Six principles for voting in elections

15 November 2019

How should Christians vote in an election? What principles are involved from a Christian perspective? Tim Dieppe outlines six principles for Christians voting in elections. You can use this guide to help you think about who to vote for this election.

1. Voting is a privilege

We are privileged to live in a democracy where we have the opportunity to make our voice heard in politics by voting. A democratic system enables the government and politicians to be held to account by the people. It provides a check on political power. It gives everyone a say, regardless of race, age, wealth, gender or other factors. It aims to keep politicians honest, as they will face voters periodically who will check whether they kept their promises.

There are some obvious disadvantages to democracy. It can lend itself towards populist and short-term policymaking. Elections can become an auction of promises. It can mean that government lacks stability. Nevertheless, alternative systems of government give the politicians or rulers too much power, and the sinful nature of humanity means that this does not result in good outcomes. I agree with Winston Churchill who said:

“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Christians should seek the welfare of the locality and the nation that they live in (Jeremiah 29:7). Voting is one way of doing this. Therefore, Christians should not disregard the privilege of voting. Make use of your vote and make it count.

2. Vote informed

There is no point voting if you don’t know who or what you are voting for. There is a moral obligation to use your vote wisely, and that means in an informed manner. We have some resources to help with this. We will add more resources over the coming weeks and hope to be able to compare the manifestos of the major parties on key moral issues.

Christians, and others, should make the most of the opportunity we have during an election campaign to challenge candidates and hold them to account. Find out who your candidates are and what they are saying. Download our Good Question Guide for some suggested questions you can ask candidates when you have an opportunity. Attend hustings events and ask questions about issues that matter to you. Find out the key policies of parties that are competing in your constituency. There may also be local issues you want to press the candidates on.

3. Vote morals over money

Most coverage of the election assumes that money matters more than anything else. The big headlines are about how much money the major parties are promising to tackle this or that problem in society. And yes, there are major problems in society that will need money to help fix them, but we should recognise as Christians, that money will never solve society’s problems. The root cause of so many of our problems is actually immorality and family breakdown. Money will not get to the roots of these problems.

We should also, as Christians, be cautious about government debt. In Deuteronomy 28 one of the blessings for obedience of God’s laws is: “You will lend to many nations but you will borrow from none.” (Deut 28:12). Conversely, a curse of disobedience of God’s laws is: “They will lend to you, but you will not lend to them.” (Deut 28:44). Loading the nation with debt is unfair on future generations who will inherit a burden of debt on the nation. At some point, lenders will decide not to lend anymore, or will demand higher rates of interest to lend to the nation. Why should this generation benefit from money spent by borrowing now which future generations will need to pay back?

The latest estimate of the cost of family failure is £51bn per year, up from £37bn in 2009. Just imagine how much could be saved by the government promoting and encouraging God’s pattern for the family! These costs come from housing benefits, health and social care costs, policing and criminal costs, and educational costs. For example, 42% of lone parents receive housing benefit, compared to just 6% of couple parents. 70% of young offenders are from broken families. Members of criminal gangs are often there because the gang provides a substitute family where members look out for each other. Homeless people lack family to care and provide for them. Families provide health benefits, belonging benefits, financial benefits, caring benefits, education benefits, and more besides. A root cause of much poverty is family breakdown.

There is a strong case for Christians and others to vote for whichever party will do the most to promote and encourage family. Not because of the financial benefits primarily, but because it is good for society. In the UK today, this would mean whichever party plans to do the least to damage family values. There have been proposals in the last parliament for ‘no-fault’ or unilateral divorce which will only encourage more family breakdown. Promotion of LGBT also works against the natural family. Sexualising of young children in schools through relationships education is another attack on family. Christians need to speak out in support of family values for the benefit of society. Make sure you know what the parties and candidates are saying they will do to support families.

There are also other moral issues that should influence the votes of Christians. Abortion is a moral stain on the nation. There may be little to choose between the parties, but individual candidates may be willing to stand against the increasing liberalisation of abortion laws. The same applies to euthanasia. Then there is the demedicalisation of gender transition which Christians should oppose by supporting candidates who are willing to oppose the increasing influence of transgenderism. Other issues include free speech, which must necessarily include the right to offend others and to criticise other religions. This means opposing the proposed definition of Islamophobia for example.

Our ten policy proposals provide some other moral issues of concern for Christians that people may consider voting on. For more on the question of whether it is right to legislate morality, you could watch my talk on the subject here.

At the end of the day, money is not more important than morals. It is the other way around. Money without morality results in materialistic madness. Christians should vote morals over money.

Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin condemns any people.”

(Proverbs 14:34)

4. Vote for character

There is a breakdown in trust in UK politicians at the moment, and a general feeling that politicians tend to lack integrity. This is a problem, not least because it causes people to lose faith in democracy and in our government. Christians should be predisposed to vote for candidates who have demonstrated integrity in the past and who have moral character.

Leaders set a moral example to their followers. All politicians are leaders with significant influence. The character of politicians therefore matters. There is a common misconception that it doesn’t matter what you do in private. This is utterly false. Who you are in private is who you are, full stop. No one believes that you can be racist in private and unprejudiced in public! If you can’t be trusted in private, then you can’t be trusted, full stop. If you will deceive people close to you, you will find it easier to deceive people in general. Politicians who keep changing their minds or their spouses are not to be trusted. Sadly, this applies to both the main party leaders in this election. Individual candidates may well have better track records.

Roger Godsiff is an example of a candidate who has shown integrity by bravely standing up to LGBT fanatics and supporting parents’ rights in sex and relationships education. Deselected by Labour as a result, he is still standing in this election and deserves support from Christians for his stance. He also voted against same-sex marriage in 2013.

The allegations and evidence of antisemitism in the Labour party, and of Jeremy Corbyn himself, raise serious concerns about the characters of these politicians. It has prompted the Jewish Chronicle to issue a frontpage appeal to non-Jews not to vote for Labour. Many others have said similar things or resigned from the party over this.  We know the horrific fruit of antisemitism in the twentieth century. Antisemitism is demonic. Denials and apologies are not enough. Will they denounce Palestinian terrorism, for example, and support Israel’s right to exist? Those considering voting for a Labour candidate will want to question their candidates especially carefully on this issue. Why are they supporting and remaining in a party with such a serious moral failure?

5. Vote strategically

No one party, and no individual candidate has exactly the same views as me. No doubt the world is grateful! Unless I stand as a candidate myself, I will have to choose between candidates and parties and decide which issues are more important than others.

This is often a complex choice with multiple issues to consider. There are party manifestos, party leaders, candidates’ own beliefs and character, and then which issues will most influence the nation. I urge you to consider these issues carefully. I have said that morality matters more than money, and it bears repeating again.

If you want your vote to count you will most likely need to vote for one of the main parties, and this will necessarily involve compromise for Christians on some important issues. I think it is worth making your vote count even so. That said, I respect those who wish to register a protest vote by voting for a smaller party, like say the Christian People’s Alliance who will likely have little chance of winning but will be boosted by your support. People voting for UKIP in past general elections did not usually win them any MPs but did pressure the government to hold a referendum on membership of the EU. Protest votes like this can therefore influence national politics.

However you vote, obey your conscience. It is worth asking the question, ‘Will I be happy if a candidate wins by one vote and my vote enabled that?’ Note that a protest vote will also contribute to enabling a candidate to win.

6. Vote prayerfully

We are instructed in the Bible to pray for political leaders (1 Tim 2:1-2). Christians should not only vote, but also pray. Prayer also influences politics and elections.

We will be putting up an election prayer guide (coming soon) which you may find helpful to inform your prayers.

Do pray for the candidates in your constituency to be honest and clear about their intentions and beliefs. Pray for the best candidate to win. Pray also at the national level for MPs who will promote righteousness.

Pray also about your own vote and which candidate to support. Ask for God to guide you and others in your constituency as you make your decision in the coming days and weeks.

Our prayer is for Christians to be active participants in this election and to make their voice heard. You can start by being an answer to our prayers!

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