[This is a guest post, as is apparent by the coherent wording and perfect grammar. I would like to thank the writer for this engaging and practical post]
The Unique selling point for this political blog post is that I can guarantee it does not mention either the word beginning with ‘T’ and rhyming with ‘Dump’, or the word beginning with ‘B’ and rhyming with ‘Exit’.
Firstly, I’m delighted to be able to post as a guest on this blog. I work in Politics, and I am passionate about it. This will hopefully be very practical, easy to understand, and useful for considering how to cast your vote in the fast-approaching Scottish Local Elections. Despite the general apathy and lack of enthusiasm for anything connected with the word ‘politics’, it is worth voting. Politics can solve issues. Democracy is good. As Christians, our faith should lead us to seek justice and mercy in your local area Some will see that being fulfilled by Labour, SNP, Conservatives, or an Independent candidate.
I will outline some things that we should consider as we approach the Local Elections, followed by a few pointers for what a candidate/councillor should strive after.
The following points are not in order of priority:
- Consider the issues
Think through what issues are most important to your local community. Housing? Crofting? Local Enterprise and jobs? Better run services? At the end of the day you are voting for people to be local champions for the issues that matter to your community.
- Engage with the candidates
If you want to know what each of your candidates stand for, get in touch with them whether by email, facebook, or a chat on the street. Don’t be scared to ask them questions, after all they are the ones who will be representing you. You are looking for someone of good character who can carry out their duties as a councillor in a respectful and caring manner, who is gracious enough to debate passionately, but to share a laugh afterwards. You want someone who is humble enough, but also wants to work quietly, honestly and consistently for the local community. If the candidate wants to rant, rave, and stage a protest in order to oust those he disagrees with, this is not a display of tolerance. Tim Keller summed it up well: Tolerance isn’t about not having beliefs. It’s about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you.
- Pray for Wisdom
Your ability to vote is something to be thankful for – make the most of it. Voting is also a serious thing, and praying for wisdom essential. If we believe Jesus is the Lord over all aspects of our life, that should include voting. It is not in a separate compartment. You would pray for wisdom to know what job offer to accept, or what course to enrol in, or where to move to, so why would voting be any different? We are told in the Bible to be subject to governing authorities (1 Peter 2:13-17, Romans 13:1-7, Titus 3:1). This does not mean we have to just agree with everything they do, but it means we should make use of our vote as responsible Christians.
- Remember your chief end
Your chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Your chief end in each political decision you make, should be made in light of this fact. He knows our motives, and if they are driven by a desire for personal gain, or someone else’s expense, or malice for a particular candidate/party then we should think twice before casting out vote that way.
If you have a rough idea who you are going to vote for, can you vote this way with a clear conscience?
- Don’t be blinded by party allegiances
Parties do serve a function, and can help summarise generally what a candidate stands for, but the candidate also has an independent mind and will sometimes disagree with their party, don’t assume they agree with everything their party does on a national level.
- Independent candidates are free from party constraints and are generally politically unique to rural parts of Scotland such as the Highlands and Islands. This can be beneficial.
- Independent councillors can focus more directly on the issues of local governance free from party constraints. Generally, in an age where there is a lot of political division, we are very liable to falling into the trap of adhering to the tribal politics of ‘us’ and ‘them’. It avoids the problem of angry constituents judging them prematurely, simply because of the party badge they wear.
- Give the independents serious consideration, but finding out where they stand would be helpful.
- Be discerning with what you read, and don’t be blinded by local gossip. If you hear that ‘Candidate A’ is awful/great, ask why he/she is so awful/great. Don’t rely on others to form your own opinion of a candidate.
- Read broadly, don’t just stick to the same news source. Reading the letters pages of the local papers can help to find out what others are saying about local and national issues.
We should long to overcome differences for the good of our community, and the furtherance of the gospel.
We should never allow political differences come between us as Christians. We have more important work, which is sharing the hope of the gospel in the public square.
How can councillors show a real commitment to their communities:
- Get involved locally and be a witness, we cannot withdraw from the public square into isolation and irrelevance – our message is too good for that. Now is not the time to withdraw.
- Do justly – do what is right, bear in mind this may not always be what is right in the eyes of the world.
- Love mercy – remember what the Lord has brought you from, remember his goodness to you which is new every morning, and be selfless. We don’t love our neighbour for affirmation, but because we have been loved first. Be spent for the Lord and for your community.
- Walk humbly – overcome the worldly obsessions and seek to be of real use to others, rather than simply being in charge of others. Remember whose you are and who you serve.