Do you want “certainty” or “change” from this general election?

Updated July 12 based on rewrite requested by Premier Christianity

As you take in the results of the UK Election, you might find yourself in moments of anticipation or perhaps regret, depending on who you voted for. Or maybe you’re just massively relieved. At least now our news broadcasters will stop banging on about who’s behind in the polls, and going to places you’ve never visited to ask random people in a pub which way they will vote.

But, regardless of our new Government, there are fundamental truths that can guide followers of Jesus at times like this.

Expect to feel let down by our new Government at some point

They say, “politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose”.

All our politicians make absurd promises when campaigning.  It’s not that they are inherently bad — most politicians by far are in public service for good reasons. But our media strongly encourages adversarial style debate and aggressive questioning designed to catch politicians out. This creates enormous pressure on public figures to make promises they simply can’t keep. But we all know there really is no “magic money tree” that appears after the election. There’s no pile of money today that wasn’t there before.

So we should hold politicians to account – we should expect them to work for change and improvements. But we can show grace and understanding as their promises take much longer to fulfil than they suggested, and some may ultimately fall away.

politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose

Expect most things not to change

In politics, in business, and even in life, we often over-estimate the impact that a change will bring, especially in the short term. This Government is new but that doesn’t mean much will change, and that’s OK. Small, incremental changes are also good.

We are fortunate to live in a stable democracy that as a rule doesn’t experience sudden shifts. (Likewise, we are fortunate to have an election process that is not corrupt). Bizarrely, our system of democracy tends to work against  long-term planning. If you are Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping you can plan ahead 50 years knowing that your party will still be in power. Democracies inevitably take the short-term “next 5 years” view, but they are still the best system this world has.

Ecclesiastes 1:9 reminds us, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”. This is not a suggestion to give up, it’s reassurance. As Christians, our foundations lie in the steadfastness of God, not the transient nature of Government.

Remember to support all Christian MPs – we need them and they need us

Faith determines character and character matters more than issues. Wasn’t it fascinating to hear about Keir Starmer’s “Shabbat rule” comments? He isn’t a Christian but his wife is Jewish. He explained in a recent interview that, apart from emergencies, his Friday nights will be ring-fenced for family-time. Predictably, this drew some incredulous responses, but isn’t it right that our most senior politicians are not slogging away 24x7? Isn’t that Biblical?

And some of our MPs actually are Christian. Having Christians in the Houses of Parliament who understand a higher calling, is crucial. Their faith, character, and (one hopes) their integrity can bring positive change. They can do this even if we don’t agree with their specific views. In particular, Christians with traditional Biblical views are now often viewed as society’s heretics, and that can feel incredibly lonely.

It’s an honourable thing to be involved in politics. Jesus was not an MP but he was certainly political. He challenged the authorities, actively stood against injustices, and advocated for a new order. He wasn’t aligned with any political party but He constantly engaged in the social and political issues of His time. He didn’t opt out of politics.

isn’t it right that our most senior politicians are not slogging away 24x7? Isn’t that Biblical?

Certainty and change — ancient truths and new beginnings

Looking back at the 7 weeks since this election was announced (feels like a lifetime), the main themes constantly played by the Conservatives and Labour were “certainty” versus ”change”.  Sunak pitched hard on the certainty of sticking with him versus (as he said) surrendering to the unknowns of Labour. Starmer, for his part, worked to drive home that 14 years of Conservative government certainty hasn’t helped; it’s time for change.

But of course both are needed – that’s partly why many people found it hard to choose. And, according to Christian belief, we have both.

The North African church father, Augustine, once referred to God as “ever ancient and ever new”. Stability and change. Both aspects are true. Both are important.

We rightly focus on the ancient, certainty of God. He is “the same yesterday today and forever” and we cherish that. But perhaps we underestimate God’s creative desire to be “ever new”, to “do a new thing”.  Yes, God’s unchangeable presence and beauty has always been there, timeless and eternal. But he is always refreshing and renewing those who are open to him, equipping us as movers and shakers in society. Ancient, yet new.

John puts it like this,

I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev 1:8.

The “is and was” reminds us of God’s unchanging nature. But the “is to come” part can be a gear shift, even a surprising change of direction. God loves to do a new thing and constantly invites us to participate, with a fresh and proactive engagement in our world. Stability and renewal. Ever ancient and ever new

Do a new thing!
Let your local MP know you’re there and you care
The Baptist Union’s Joint Public Issues Team has put together these resources to help your relationship with your new or returning MP

 

UK election count

If you enjoyed reading this, try Why Christian evangelicals are still saying AMEN to Trump
Versions of the article were also published by Premier Christianity and The Baptist Times

 

 

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Peter Webster
Peter Webster
11 days ago

A thoughtful non-partisan article to the extent you have no idea which political position he holds. Refreshingly different from the 3 political party broadcasts recently, with Christ as a brief add-on

Laura Gregory
Laura Gregory
11 days ago

A refreshingly fair and balanced article on politics after a few fraught months. Thank you

Phil Drake
Phil Drake
11 days ago

I’d dispute the argument that ‘parties are being drawn towards the centre’- the polarisation in France and the US has been much chronicled lately, and part of the Tories’ problem is that they have been captured by the ideas of the natiionalist right- the emergence of Brexit as a solution (ha ha) and the increasing focus on immigration and nationalism. Starmer does seem to be making a serious attempt to achieve a Centrist consensus, so good luck to him. But the rise of Reform and their snake oil ‘solutions’ — and the readiness of sevral million voters to back them-is… Read more »

Martin Rich
Martin Rich
11 days ago

A thoughtful article Chris but you look at UK politics with rose-tinted specs in part 2- Johnson was sacked for riding roughshod over democratic practice, the Tories re-organised constituency boundaries to secure more seats and introduced ID for an almost non-existent personation problem to reduce poor voters (but fortunately still blew it) and about 7 million are excluded by restrictions on vote access through youth, ethnicity, poverty in connection to urban living, where there would be 5 more constituencies in Brum and 7 in London- not Tory heartlands, and many Sunak cronies inside bet. Pray to God that we never… Read more »

Martin
Martin
11 days ago

Awesome Chris
Really helped me
Thanks
Mx

Stephen
Stephen
21 days ago

Hi Chris, As always an interesting and thoughtful article, but perhaps there is still time for you to post a blog on dealing with the question of whether I should vote at all? There is often the presupposition that it is the Christian’s duty to effect change through political action but is it biblical ? Are we not meant to be “salt and light” ? If we are citizens of another kingdom and we are as it were ambassadors, should we vote ? We render to Caesar what is Caesar and we pay taxes that “we might not be an… Read more »