Brenda from Bristol gave viewers fifteen seconds of amusement with her “Not another one!” on the announcement of the General Election, but her dismay was depressing.
‘Going to the country’ for a fresh mandate to form a government gives us a wonderful opportunity to operate our hard-won democratic freedoms. Just over a hundred years ago campaigners such as Emily Davison suffered imprisonment, force-feeding and even death to win the vote.
In Brenda’s favour, she at least had an opinion: “Why does she [the Prime Minister] need to do it?” The answers are political - and by now academic as we wait eagerly for the substance of the politicians’ bids to be entrusted with power over our lives and livelihoods.
In the West Midlands there are not one but two Elections: on Thursday 4 May for a Metro-Mayor covering twelve local authorities and four million people and on Thursday 8 June for our MPs in a General Election.
How should Christians and people of faith respond at election time?
Two of the basic principles, as citizens, are to register as an elector and to exercise the vote. Two other basic principles, as Christians, are to pray for politicians and for their pursuit of the common good.
Support for a particular party or individual is a free choice. As a Church leader I seek to focus on broad policies and their outcomes rather than endorsing one party or another.
Take time to read and discuss the various manifestos as they emerge. Look out for themes to consider as various Christian bodies, the Evangelical Alliance, the Roman Catholic Bishops and the Bishops of the Church of England, publish material this month.
For those who are interested, as I am, in developing a more participatory democracy there are numerous recent examples of effective action in our city-region. Love Your Neighbour, Places of Welcome, Near Neighbours, Hope not Hate, Citizens UK, for example, together with thousands of business, community, sporting and cultural initiatives that make up our human flourishing.
One of the mid 20th Century pioneers of effective faith in action was William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, whose wartime Christianity and Social Order (Penguin 1942) emphasized the family as the primary social unit, the sanctity of personality and fellowship.
Today I commend the writing of Miroslav Wolf and especially his Public Faith in Action (Brazos Press, USA 2016) with its profound centring in Christ and His Kingdom and helpful analysis of flourishing, followed by chapters on Convictions, ranging widely from Family to Policing and Character, including Humility and Courage.
I pray that we will each exercise our votes with hope and commitment and will be blessed with the very best representatives and leaders with whom we can serve in building a peaceful and just society for all.