Reflections on the Election (May 2017)
Well, after a walk in the woods, the Prime Minister changed her mind and called an election. ‘It was a surprise to us all…’ many of her colleagues and commentators said. And yet, did you notice how, almost immediately, the race was on and the campaigning became fast and furious! Day by day we see the campaign unfold as a battle, a bartering of promises and insults and a great deal of noise through which it is difficult to grasp what is significant or constructive.
I find myself wondering whether our politicians have taken time to think, to reflect, to generate a renewed vision for their hopes of leadership for the country. Or whether we are hearing the same old messages wrapped up in the uncertainty of the enormous challenges of the present.
It seems that across the world at the moment we see voters making collective decisions about who to elect based on their shared fear. A popular mood that says choose the ‘safe’ option, the ones who promise to free us from the ‘mess’ we’re in, those who will draw clear, simple and definite lines between us and the people who make us feel afraid, elect the people who will promise to ‘make us great’ again. And somehow we all become more extreme. In response to the very real challenges we face in the world today there is a tendency to withdraw, protect, to become more combative. And the tension grows.
Taking time out to think, reflect, consider and look for constructive ways to be part of generating a renewed vision for this country, its leadership and participation in the wider world, is something we can all take responsibility for. And when we take responsibility for our own thinking, reflecting, searching for wisdom in the present world then we can ask that our politicians do the same.
So, a few thoughts, as we live through this General Election experience …
The people we’ll hear from over the next few weeks, those seeking our votes, are just people like you and I. They, like us, will have their strengths and weaknesses, things they see clearly and things they have not yet connected with or realized. They will have experience
and, like everybody else, a lot to learn. And like us, and most people, they will not learn well or share their best by being constantly criticised or vilified. (I am thinking here of the stories of Jesus visiting the house of Zacchaeus – where a tax collector who had endured criticism all his working life was transformed by the kindness and attention of Jesus. And a new vision was released.)
How could we engage with this campaign, it’s discussions and people, constructively, to be part of a new vision for the country?
The agenda we face, as a country, is huge and complex. The tendency to want to reduce the way we make our choices to simpler, single issues or things that affect me and mine will be strong. Too often elections become about a shopping list of ‘offers’. But, what about those in our society who’s experience and opportunities are very different to ‘ours’? Surely, governing for ‘all the people’ is much more about having a vision, a set of beliefs, with which to meet the challenges of the country, than a shopping list of promises. (I am thinking here of Jesus having a vision of the ‘kingdom of God’ which was never clearly set out or defined … but was applied, noticed, cultivated … was the core motivation for the difference he made.)
Under the rhetoric and lists of promises how do we grasp the vision, beliefs and principals, of the people we will elect to handle the huge responsibility of decision making in government for ‘all of the people’?
And, final thought here, elections are not about ‘them’ the politicians … they are about ‘us’ the people. These next few weeks are the opportunity for us to engage in the conversations about the country we live in and the shape of the life we share.
Whether we are watching the news and thinking/praying about how we’ll vote, talking to our neighbours over the garden fence or engaging with the candidates for election who will be trying to win our support …. there is a challenge to us all, with the tools of our faith, to think, reflect and take part in generating a renewed vision for the life we share in this country.
We will try to arrange a ‘hustings’ event, with all the candidates, in the church towards the end of the month. Please look out for news of when that might be and share the opportunity with your friends and neighbours.