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Loving your neighbour with your vote

What motivates us as we decide how to vote? Very often we are told that voting is all about self-interest. What will reduce my taxes the most? Which candidate is from my ‘tribe’? Which party will make my life better in the near future?

For Christians these questions may feel grating, and the idea of voting out of self-interest be quite uncomfortable. Yet, is it not so easy to fall into the trap of assessing parties, candidates and policies from the perspective of me, myself and I.

In an environment where our political discourse is ever more divided, arguments are always zero-sum and there is little room for good disagreement, it can be very hard to swim against the crowd.

Michael Wear, a Christian who has worked at the very heart of the political world in the U.S., pushes back against tribal politics arguing that Christian political obligations derive from love of God and love of neighbour.

He points to the exiles in Babylon who found themselves in a land that was not their own, amongst a people who despised them. Yet Jeremiah’s prophecy did not call the Israelites to a posture of opposition toward the Babylonians, but rather they are instructed to:

Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper. (Jeremiah 29:7)

Wear thinks that for Christians there is one inescapable conclusion of this command, namely ‘That we are obliged to work for the benefit and the flourishing of all people, whether or not they see the world as we do or agree with us in any way. Christians’ obligation is not to their ‘tribe’, but to their God – a God who cares deeply for all people.’

Working for the benefit and flourishing of all people in our political decisions will cause us to ask the question, how can I love my neighbour through my vote? As you assess parties, candidates and policies, do it from the perspective of what would benefit your neighbour, not yourself.

To help you think this through, you might want to reflect on these questions:

  • Who is my neighbour? (There is no better place to start in answering this question than Jesus’ parable in Luke 10.)

  • What does true biblical human flourishing look like?

  • What ways can my political representatives work to enabling human flourishing?

  • How can I use my voice and my vote to benefit and love my neighbour?

We have put together a few helpful briefings on family, life and justice issues that we at CARE think our politicians can work on to enable human flourishing. It’s not an exhaustive list but is a good place to start.

This is a wonderful idea, but it is also a hard idea. Christian perspectives and Christians themselves feel increasingly unwelcome in the public sphere. This is a challenge, but as Wear encourages us, ‘We do not love our neighbour for affirmation, but because we have been loved first. Now is not the time to withdraw, but to refine our intentions and pursue public faithfulness that truly is good news.’

Jonathan Williams

CARE’s Family Policy Officer

You can read Michael Wear’s reflections on faith and politics in Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America.