How should Christians vote in the General Election?

That's not an easy question to answer. Politics is messy, government is messy, politicians and political parties are messy. Many issues are involved, and it can be daunting to wade through them all, weighing one cause against another, and deciding which option (if any) is most worthy of one's support.

That is where Christian organisations can be a great help. One such organisation is The Christian Institute, which (in my opinion) does a fantastic job at highlighting and campaigning on certain moral issues that affect the UK political and legal scene today.

Within the last couple of weeks The Christian Institute has launched their Election Briefing for 2010, with the laudable intention of helping Christian "voters reach an informed decision on how to cast their vote" on 6 May.

Here's my summary of the document

  • Christians should decide how to vote in the 2010 General Election on the basis of "three touchstone issues": "religious liberty, the sanctity of marriage and the sanctity of human life" (p. 5, 7). Other issues exist, but are much less important.
  • The parties' track records and manifesto pledges should be examined on these issues.
  • However, Christians should find out what their own local candidates think about these issues, rather than just looking at the parties, as some candidates do not toe the "party line".

There follows an evaluation of the major parties, and their policies on these issues. In short, this is how the parties perform (let the reader decide which he/she thinks is the "least worst option" [sic.—twice!—p.3, 8]):

  • Labour: mostly abysmal
  • Conservative: mostly good (though bad in some areas and allowing a free vote in many others)
  • Liberal Democrat: largely dreadful
  • SNP: mixed but often good
  • Plaid Cymru: mixed

Brief descriptions are given for:

  • UKIP: fairly good
  • Green: pretty awful
  • The Christian Party: very good
  • Christian Peoples Alliance: very good

What are we to make of all this? Some comments:

  • The narrow focus of the Election Briefing is nothing short of shocking. What about the economy, criminal justice, healthcare, education, the environment, international order, race relations, tax and benefits, employment and housing, to pick a few examples? Is God even remotely interested in any of these? Reading the Election Briefing, one could be forgiven for thinking that these issues are completely irrelevant and should have no bearing on where we put the cross on the ballot paper. Why is that? "When it comes to the economy, Christians can legitimately disagree about the best way to tackle the UK's deficit" (p. 5). But "The issues we have highlighted are those where we believe the Bible is clear" (p. 4). So Christians should leave complex issues to one side—however important these issues are, however close they are to the heart of God—and instead should focus on a few clear, black-and-white moral issues. Admittedly, there is a thin veneer in the Briefing acknowledging the existence of these weightier matters, but where can I go to find more? Which Christian organisations have produced material to help me understand these? Where is the "Further Reading" section? Where are the tools to enable me to evaluate policies on these issues?
  • In some cases, the approach to the narrow range of issues is itself questionable. For example, "Easy divorce laws have led to a lax attitude to marriage" (p.6). Or has a lax attitude to marriage led to easy divorce laws? If it is primarily the latter (and I suspect it is), then I see no reason to believe that good divorce laws will lead to a better attitude to marriage. Good laws are to be preferred to bad laws, of course, and Christians should be campaigning and voting for good laws to be made, but we are fighting a losing battle if we think that the statute book is an effective means to shape the attitudes of society. Maybe there are bigger fish to fry in this election?

How will you decide on how to vote?