Why I Won’t Vote my Values

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The day of the 2010 Federal Election I cast my vote then took my eight year old son to his soccer match. Lachlan’s team was made up of kids from the Christian school he attended, which meant the majority of the parents at his game that day were evangelical Christians. When conversation turned to the election I commented that I had voted for the Greens.

The response shocked me. Mouths dropped open and with exasperated voice a number of the parents asked how I could possibly have voted for the Greens. After all, they were in favour of same-sex marriage! I pointed out that they were also in favour of a strong international aid program at a time the major parties were reducing aid; that they were in favour of considerate treatment of refugees at a time when both major parties were playing some pretty ugly politics with refugees; and that on balance these things swung my vote. It didn’t help. In the eyes of some of these parents it was as though I had voted against God.

So, how should we vote? I see four patterns.

First, some vote purely out of tradition. Their parents voted Liberal and they vote Liberal. Always have, always will.

Second, some vote out of self-interest. Their vote will go to the party that they believe will put money in their pocket and public services at their disposal.

Third, some vote for their moral vision. Their vote will go to the party that they see representing their values.

Fourth, some vote for justice. Their vote will go to the party they believe will do most to promote a just society.

No prizes for guessing that I sit in category 4 and my critics that Saturday belonged in category 3.

I’m not here to spruik for the Greens, the ALP, the Coalition, Family First, or any other party. What I do want to do is open up a simple question: what should influence the way a Christian votes? I’d like to suggest that we need to bring together two things: a Christ-shaped vision for what our communities can be and a clear understanding of the role of government.

First, the gospel gives us a vision for what our societies can be. The message of the gospel is not that our soul can go to heaven when we die but that God is at work to redeem and renew the entire creation. That means renewing and redeeming individuals, communities, economic, social, cultural and political systems, and the planet itself.

Second, government has an important but very limited role to play in moving society toward this vision.

For most of western history we got this horribly wrong. From the conversion of the emperor Constantine until the peace of Westphalia we saw the church and state working in tandem to try and command a Christian society into being. It was an unmitigated disaster.

Cromwell’s England was painted like this

Pointless enjoyment was frowned upon. Cromwell shut many inns and the theatres were all closed down. Most sports were banned. Boys caught playing football on a Sunday could be whipped as a punishment. Swearing was punished by a fine, though those who kept swearing could be sent to prison.

On Sunday most forms of work were banned. Women caught doing unnecessary work on the Holy Day could be put in the stocks. Simply going for a Sunday walk (unless it was to church) could lead to a hefty fine.

During his time as head of government, he made it his task to ‘tame’ the Irish. He sent an army there and despite promising to treat well those who surrendered to him, he slaughtered the people of Wexford and Drogheda who did surrender to his forces. He used terror to ‘tame’ the Irish.

And so the very first call for freedom of religion recorded in the English language came from the founder of the Baptist Church, Tomas Helwys, when he wrote a tract calling on the king to protect the religious freedom of Muslims, Jews, Christians and atheists.

Christendom gave way to pluralist liberal democracy. This severely limits what the government can and can’t do. To say a society is liberal means there are fundamental freedoms and rights that must always be respected. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience to name a few. To say it’s pluralist means we accept that we will not all think the same, believe the same or live the same way. In a society such as this the role of government is to ensure every individual and every group is able to share in he benefits of society while pursuing the lifestyle and the values they choose.

In other words, the role of government is to facilitate the common good, ensure public goods such as education, infrastructure and health systems are accessible to all, and to make sure every citizen and every group of citizens is treated justly.

So what does this mean for voting? For me it means I ask two questions

  1. Which party will ensure public goods for all citizens?
  2. Who is excluded, vulnerable or oppressed in our national/globalcommunity? Which party will secure justice and inclusion for them?

The question I won’t ask is which party will legislate my personal vision of morality. It is not the role of the government to force people to live by Christian ethics. It is the responsibility of Jesus followers and the church to live in such a way that people see the merits of following Christ and living his way. I will endeavour as best I can to live virtuously and I will vote for justice.

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66 Comments on "Why I Won’t Vote my Values"

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scottjhiggins
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Why I Won’t Vote my Values | https://t.co/6loqoINYbU https://t.co/qeZ8lbtGIn

Mary Fisher
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A simply wonderful piece!!!!

Scott
Guest

Thanks Mary

jarrodmckenna
Guest

The 4 ways Christians vote:
1. tradition
2. self interest
3. personal values
4. justice
(Thanks Hamo for the link)

https://t.co/764BBeBXEX

A.D
Guest

This is such a great piece! I live in the US, and as a liberal Christian I am sharing this with all my fellow believers who feel voting one particular party because of a candidates so-called espoused beliefs make them the right choice.

scott higgins
Guest

Glad you’ve ffound it helpful

Chris
Guest

Do you believe that Jesus would vote for the Greens?

scott higgins
Guest

Hi Chris
I wouldn’t like to declare who Jesus would vote for and the point of my post was not to champion the Greens. I have yet to go to an election where I can say amen to all their policies. With regard to the greens I find some of their policies wanting but many that I can heartily support.

crosbyshane
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Why I Won’t Vote my Values | https://t.co/W4z8usfOJx https://t.co/0zOhZwioec

hereistash
Guest

RT @jarrodmckenna: The 4 ways Christians vote:
1. tradition
2. self interest
3. personal values
4. justice
(Thanks Hamo for the link)

http…

J T
Guest

Scott,
I like this piece, it makes you think about how to make a well thought out decision on Election Day.
I also agree that the government is not the role of government to make people Christians.
I would appreciate your view of some of the greens policies and how that should affect our voting. In particular, the policy that would significantly reduce freedom of religion and freedom of speech (eg Christian schools not being allowed to require teachers to have Christian values – something not applied to other organisations)

scott higgins
Guest

Hi JT,
Plan to make a few posts on this over the coming week.

JakeDoleschal
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Why I Won’t Vote my Values | https://t.co/3JPdLPC7KU https://t.co/9UHSdYOwkR

Kate
Guest
Whilst I wholeheartedly agree with your views on voting for the good of others, refugees, the environment etc, I think people can very naively vote for The Greens thinking they are helping the environment (not realizing they are also voting for a whole raft of scary policies on social engineering and removing religious freedom, which in my opinion doesn’t only affect religious people, ultimately). As a Christian environmental activist for many years, I used to hand out how to vote cards for the Greens. I get the impression your vote was intended to have a shock factor! Is that right?… Read more »
scott higgins
Guest

Thanks for taking time to comment Kate. No my comment to my friends wasn’t intended for shock value…and it’s a rather jaundiced conclusion to reach on the basis of what I wrote.

Yes I have concerns about the Greens views on exemptions to anti-religious discrimination law and plan to blog on it in the coming week.

My piece was not intended as an endorsement or disendorsement of the Greens. Just wanted to raise some questions

Kate
Guest

Btw I wouldn’t touch The Greens with a barge pole now! Like Labor, they are definitely not what they seem…

Natalie D
Guest

I agree that our vote needs to be carefully considered, however, how do you reconcile your use of “pluralist” society with the censorship and condemnation applied to anyone who dares to disagree with prevailing mob opinion? If freedom of speech is sacrosanct in a pluralist society, surely it should apply to all.

scott higgins
Guest

Yes, so…?

Greg Munyard
Guest
I think you’ve missed the mark about the role of government. You need a much bigger picture of the importance of God’s authority. Romans 13 says “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Ultimately, God is interested in people who turn to Him and accept his Son. He isn’t interested in “the common good, ensure public goods such as education, infrastructure and health systems are accessible to all, and to make sure every citizen and every group of citizens… Read more »
scott higgins
Guest

So shall I just rip Isaiah 65:17-25; Isaiah 58; Amos; Micah; Matthew 5.43-48; James 5:1-5; Proverbs 31;1-9; revelation 13 out of my bible?

Andris Heks
Guest

I could not agree with you more Scott; re the virulent opposition of evangelist Christians against the Greens mainly bec. of their endorsement of same sex marriage and bec. of their alleged lack of sympathy for funding religious schools. But of all parties it is the Greens who show by far the greatest compassion for refugees, foreign aid, overall education, climate change etc. They are the only party that are in line with Jesus’ command to take care of the least of our brothers and sisters. Mathew 25.
God bless,
Andris

Mel
Guest

They show no compassion for the unborn. On this issue, our values should dictate our vote, for sure.

Andris Heks
Guest

Greg,
You can’t be serious when you say that God is not concerned about the common good. Please read Mathew 25 a hundred times and the Penny might just drop.
Blessings,

Andris

SimonMunyard
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Why I Won’t Vote my Values | https://t.co/KhhOHO1Kpi https://t.co/1wMKwkqiTy

WayneConnor
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Ash Belsar
Guest
I agree we should all learn to live together regardless of our beliefs, and Government should, for the most part, make that possible. Nations that legalise SSM have a poor track record in keeping with freedom of conscience and speech. Even those that still hold natural marriage, like ours, are being infected by this lack of regard for pluralistic values. The Catholic Bishop in Tasmania, Julian Porteous, comes to mind. The Greens are the party that move most toward removing freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of conscience for their singular morally acceptable version of society. A vote for… Read more »
Ash Belsar
Guest
And I forgot to mention, the Greens long term policies on the environment are, to my mind, as good as 20 century Marxism to the proletariate. Great in theory but disasterous in practice. I worked part time as a ranger with Little penguins for 15 years and currently run an outdoor activity business based on the coast. I think it’s fitting that the majority of Greens voters live in the big smoke, whereas many of us who rely on the long term future of a healthy environment for our lively-hood (and lifestyle) wouldn’t touch them with a barge pole.
Stu
Guest

I don’t neatly fit into your categories, but I like what you’re saying. As a previous political adviser, my wife has always said “you can’t legislate morality”. It’s not government’s role. It’s also tricky to ever get your proposed plans through parliament even if you win power. So no matter what the promises made during campaigns you can’t really tell what will happen in the future. Very tricky.

scott higgins
Guest

Thanks Stu. Yes, promises do not equate to enacted outcomes

Ehud Goldstein
Guest

Realistically, the policies resulting from your two questions would be an increase in welfare, foreign aid and refugee intake (and taxes) – applying to the whole of Australian society, whether they like it or not.

The other parents want to impose their values of sexual purity on Australia; you want to impose your values of social justice. I think there’s a good argument to be made that your values are better, or more suitable for a diverse population, but there are values behind those policies just as much as any others.

scott higgins
Guest

Hi Ehud,
I agree that justice is a value. My point is not that one is a value and the other is not but that the values on which government should act are very limited and are focussed oN justice

Warren Hodge
Guest

Thanks Scott … very helpful piece. Why is it that when social justice issues, which are so clearly evident throughout the Bible, and embraced and taught by Jesus, are spoken and written about, that these can so easily ignored when it comes to the political debate at election time? Is it because a conservative outlook simply means asking the government to maintain my values without any required investment from me? This is preferable perhaps to a position of supporting the widows and orphans and loving our neighbours, which requires a deep investment of ourselves?

Scott
Guest

Good questions Warren

Warren Hodge
Guest
Come to think of it, the answers to my questions lie within various combinations of 1, 2 & 3 … pushing 4 completely to the periphery. Also pushing the justice and compassion priority of 4 off the agenda, is the notion that in the end solutions for refugees and proper applications of foreign aid are too hard and therefore have to be necessarily left aside. But they are only too hard for the politically (& value) aligned … there are many smart people with solutions if they were given the space and opportunity to work them through. For example, I’m… Read more »
GW
Guest
Two thoughts. 1) This is liberalism is a very good thing. Like Mirislav Volf talks about with public pluralism, vs public exclusivism. So why is it ok for Labor and the Greens to threaten our current liberal, public pluralism? Why is it ok for to enforce exclusive secular humanism on schools, and to impose a certain gender ideology on schools, and to redefine the definition of marriage? The status quo is not Christendom. What the left are proposing is a direct line toward illiberal public exclusivism. That’s what worries me. 2) As for the most just policies, they aren’t as… Read more »
Scott
Guest

Hi GW, can’t agree with your statement that the left are leading us to public exclusivism. Agree that it isn’t easy to pick the most just policies.

GW
Guest
The Greens speak of democracy, but then their values policies seek to enforce, not just allow, but force upon the rest of Australia. Under their policy (and even now!) if you don’t redefine marriage to what we want, we will fine you, jail you, remove your kids and re-educate you. How is that not public exclusivism? Under the current system, we keep the word marriage as it has always been, but do allow LGBT to have a union that is pretty much the same as well. That is not forcing anything on anyone = public pluralism. Same for excluding religion… Read more »
Scott
Guest

Hi GW,
I think there are concerns around the greens policy of removing religious exemptions to the anti discrimination act, but I don’t know of any Greens policy or plan to “fine you, jail you, remove your kids and re-educate you.”

GW
Guest

Yes, good correction, not policy, a trajectory perhaps. I extrapolated from various occasions within Australia of anti-discrimination and offense laws being vexatiously used as weapons against proponents of traditional marriage and religious education. If this is what is happening now, what will happen if the laws actually change? Labor is saying there should be no exemptions. So my main point remains.

Warwick Carter
Guest

Hi Scott,
I appreciate your perspective, and it resonates with my experience.

I am concerned, however with the more frequent and strident attacks on religious freedoms. In attacking Christianity and Faith in general, the Greens are turning away some of the biggest supporters of equality and refugees.

I have not come to the point of voting for the right wing, but see danger on the left – and precious little standing in the middle facing north.

Best regards,

Angela
Guest

What an amazing piece! I’ve always been astounded at how many Christians I disagree with on politics, and this is an incredibly helpful explainer of my position. (PS can you fix the typo on the last paragraph, second sentence?)

Alyse
Guest

Hey Scott,

I know you said you are not endorsing the greens… But as a Christian who has thought like you about voting for justice… I am just curious How you reconcile their policies on euthenasia and abortion with their policies? The aid budget is probably the thing I think about the most but I second to that are two above for me… Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Emil
Guest

I like it Scout. Thanks!

Nathan Keen
Guest
Great thoughts overall, but a couple of major errors, I think. Surely a desire for a “just” society is also a moral value? As a Christian I also desire a just society, because justice is good (good is a measure of morality). I also believe in natural marriage, and not in same-sex marriage – natural marriage is also good for all. I think it is very unfair – and unjust – to say some people’s values/beliefs are “personal” and therefore selfish, and some other people’s values/beliefs are somehow for the “common good”. Surely living God’s way (natural marriage; not aborting… Read more »
Living Liminal
Guest

“It is not the role of the government to force people to live by Christian ethics. It is the responsibility of Jesus followers and the church to live in such a way that people see the merits of following Christ and living his way.”

I think the trouble is that it’s much easier to lobby the government to legislate our values than it is to really follow Jesus’s living example of loving and serving all humankind! That costs too much…

Jeremiah Johnson
Guest
You seem to be implying justice for all means stealing from one person to give something to another. I doubt that is what Jesus desired for society. Instead, Jesus gave the rich man a choice. Likewise, other followers like Lydia(seller of purple) aided her society voluntarily without any command from Christ for government to force her to do so. Not only is a welfare society un-Christian. It is anti-Christian. With voluntary charity, people can choose where their giving goes and can hold those accountable who oversee it’s distribution. But with involuntary charity, they are robbed and have no way to… Read more »
Carol Turner
Guest

Well said, as a Christian who has long supported Justice and been a member of a Catalyst team for many years I agree. I have heard anti -gay rhetoric from ill-informed people. It is more important to consider all rather than limit the ability if two people who love each other to marry. Sadly many churches have focussed on one issue and alienated many

Ariel
Guest
Scott, you challenged me in a refreshing way to look at my personal criteria when assessing who to vote for. Thank you that! I want to say, however, that I’m not sure if I subscribe to your summary of the role of government – “the role of government is to facilitate the common good, ensure public goods such as education, infrastructure and health systems are accessible to all, and to make sure every citizen and every group of citizens is treated justly”. I agree with the last part of this statement i.e. to make sure every citizen and every group… Read more »
Tim Rushbrook
Guest

Scott, it is good you’re thinking. I wonder, though, how you value “justice” in your decision but not the unborn. If I have a strong party like The Greens except better policies in every way (in your view) including no support for abortion. However there was a policy instead of pro-abortion with some strong economic benefits, namely to euthanise at least 50,000 of Australia’s oldest and sickest people each year, would you vote for my party? Or would the value of those 50,000 people and the poor folk associated with them be too great?

Scott
Guest

Hi Tim,
I am not arguing the Greens represent justice. I believe the termination of unborn children is an important issue of justice. In our political system all major parties have made this an issue of personal conscience, so how we best further justice for the unborn is a point on which there is room for debate

Tim Rushbrook
Guest
Hi Scott Your article ends “I will vote for justice” and essentially begins by saying you voted for The Greens. Are you not therefore saying that when you voted for them that they best represented justice in your view? As for me I can not in good conscience vote for a political party that demonstrably always backs abortion. Though I didn’t vote 1 Peter Dutton as my local MP today (I strongly disagree with him and the LNP on refugee stance amongst other things) I met him some months ago and he (said he) has consistently voted against abortion except… Read more »
Scott
Guest

hi Tim,
None of the major parties is anti-abortion.

greenguzzi
Guest
The Greens don’t “back abortion”. That would suggest that they promote and encourage abortion. Their policy is to ensure that IF a woman decides to have an abortion, that it should be safe, accessible, and legal. The Greens are not promoting moral values – because that’s not what we want from our politicians. The Greens are simply saying that IF a woman decides to have an abortion that she should be able to do it in a safe, accessible, and legal way. I think that this is horrible, and if I could stop it I would. But the alternative is… Read more »
Tim Rushbrook
Guest
Greenguzzi – is a 39-week gestation abortion safe for the mother and for the baby being aborted? No worries at all for either? See Rob Pyne’s latest bill for Queensland as supported by Queensland Nurses Union. It sets out no limit to abortion for any reason even up to birth. Even at 9 weeks abortion causes harm to the mother and kills a living himan being. Just ask my non- Christian colleague whose daughter is still receiving counselling 4 years after an abortion at 9 weeks. She was horrified by Rob Pyne’s bill. I guess Scott has answered my question… Read more »
Scott
Guest

Hi TIm,
To jump from “I voted for the Greens in 2010” to “I vote for justice” and conclude that I am therefore endorsing every Greens policy from here unto eternity as good and just is absurd. And i reiterate that abortion policy in Australia is bipartisan. Greens, ALP, Coalition all endorse the availability of abortion services.

Tim Rushbrook
Guest

Hi Scott
Your article says why you don’t vote values – and vote justice (though in my view a value). I am not saying you said you agree with the Greens on all matters, merely that you have believed when voting that The Greens, of the available political parties, best represent justice. I myself simply don’t understand your argument.

Tim Rushbrook
Guest
Regardless of documented “policy” there is a stark difference between the way each party votes on abortion, Scott, and if you are not as sure as I am please contact me. On the left many of The Greens HATE the right (a couple weeks ago listening to parliamentary debate The Greens attempted to treat ACL as radical extremists!).The Greens seem to always vote FOR abortion. Labor almost always votes for abortion. The LNP is the most nuanced and affords its members great freedom to vote according to conscience. Yet the LNP – despite voting more for justice in many regards,… Read more »
MrPete
Guest

According to our constitution, our government (at least federal) is NOT for “public goods.” We have been getting this wrong for over 100 years. The constitution provides a specific list of Federal powers and all the rest are reserved for the states. If “public goods” is a Federal power, there is NO limit on federal authority.

Other than that, I love this post.

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