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Making the Cross count

Dear Friends,

‘Forward together!’… ‘Change Britain’s Future!’… ‘For the many not the few!’ … ‘Strong, stable leadership!’ … ‘Rigged economies!’

Most of us will probably recognise these statements as sound-bites or slogans from the election campaigns of the major political parties. Again, many of us, by the time you read this, will be suffering from the malady known as EFS (Election Fatigue Syndrome). And perhaps no wonder. In the past few weeks of campaigning, politicians have been trying to woo us, the voters, with high-spun track records, attractive and populist new policies, and catchy phrases.

Weary and queasy though this spectacle might make us, it would be too easy to be become cynical or for us simply not to bother. But these are not options for Christians. For Christians have a duty under God to be involved in the world, including the world of politics. Why? Because in the coming into the world of Jesus Christ in the Incarnation, God became intimately involved with us and all people, and on the cross took on the powers of this world and by his suffering defeated them, and by his death and resurrection won salvation for all of humanity and all of creation.

In other words, we matter, and in Jesus, God has made the cross count. Because God has totally committed himself to us, to the world and to the whole of creation, this means that we have no alternative but to emulate him.

So we must get involved: first by asking the right questions and secondly, by voting. The line ‘Well, all the political parties are the same’ is actually lazy thinking and a cop out. Again, the line I heard recently, ‘Politicians are only in for it for themselves’, is grossly unfair. Most people go into politics in order to make a difference to our society and to the world, and we should honour their honest intention. Whilst the main parties have increasingly occupied the middle ground, there are real differences in their policies and attitudes to government. The election process and the ballot box itself is our opportunity to scrutinise our politicians, to hold them to account and to express our will.

It is not my job or that of any other priest to tell people which party to vote for. But what I do believe is that Christians should question the politicians and their policies, and make our cross count. Vote - not purely out of selfish motives, but informed by the special insights of our faith which takes both creation and the dignity and worth of all men and women seriously. The archbishops of Canterbury and York in their letter draw our attention to some of the values which should underpin our public discourse and the trajectory we are to take. Rather more humbly, I pose here some questions to our politicians and their policies, for starters:

•    What is your vision for this country, its people and their relationship with the rest of the world?
  how are you going to enable the economy to thrive and at the same time protect the most vulnerable in our society?
  how will you ensure adequate policing that at the same time respects the rights, freedoms and dignity of the individual?
  how will your policies best support children and family life and, at the same time, support those who struggle living alone?
  how will your government address the plight of the poor in other parts of the world as well as in the UK?
  how will your policies promote social cohesion and community life?
  how will you address the shortage of affordable housing?
  what in your manifesto adequately addresses the need to care for the environment?

Thirdly, we should pray for all who are standing for office, for all electors and for God’s sovereign hand to be upon our country at this time. St Paul’s will be open with prayers publicly said on the hour on election day. Let us be committed to each other and creation, even as God is committed to us, by making our cross count.

With warmest wishes and prayers,

Fr Kevin.