With the announcement of an Australian Federal election for May 18, we are coming to the end of a long, drawn out, media driven campaign.
With the election just under a week away, we can only sit by and shake our heads at the misfortune of many politicians: the lies, half-truths, past misdemeanours and slogans confronting us each and every day. Here on the Sunshine Coast, things have turned nasty with election paraphernalia vandalised.
With the United States political scene continuing to draw too much media attention for my liking, we can see over the last decade in Australia the subtle shift to American style campaigning with an incredible bombardment of advertisements within all forms of media. The preferred Prime Minister poll can often be in direct contrast to the polling for the particular political parties.
Negative campaigning leads many voters confused and can often tell us more why we shouldn’t vote for someone, rather than why we should vote for a particular party. We get confused because we are told what a particular party has not achieved or what a party “might” do (only if elected), to our great country rather than what they will do.
Political parties insert doomsday scenarios into all the possible outcomes. Even trying to escape onto YouTube nowadays means we will face election ads from a millionaire businessman and counting down the time I can press the “skip ad” link.
Our leaders and politicians from the two main political parties have become so robotic in their talk, with cliché after cliché inserted into speeches along with short, pithy slogans and responses. My sons have taken to yelling at the TV screen as well (I wonder where they got that from?), “JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION!”
This has become the order of the day and makes many Australians feel they don’t really know the leaders or representatives as well as they use to. In the past, I may have disagreed with their stance or beliefs, but I knew where they stood.
My personal indifference (I’ve never met any of them) for characters like Clive Palmer, Bob Katter, Richard Di Natale and Pauline Hanson and their policies, is tempered by the very direct message that comes out of their mouth. I know where they stand on a number of social, political and economic issues. I lean to their parties quite regularly because I know exactly what they want to achieve.
Manifesto for an upside-down kingdom
So how does one decide whom to vote for?
How does a Christian decide?
Who should Christians vote for?
Who would Jesus vote for?
I think Christians are the same as most Australians with their attitude to our politicians. They never feel comfortable with any of the leaders in office, nor should they be. What decisions can and should be made for all, so all Australians can share in the wealth of our great country?
Already the idea of “fairness” or the “fair go for all” has been bandied around quite frequently in the last week. I do believe financial responsibility is an important aspect and each side of politics spends much of their airtime and advertising sprouting how they are or will be the better economic managers.
The budget should be viewed as a moral document and being in billions of dollars of debt is not a way to rule. However, financial responsibility is a moral issue and I think we must consider how the political party in power aims to achieve it.
At whose expense do they achieve fiscal responsibility and surplus in the budget? All sides of politics should consider how Jesus spoke up for the poor and the vulnerable.
What type of kingdom did Jesus want?
Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4 verse 18).
God’s love for the outsider and the poor brings about a reversal of our value systems. Jesus wanted his followers to respond to his invitation by exhibiting radical generosity to serving the poor. This does not just mean the poor financially, but the poor in social status. These are the outsiders, the neglected- the single mums or dads, the old, children and youth, the disabled, the sick, the unemployed or unemployable, our indigenous communities.
Christians have a social responsibility to look after the poor, the vulnerable and the powerless. Jesus often referred to these people as the “least of these.”
Jesus encouraged leaders to be the servants of others, living in peace with each other, seeking forgiveness for the hurts of the past, living a righteous life that rejects religious hypocrisy.
What would a “moral economy” look like? We are the country of the “fair go”, yet I feel our economic and political systems are becoming the domain of the wealthy and powerful.
People of faith want people in positions of power they can trust. Where are our champions of the poor and vulnerable within our politicians? The church should be warned to not be associated with or solely attached to one side of politics. Too often we have seen in the United States, evangelical Christians associated with one side of politics and then being “burnt” or “let down”.
Christians of all denominations should heed the warning of the great Martin Luther King Jr and become the conscience of the state, not the master of the state. He said:
The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.
Take some time to cast your vote this election using your conscience, not your wallet. Let the church be the conscience of the state and not it’s master or servant. Be encouraged to make all sides of politics consider the poor and vulnerable.
What impact does fiscal responsibility or a budget surplus have on us all?
Who wins and who loses with each policy decision?
Politicians should never assume they have “our” vote.
Who would Jesus vote for? I believe he looks for a new alternative people of God- those who are leaders in the “upside-down kingdom.”
Now there’s a challenge for us all when we cast our vote.
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin’s archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html