So, we’re up for a Federal election on September 7. Which gets me wondering, in the spirit of those WWJD wristbands, how would Jesus vote? Ridiculous question really, because I have no idea how Jesus would vote. He lived under a dictatorship and never offered commentary on democratic voting. So the real question is, how should I vote as someone who is a follower of Jesus?
Some Christians believe its about doing all we can to ensure the law of the land reflects the law of God. I beg to differ.
We live in a secular, liberal democracy. The genius behind democracy is accountability – governments must answer to the people. This puts a break on the government. They cannot do what we collectively don’t give them permission to do. Rather they must govern for the common good.
But democracy on its own can become tyrannical. If the majority said people with blue eyes should be imprisoned, then a nation that says “majority rules” would imprison my children. Which is why it’s important to say we live in a liberal democracy. Liberal democracies insist that there are certain rights everyone has regardless of what the majority might feel – things like freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, rule of law, etc. This places limits around what the State can legislate. And it’s why we should not expect the State to legislate Christian values. Rather, the law should promote people’s freedoms, defend their right to determine the shape and direction of their lives, even when they head off in directions that I think are counter to God’s wisdom. In a liberal democracy we recognise there will be a plurality of values and that Governments are not to be the arbiter of them but to give people space to pursue them, so long as in pursuing them the freedoms and rights of others are not impinged upon.
And we not only live in a liberal democracy, we live in a secular liberal democracy. Secularism does not banish religion from the public square, but it does say we won’t pass legislation because a particular religious perspective says we should. We will pass laws because we are collectively persuaded they promote the common good while protecting people’s freedoms and rights.
One day we will live in a theocracy. The Christian Scriptures suggest that a time will come when Christ is all in all and his will reigns supreme in the universe. But if history teaches me anything it’s that the only one I trust to rule such a universe is Christ and that it can only work in a universe where the hearts of everyone have been transformed to want what God wants. Absent Christ and a transformed humanity efforts to make the law of the land mirror the law of God always end up being oppressive. For the present secular liberal democracy has proven to be the best we’ve got.