasons 2 and 6 are the important ones in this context: the economy, and concern about debt. (Incidentally, I suggest there is a seventh reason, which has turned out to be a bit surprising: appreciation for the way National has handled the quakes in Christchurch has led to a significant change in support for the National Party in this city - I wouldn't have picked that from the way the local media has constantly highlighted the negative aspects of the government's response to the earthquakes.)
In other words, to explain the fact that National increased its support in the election, gaining a stronger mandate, rather than lost support as many governments do in successive elections, we can only say that the people have determined that the best interests of our country have nothing to do with kowtowing to the wealthy landowners. The logical conclusion to draw is that the majority of voters believe our 'brighter future' lies in a continuance of the current approach to managing the economy.
Vague theories about the current approach lining the pockets of wealthy landowners and making impoverished peasants of the rest of us lack connection with the sense of the people.
We kind of pride ourselves as a church here on being the church of and for the people of Aotearoa New Zealand: all are welcome, we are inclusive. We sing that chorus again and again. Well, do we mean it? Are the 48% of voters, up from the 45% in 2008, who supported National, to say nothing of the 52.5% who voted National, Conservative, ACT or United Future welcome in our church? Or are we the church who really feel most comfortable with the 38% who voted Labour or Green? (I won't attempt to characterise where the 2.4% who voted for either the Maori or the Mana Parties, or the 6.81% who voted for New Zealand First fit in this reflection: do they increase the 'right, conservative' side of our political life or the 'left, progressive' side or sit otherwise in the political spectrum?)
But to read some comments from some of our clerical leaders over the weekend (e.g. on Facebook) the result is terrible! But what is 'terrible'? That the people have spoken? (Perhaps we prefer dictatorship?) That people have been duped? (One could scarcely call our media sycophantic to the right wing.) That the majority of voters do not understand what is at stake in the choices before them about economic policy? (An underlying presumption here seems to be that clergy know best about the economics of helping the poor, but what if the voters are saying that they believe a strong economy built on as little debt as possible is the best way to help the poor in the long-term? Will we listen?)
As a church which intends (rather than pretends) to be serious about being inclusive and welcoming to all, we may have a serious problem on our hands. To the extent to which we tolerate the kind of statement cited above we are cutting ourselves off from the majority of New Zealanders. If we are serious about inclusivity and welcome then we need to make peace with that majority, with a humble leadership which is willing to learn from the wisdom of the majority, and an open mind to engage in the reality of economics. The metanoia or repentance required may not be on the part of the people of NZ but on the part of the Anglican clergy of NZ!
The alternative is that our church presents itself to NZ society as the church for a chosen minority: what the gospel really means for social and economic life is an amalgam of Labour and Green ideas. Implicitly we actually think the minority of Kiwis - for the left-wing of NZ life on average through the decades constitutes a minority - are the ones really favoured by God. But a church satisfied with reaching out to a minority of a society is a sect not a church ...
Sect or church? For and of all the people or just the chosen few? Which way will our church go as it lives into the reality of life today?
For the record, on Saturday I did not vote for National on either the electorate or the party vote.