I was quite politically conscious in my teenage years and vividly remember the sense of excitement of the Labour government (1972-75), the vigour of Norman Kirk's leadership and the shock of his death in 1974.
Bill Rowling became Prime Minister and he was a decent bloke but the Trump-like Muldoon was barnstorming the country in 1975 with ads of dancing cossacks provocatively asserting that the Labour Party was just Communism by stealth. There were also some massive fuel price rises to cope with and other alarms on the economic front, so in came Muldoon and nine subsequent years were as feisty as these past few Trump weeks have been. Moreover Muldoon spent big on NZ infrastructure and with another economic collapse threatening, he called a snap election in 1984, almost certainly drunk as he slurred the announcement out, and out he went. NZ has never been the same since the next Labour government turned the tide with market-oriented policies (which mostly, IMHO, has been a good thing).
It requires not the slightest bit of fancy to assume that had Twitter existed in 1975 Muldoon would have used that form of social media to direct the country. He was that kind of Trump guy. (Though he did know more about economics than Trump!)
Now we have Bill English for our Prime Minister and this year is going to be fascinating for at least one reason. If he can win the election he will have redeemed his previous parlous attempt to win an election. In 2002 he led National to its lowest ever percentage of the vote as it lost that election.
On New Year's Day this year it happened that I was in church with Bill and Mary English! They were holidaying in Nelson with their friend and local MP, Nick Smith, and went to the nearest Catholic church for Mass - in Stoke, where my parents-in-law worship.
Of course it is no surprise that they should have been at Mass somewhere in NZ that Sunday. It is widely know that Bill and Mary are both deeply and regularly involved in the Catholic church, and that Bill's Christian convictions influence the shaping of his political leadership (most clearly seen, I and others perceive, in his running of the economy as Minister of Finance, where his concern in various initiatives has been that our economy yield better outcomes for all, not just for the rich).
On that particular Sunday one of my own internal responses to recognising Bill and Mary English at worship was that it felt very good to know that our current Prime Minister is a committed Christian. I have had huge admiration for our previous two Prime Ministers, Helen Clark (1999-2008) and John Key (2008-2016), but each was openly not a Christian. (And good on them for their honesty on that score.)
This does not necessarily mean that I will vote for Bill or that you, dear Kiwi reader, should either. Yet it might be a factor if our decision narrows down (other things being equal) to what drives the leadership of the next government: a gospel or other motivation?
But long before we who are not dyed-in-the-wool Lab/Nat/Green/NZF/Etc voters get to choose whom we might vote for, it is always and everywhere worth considering what God wants and what God is doing in the world.
A recent post by Ian Paul at Psephizo is relevant on this point. He is reviewing one of the latest Grove Booklets, Mission and evangelism: a theological introduction by Tim Naish. All good stuff, but pertinent to this post is the following comment by Ian:
"What missio Dei is that the church is a secondary goal in God’s longing. The primary goal is what Jesus in the first three gospels means by ‘the kingdom.’ And we might add that it also comes close to what the fourth gospel means by ‘life’ (or ‘life in all its fullness’). God has a purpose, which is the kingdom, or heaven, or life, or salvation, or (to use biblical phrases rather than single words), ‘the reconciliation of all things’ (cf Col 1.20), or ‘the creation itself being set free from its bondage to decay and obtaining the freedom of the glory of the children of God’ (cf Rom 8.21). The church is brought into being through Jesus the Christ as a step towards that goal." is emphasizing
The politics of Jesus is establishment, advancement and completion of the kingdom of God. This is the primary goal of God's work in the world. Not the church, but it is for another post to have another reminder to self and to readers that the church should not be all consuming! Here we might ponder that if the kingdom of God is God's first agenda item for the world then what our human politics is working towards is pretty important. Is it attuned to the kingdom of God?
Having a Christian Prime Minister/President is - of course - no guarantee that the politics of a given country is going to be any better attuned to the kingdom than under the previous government. But what could be guaranteed is that if Christian voters understand the primacy of the kingdom and the importance of working to align with that kingdom rather than against it, then we will vote more wisely than if we vote the way we have always done, or for the most popular person/policy, or for naked self-interest.