What Would Jesus Vote?


Fiona Lynne-UK4Last summer I moved back to the UK with my little family, eight years after I left for an internship in Brussels. In those eight years, I lived in two capital cities, got married, had two children, and made friends from so many countries it’s impossible to keep count.

One of the unexpected bonuses of living in countries where my grasp of the local language was far from fluent, was the lack of “noise” in my life. I couldn’t understand people’s conversations at the bus stop or in the doctor’s waiting room, so I was free to assume they were having fascinating in depth discussions about art and literature. (Ha!) I couldn’t read the adverts on every billboard so I could ignore whatever the next thing to guarantee me happiness was. And I could rarely understand the newspaper headlines, so I effectively missed out on eight years of political rants and in-fighting.

I never expected that within a year of coming home to the UK, my fellow citizens would be asked to vote on whether to leave the European Union. Today, maybe even as you read this, I’ll be walking with my toddler and my baby, around the corner, under the railway line, to our nearest polling centre and putting my cross on a piece of paper with just two choices–In or Out. (Full disclosure: I am passionately IN).

Yes, I have strong opinions on this vote. (Not least, because it could have big consequences on the future for my little European family.) But more than that, I have been dismayed by the tone of the talk these past weeks and months. Far from any rational discussion of the pros and cons of leaving the EU, the conversation is marked by fear, greed and hatred. And sadly, that only seems to be a reflection of politics as a whole in this country. (And, may I be so bold, many others in the West.)

There’s a familiar illustration of the frog that gets put in a pot of water and slowly heated. It doesn’t jump out, because it doesn’t notice the temperature change and so it is cooked alive. I feel like the frog that has been dumped back into boiling water and I am desperately trying to jump out.

Last week, one of our MPs, a bright and passionate young woman called Jo Cox, was murdered because she refused to give in to the narrative of fear. She campaigned tirelessly for the needy in her constituency and in the world. As the news spread of her death, it was as if more people were suddenly recognising the boiling water we have been sitting in. She was killed by an individual, but that individual was influenced by a rhetoric of hate and fear.

Am I just naïve to believe it could be any other way?

Here in the UK, there’s been a strong consensus that religion and politics don’t mix. Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s spin chief, once famously said, “We don’t do God.” Now, more than ever, I wish more Christians would reimagine what it looks like to be a Christian voter. I wish we can begin de-privatising our faith and recognise that salvation, if it means anything at all, has to include the redemption of our politics.

What I firmly believe it that that does not look like voting the same way on everything. It doesn’t look like only caring about “Christian” issues. It doesn’t look like one “Christian” party.

Instead, how might we bring our values of compassion and peace and justice into this area of our lives? How might we learn and model good disagreement? How might we seek the common good above personal advancement, reaching across party lines when it means justice is done and communities flourish.

As a voter, today walking to the polls, I think that looks like refusing to let fear guide my vote. It looks like encouraging the people around me to do the same.

In so many of his interactions, Jesus turned his listeners’ presuppositions on their heads. He challenged the status quo, the political and religious narrative they were living their lives by, and he offered a better way. Jesus offered a way of grace-filled love instead of hatred, genuine collaboration instead of fear, surprising generosity instead of greed.

We might not be politicians or professional lobbyists, but we all have a (often hard-fought-for) vote. How we vote—even how we communicate about how we vote—can be a prophetic witness of the kind of world we seek, the kind we are willing to live for.

“The Kingdom of Heaven is near,” Jesus said. May it be so, even as we walk into the voting booth.