With the announcement of an Australian Federal election on July 2nd, we are again thrust into a long, drawn out, media driven campaign.
With the United States election also drawing much media attention, we can see over the last decade in Australia the subtle shift to American style campaigning with an incredible bombardment of advertisements within all forms of media. The preferred Prime Minister poll can often be in direct contrast to the polling for the particular political parties. Already some media commentators have described the choice in July is between the "popularity" of Malcolm Turnbull and the "policy" of Bill Shorten.
Negative campaigning leads many voters confused and can often tell us more why we shouldn't vote for someone, rather than why we should vote for a particular party. We get confused because we are told what a particular party has not achieved or what a party "might" do (only if elected), to our great country rather than what they will do.
Political parties insert doomsday scenarios into all the possible outcomes. Even trying to escape onto YouTube nowadays means we will face election ads and counting down the time so I can press the "skip ad" link.
Our politicians have become so robotic in their talk, with cliché after cliché inserted into speeches along with short, pithy slogans and responses. This has become the order of the day and makes many Australians feel they don't really know the leaders or representatives as well as they use to. In the past, I may have disagreed with their stance or beliefs, but I knew where they stood.
My personal dislike for characters like Donald Trump and his policies is tempered by the very direct message that comes out of his mouth.
So how does one decide whom to vote for?
How does a Christian decide?
Who should Christians vote for?
Who would Jesus vote for?
I think Christians are the same as most Australians with their attitude to our politicians. They never feel comfortable with any of the leaders in office- nor should they be. What decisions can and should be made for all, so all Australians can share in the wealth of our great country?
Already the idea of "fairness" or the "fair go for all" has been bandied around quite frequently in the last week. I do believe financial responsibility is an important aspect and each side of politics spends much of their airtime and advertising sprouting how they are or will be the better economic managers.
The budget should be viewed as a moral document and being in billions of dollars of debt is not a way to rule. However, financial responsibility is a moral issue and I think we must consider how the political party in power aims to achieve it. At whose expense do they achieve fiscal responsibility and surplus in the budget? All sides of politics should consider how Jesus spoke up for the poor and the vulnerable.
Jesus said, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free" (Luke Chapter 4 verse 18).
What would a "moral economy" look like? We are the country of the "fair go", yet I feel our economic and political systems are becoming the domain of the wealthy and powerful. Christians also have a social responsibility to look after the poor, the vulnerable and the powerless. Jesus often referred to these people as the "least of these."
People of faith want people in positions of power they can trust. Where are our champions of the poor and vulnerable within our politicians? The church should be warned to not be associated with or solely attached to one side of politics.
Too often we have seen in the United States, evangelical Christians associated with one side of politics and then being "burnt" or "let down".
Christians of all denominations should heed the warning of the great Martin Luther King Jr and become the conscience of the state, not the power of the state. He said:
The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.
Take some time to cast your vote this election using your conscience, not your wallet. Let the church be the conscience of the state and not it's master or servant. Be encouraged to make all sides of politics consider the poor and vulnerable. What impact does fiscal responsibility or a budget surplus have on us all? Who wins and who loses with each policy decision?
Politicians should never assume they have "our" vote.
Who would Jesus vote for? Now there's a challenge for us all when we cast our vote.
Russell Modlin teaches English and Physical Education at a Christian School on the Sunshine Coast. He is married to Belinda and they have three children.
Russell Modlin's archive of previous article can be found at www.pressserviceinternational.org/russell-modlin.html