Below is reproduced the text of a talk I am delivering. I thought I’d put it up here as a post and hopefully start a few thoughts and maybe a discussion. Enjoy.
There’s a vitally important, very solemn question which as a Christian I have asked many times. I know most of my Christian friends have asked the same question. I’m pretty sure the majority of Christians – at least in the west – will have done the same. And now, today, I’m going to ask you that same question. It’s a big one so prepare yourselves.
The question goes like this –
What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home, like a holy rolling stone, nobody calling on the phone
‘cept for the Pope maybe in Rome.
Ok, so that’s a bit of a light-hearted way of phrasing it, but it’s still a pretty important – if not remotely solemn – question. We often spend our time trying to decide what God wants of us as we live our daily lives. As we work to make His kingdom come. There’s even a thriving market in merchandise asking just ‘what would Jesus do?’
And we can ask this, and probably should ask this, in every area of our lives. I could probably do a long series of talks about what God wants from us and what I think Jesus would do in any given situation. In fact, there are priests, pastors and padres all around the world who do a very good job of doing just that every Sunday.
Today, I’m going to focus only on what Jesus would do in the ballot box. Or more specifically what I think Christians should be doing in the ballot box.
One of the main principles underlying everything the Labour Party tries to do is that it is the party of the many and not the few. If you go to the party’s website you will see at the top of the party’s values is:
This is surely a Biblically sound value.
Throughout the Gospels we see that Jesus has a strong belief in social justice and says to those following him
‘whatever you did to these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’.
That’s just one verse in Matthew (25:40 if you want to look it up). There are hundreds and hundreds of verses throughout the Bible which make the case for the importance of social justice. Here’s just a handful of examples.
“You are all brethren.” (Matthew 23:8);
“In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.” (Matthew: 7:12);
“Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” (Luke: 3:11);
“Give to everyone who asks you.” (Luke: 6:30).
The Labour Party has always worked to ensure that our nation is a fair one. Whether through the promotion of workers rights, the support of suffrage, the founding of the Welfare state and the NHS, or the more recent massive investment in schools and education, Labour strives to ensure social justice becomes the norm in this country and not a rare commodity to be forgotten as an afterthought.
The second of the Labour Party’s values is listed as
Strong community and strong values
Once again, I look to the gospels and see strong community throughout. The first Christians lived together. They ate together. They served each other. And as a result, God blessed their efforts toward a Beloved Community by performing miracles in their midst and adding to their community daily. Look at Acts 2: 42-47 with fresh eyes:
“All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved.”
This, to me, is an awesome example of what is possible when Humanity commits to “being together” and trusts God. Jesus put the common good front-and-centre in his teaching and we should strive to do the same in our lives and in our politics. It is the Labour Party who says right there at the beginning of their constitution
“we believe that by the strength of our common endeavour, we achieve more together than we do alone.”
And that is a principle that we try to carry beyond the party membership and out to the country as a whole. Increases in statutory pay, more places in nurseries, flexible working, and SureStart projects all reflect that principle and that desire for community. More together than alone.
The third of Labour’s values is
Reward for hard work
The Labour Party has always believed, from the days of Keir Hardie, that all men and women deserve the opportunity to work and that there should be dignity in that work. And Jesus taught us exactly the same belief. He knew of hard work. He was himself according to Mark, “Just a Carpenter” as well as having the hardest job of all, sacrificing himself for our sins. God laboured six days in the creation, and we are made in His image. We should work and we should have rights in work. It has been the Labour Party that has grown those rights and introduced a minimum wage. It has been through the Labour Party that we are ensured our dignity in work.
The fourth value of the Labour Party is
Rights matched by responsibilities
I’ve just mentioned Genesis and the idea that all people on this earth are created in God’s image. Every one of us is created equally. We should therefore be entitled to equality regardless of race, sex, physical and mental abilities, or social class. Education should be for the many and not the few. Healthcare should be for the many and not the few. A sense of society should be for the many and not the few. And it has been the Labour Party who have worked to ensure education is available to anyone and our kids aren’t being taught in leaky portacabins any more. It was Labour who ensured the healthcare system had the biggest investment of all time, reducing waiting times and improving treatments. It was Labour who stated time and again that we are not a country of individuals, and that we should love our neighbour as we love ourselves.
So what if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us. Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home, like a holy rolling stone, nobody calling on the phone, ‘cept for the Pope maybe in Rome? What if he was on that bus on polling day and he had the opportunity to walk into a polling station and put a divine X on a ballot paper? Would he vote for the Labour Party’s candidate? I don’t know. But i believe he could. And I think Christians can feel good about doing the same.