Today I’m writing about the question on everyone’s lips at the moment:
How will One Direction survive without Zayn Malik?
(I’m kidding. It’s the other question.)
Right now, in the UK, the media is buzzing with personal information about the people who could be leading the country: what their hobbies are, what their families are like, their favourite fish, or how they eat a bacon sandwich. Whether we realise it or not, we are asking ourselves the questions: is this leader nice? Do we like them as a person?
These, I am sorry to tell you, are not the questions we should be asking.
- Don’t vote for a leader because they’re nice to their family
Even the cruelest dictators had friends, family, people who genuinely liked them. Even Hitler had a loving wife, and was popular enough to get elected.
Conversely, if Jesus were up for election, he could have been criticised for not being a ‘family man’ – he wasn’t married, he didn’t have children, and when his family asked to see him he said his disciples were his mother and brothers. (Luke 8:21)
Here is a better test of a leader than how nice they are to their family:
- what they say
- what they do
Their words and policies matter. How they have acted in the past matters. What they say they will do matters. (On this score, it’s probably worth noting that Jesus does significantly better than Hitler.)
We should not be asking, ‘do they seem a nice person?’ but ‘will they do good things for others?’
- Don’t vote for a leader because they’re nice to your family
It is natural to want to vote for a leader who will make things easier for us, but Christians are called to love and serve others (Matt 20:26-28, Rom 13:10, Luke 10:25-37)
When we talk about voting for who we think will be the best as a leader, do we vote for who will make things good for us, or who will look after the most vulnerable in society? Even those we don’t know personally?
This week I have had leaflets through my door from both Labour and Conservative parties, promising to reward ‘hard-working families’, which immediately gets my hackles up because it implies that those who are single, or those who are not able to work (hard or otherwise) do not merit their votes. They have divided the population into ‘valuable’ and not valuable: but every life is valuable.
Recently we have seen columnists in national newspapers decrying drowning refugees as ‘cockroaches’, politicians who advocate that we stop giving foreign aid (because ’they’ don’t matter, we do), cuts in the welfare system that are causing children to go hungry and sick and disabled people to commit suicide because their money is cut off.
As with politicians, so too with us: our character is revealed most truly not by how we treat our friends, but how we treat the ‘other’, those who differ from us.
Our character is revealed by how we treat people stigmatised by society: foreigners and refugees (including those of different religion), people of colour, the poor, the LBGT community, elderly people, single parents, disabled people, people with mental illness. Every life is valuable.
Don’t vote for a leader because they’re nice to their family. Don’t vote for a leader because they’re nice to your family. There are better questions to ask.
One would hope we love our family and friends, and want to do what’s best for them. But do we love the people turning up to food banks? Do we love the migrants drowning in the seas?
These are the questions we should be asking.
Over to you:
- What reasoning do you use when choosing who to vote for?
- What do you think about the media coverage of the General Election?
- What do you think about the idea of not voting for who will make life better for you, but for those stigmatised by society?