How many times have we as Christians been disappointed when one of our parliaments votes on a piece of legislation that we disagree with? I’m not talking about legislation that we as Christians can reasonably disagree about, like taxation changes or social welfare measures. I’m talking about those issues that should unite us as Christians, such as abortion or euthanasia and the like.
How does this happen? How can we change it?
It happens because those issues are almost always conscience issues. That is, members of parliament vote as individuals on the issues as they see fit, and don’t agree as parties to all vote the same way, as they might on tax legislation for instance. It then comes down to the quality of the people in the parliament. This is why the voting guideline tables that compare parties on conscience issues are not very useful, and perhaps even counter-productive.
There’s a saying — we get the government we deserve — which expresses the view that we get what we vote for. The same is true in conscience issues. We get the parliament we deserve, i.e., we get the individual members we vote for. Christians have a duty to investigate the candidates who present themselves to us at an election. This includes both the upper and the lower house. Not doing so allows a parliament to form that will introduce legislation that we oppose, such as deregulation of abortion and the like.
We cannot rely on one party being better than the other on conscience issues, because party doesn’t matter in a conscience vote.
Across Australia, bills to increase abortion access were introduced by Labor in Queensland and Victoria and by the Liberals in New South Wales, Western Australia and just this month in South Australia. In New South Wales, a bloc of National Party members, of all people, voted for abortion to birth!
If you want a more Christian outlook from your parliament, you need to vote for Christians (or even non-Christians) who are prepared to back up their talk by voting the right way — regardless of which party they come from. If you think that the economy is more important than the lives of babies and you vote accordingly, don’t be surprised when the person you voted for doesn’t share your Christian outlook. Why should they? You didn’t expect them to when you voted.
If all the candidates (particularly major party candidates) share the same views on conscience matters, then you can try to determine who would be the least worst (or in a happy occasion they are both pro-life, the best) and drop down to second tier issues like the economy.
I was previously a Labor Party member in the South Australian parliament. Not only did I vote in line with Christian teachings on conscience issues, I led the fight against them in the parliament and was one of the few people prepared to speak in the media against these bills. Yet you’d be surprised at the number of Christians who told me that despite all I did, they couldn’t vote for me because I was in the Labor Party and the Labor Party is “bad”. The Liberal member who replaced me is at best an agnostic and most likely an atheist.
Countless other Liberals who were reliable votes against the madness infecting our parliaments were replaced in pre-selections by people who vote for these things. Be prepared to reward those members who vote the right way by voting for them at the next election regardless of party. Eventually the major parties will work out what is going on and start pre-selecting candidates who are pro-life, and then we will have more choice of candidates to vote for; but some things need to be non-negotiable for Christians and until we take that seriously, neither of our parties will.
Christians need to get more active in politics if we are going to have an effect on the society we live in. Not only do we have the right to be involved, we have a duty to be involved. Join a political party — it doesn’t matter which one, but don’t expect a warm welcome in the Greens, who are actively hostile to Christianity. Ask your candidates how they will vote on abortion bills. Don’t let them slip and slide when they answer. Things like “I would have to see a bill to answer” are non-answers designed to let them get away without answering.
The best indication of how they will vote is a previous voting record if they are already elected. Follow how they vote. Send them a message of thanks and encouragement when they vote the right way — reward good behaviour. Hold your candidates to account and then vote for the best one, regardless of what party they’re from. I cannot stress this enough. Forget party, vote for a person.
That’s how you vote Christian and that’s how you get a good parliament.
[Photo by Prakash Khanal