I live in a riding in which the result for the upcoming election is all but a foregone conclusion. The incumbent will win by a comfortable majority. Given that reality it would be easy for the electorate in this area to grow complacent but that doesn’t happen. In advanced polling in our church this week over 800 people came through the doors, a record number according to one volunteer. This makes me happy.
With each election I reflect on how the church in some countries is caught up in the political process. In Nicaragua this spring the bishops of the Roman Catholic Church have been trying to mediate between government and protestors. The church helped lead the anti apartheid movement in South Africa. The church helped Poland move out of its communist era. The church in the Philippines continues to protest dangerous mining practices; a very political stance in that country. In Canada the church has not needed to protect democracy in such fundamental ways but has tried to highlight issues during elections such as care for the poor and the environment. At times this has been challenging since Canadians are very sensitive to anything that would imply the church was partisan. U.S. pollsters have found that more conservative denominations are more likely to vote Republican while main line churches are more inclined to vote Democrat. In Canada I think you would find a similar pattern which suggests that a person’s faith does play a role in how they vote. For some casting a ballot is a part of living out their faith. When choosing who I will vote for I certainly ask a series of faith based questions – what is God concerned about in our community? what will build up the neighbourhood and give the vulnerable voice? I pray over these matters and then try to find the candidate who most closely reflects the direction the spirit is leading. As indicated above this process will not lead all Christians to support the same party but hopefully allows all of us to say, “we made a faith filled choice.”
As mentioned before Canadians are wary of mixing politics and religion but the combination is inevitable. Christians are influenced by their faith in all matters. I wish we could have more conversations about politics from a faith perspective.
I also mentioned above that in my riding there is little doubt that the incumbent will be re-elected. I indicated that the strong voter turn out, given this, is a positive sign. However I would add a caveat. In talking with people it does seem that some vote out of habit rather than intention. Some do not seem to ask any questions or consider the needs of the community before simply voting the way they have for decades. This is troubling. Voting should not be done by rote.
What questions are you asking as you prepare to vote? Do your questions include faith based concerns? Are you primarily asking how the election will affect you or do you ponder how it will impact on others? Voting is a part of living out the faith. May God guide your choice.