In October 6, 1774 the evangelist and social reformer John Wesley records in his personal diary: “I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them,
1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy:
2. To speak no evil of the person they vote against: And,
3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”
Two Hundred and forty five years later it seems the human condition hasn’t improved any, and that is certainly the case as to our behaviour towards one another over our political preferences.
Let’s take each of Wesley’s points at a time:
1. Bribery or having financial incentives to vote for a particular candidate is easy to identify as problematic behaviour. But judging people who are most worthy? How can we do so unless we meet them or discover their views? This is where churches running a hustings is so important because you get to see them at least ‘perform’ live. Why not email them and ask them to meet for coffee? I’ve done that before with a 50% response rate of success. I think I’m going to do that for a couple of our candidates this time around. At the bare minimum, google search about them and try to discover at least one thing they believe from previous reports.
2. Ah that old chestnut… The Golden Rule is so hard to implement in our daily lives. We may do alright one day, but the very next day fall flat. But Wesley is so right to turn us to the teaching of Jesus – ‘do to others as you would have them do to you’. Jesus, you are so spot on. The Golden Rule
3. The outward behaviour is hard enough, but the inward? Pffff. You’re having a laugh right? No. Not only must we honour everyone with our words, but we must live exceptionally with our inward feelings and thoughts towards those who have voted so differently from us. We must not turn aloof from them. We must not snub them. We must not cool off our friendship with them. We must love them all the more because othering people because they were inclined differently from us will lead us to anarchy and hatred. This point is going to the root. Do you love one another or not?
John – we are indebted to you for your wisdom and your brevity at this time of fierce and toxic political life.
Director of CARE for Scotland