Casting the good vote

Tim Costello: vote with your heart

Australia will go to the polls tomorrow in one of the most hotly contested elections of the century.

What is the best option for conscientious Christians? How can we channel our votes into meaningful acts of faith?

The Bible doesn’t directly speak about who we should vote for, or whether we should have to vote at all. But a verse in Jeremiah states: “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

In other words, we are commanded in our choices to seek the common good for those around us and our nation.

Voting has biblical precedents. The book of Acts describes that the early Christians elected elders by voting. Our freedom to vote is a Christian responsibility and a privilege.

We cannot define and delineate a single, distinctive “Christian” line on every issue. We are diverse, and we won’t always agree among ourselves about everything.

We should not be so concerned about going Right or Left, but going deeper.

It’s possible to bring a definite Christian personality and perspective to issues without becoming slaves to a kind of party discipline or feeling we can only speak if we speak in unison.

Our situation is very much like that of the first Christians 2000 years ago. They were outsiders who had to learn the most effective ways to interact within society.

We should vote with the poor, vulnerable and forgotten in mind. Even as we Christians serve in missions of mercy and compassion, we must also speak for justice.

We recognise that Australian society is increasingly post-Christian and pluralist like that of the Roman empire. We can learn a good deal from how the early church followed Jesus in responding to poverty and justice.

Ask questions of every party and go beyond the three-word slogans and sound bites that dominate the airwaves. We need to be more than skin deep when thinking of social and political issues. We need to rise above sectarian viewpoints.

So what can we do to advance Australia’s best interests? And God’s interests?

Jesus calls on us to confront reality. He challenges us to see the world as it truly is, in ways that unambiguously and enthusiastically reaffirm the sometimes “uncomfortable truths” of his gospel message.

With the Holy Spirit guiding us, we can have a tremendous impact.

To assist your deliberations, go to Eternity’s podcasts page and listen to The Good Vote, where I interview leading voices on the economy, environment, women, Islamophobia and religious freedom.