When Christians are facing an election in their country, what guidelines should they be looking at to help them decide how to vote? Here in Canada, we have three major political parties, two of whom have party lines on the issues of abortion and same sex marriage. (We have a new fourth party, the Christian Heritage Party but it is quite small and there are no candidates in my riding.) (And I do not even consider the Green Party which is rabidly pro-abortion.) These issues are critical for Christians to consider when voting, because those two issues undermine the very foundation of society. To overlook them when voting is to think that you can build a culture on something other than respect for life and the building block of the family which was instituted by none other than God.
When I ran my business (I had an online fabric business for nine years), I found time and again that people were guided by the lowest price in most circumstances. It didn't matter that they were going to spend hours making a garment by hand, the final decision seemed to be made by price point alone. The issue of quality, suitability of the fabric for the project came second to the best price. It frustrated me to see people putting their work second and making decisions simply on the basis of how cheaply they could get something. This is how sales work and stores use them mercilessly, even to the point of driving other businesses out of the market and thereby reducing the selection of products for consumers.
I can't help but think that people regard voting in much the same way. They are guided by their pocketbooks, in other words the issue of the economy alone. So, even if someone has strong Christian principles, they put them to the background when choosing a candidate or party to vote for, because the #1 issue that guides them in voting is money. The party or the candidate who offers the best future for the public in tax cuts, in social benefits, in handouts, is the one that gets the vote.
As Christians, we have an obligation to vote by other guidelines. In his book Secrets of a Prayer Warrior, Derek Prince points out that our first obligation in prayer is to pray for our rulers and leaders. This is taken directly from St. Paul in his letter to Timothy:
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authrotiy, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4
Note the reason for praying for our leaders - so that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives, lives that make it possible for us to live according to God's ways.
Which candidate, which party will best rule our country so that we can lead quiet, peaceable lives, lives in which we can serve God? This really puts a different spin on who to vote for. A society that condones abortion, that accepts same-sex marriage, that pushes for tolerance of sinful lifestyles, that turns a blind eye to pornography and prostitution is hardly a society that will be conducive to living a Christian life.
Yesterday's Gospel of the Passion began with the story of the woman who poured expensive ointment over Jesus' head. This raised an outcry from the apostles who thought this was a waste of good money, money that could have been given to the poor. What does Jesus say?
Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. - Matt 26:10-13
"The poor you will always have with you" does not mean that Jesus is telling us to neglect the poor, but rather He is saying that we cannot expect to create a utopia on earth. Solving the problems that came with sin will not happen in this world. Christians do have a duty to care for the poor, but when it comes to voting, our first concern is not to create an economic paradise because that is simply not possible. Our first concern in voting should be to look at what we should do for God, because it is God who will help us solve the economic problems of our society.
If Christians pray before voting, and remember that God's ways are not our ways, we will find more enlightenment when we vote. Which party, which candidate will work best to help produce an environment in which we can live according to God's ways? Not which party or candidate will make our financial lives better or anyone's financial life better. If we seek out people of integrity whose care is for the bigger picture of God's world, we will make the right choice when voting. To vote for a candidate or party that disregards the ways of God, even if they claim to be caring for the poor and disadvantaged, means that you too have put God's kingdom second to this earthly life.