Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Our NZ General Election is looming - so is the US election (or should that be THE US election?). Here is a column published in our latest Diocesan Witness:

How should Christians vote in the forthcoming General Election? If we take the whole of the Bible into account then I suggest that the strongest influence on our party vote should be our understanding of how each party would work for justice after the election. When speaking about justice, the Bible is not limited to considerations of criminal law and the consequences of breaking it. Its concern is for just relationships between people, including social and economic dimensions to relationships, as well as for just relationships between people and God. The least important matter for us should be how much money a prospective winner will put in our back pockets; the most important should be how the poorest and weakest members of our society will be brought into just relationships with the richest and strongest.

The economics of just relationships in society are complicated. It’s a dangerous over-simplification to assume that all is made well by larger benefit payouts or by insisting on a higher minimum wage. Wealth has to be created for it to be distributed; and employment is only sustainable where the cost of labour is reasonable relative to the affordability of the resulting product. The sociology of just relationships is also complicated. It’s good to welcome refugees to our land of opportunity, for instance, but how many can we welcome without creating some new injustice in respect of access to education and health services? Broadly speaking parties on both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ offer a political programme with justice in the broadest sense as the long-term goal of the programme. Thus our challenge as Christian voters is to find time and energy to engage with the details of what each party is proposing. The much debated question of tax cuts, for example, involves important questions of economic stimulus, availability of government services, long-term impact on national debt servicing and the like.

There are other aspects of justice to consider when weighing up who to vote for. Truth-telling is an important part of justice, as is respect for human dignity. The way some of our politicians treat other politicians should give us pause for thought as to why they should be entrusted with political responsibility. Sometimes ‘single’ issues such as abortion or military adventurism dominate our decision-making, but there is always a danger that deciding how to vote on the basis of a single issue will distort the process of achieving justice for all. Finally there is the matter of who to vote for as our local member of parliament. I do not know about you, but I find it a strange and troubling quirk of MMP that my two votes can be split between two parties!

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