Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

How to vote..."Morality Issues"

I have been stewing, as a lot of people have, on how to vote on election day. It is interesting the different reasons for voting for whoever. I get concerned with some very narrow perspectives that I hear among Christians. Good Christian people say (both in conversation and on the Internet) that of course God fearing Christians should be mindful of "morality" issues as they cast their vote. Then the issues are listed. The sanctity of marriage. Homosexuality and same sex marriages. Protection for the "Christian" understanding of "family". Law and order questions such as decent punishments for crimes committed. The wrongly called "anti-smacking" legislation here in NZ. Issues around abortion. I get uneasy with such a list being seen as the "morality issues". My uneasiness is not just because of my views that may differ from some of my more conservative Christian brothers and sisters, but because I see a whole lot of other issues as just as much, maybe even more so, "Morality issues". Waiting lists in our hospital that mean people live half-lives, and maybe only shorten the waiting list because they die in the meantime, is a "morality issue". The people who are paying a big percentage of their income just to keep a roof over their heads is a morality issue. The lack of funding to help below average kids come out of school with useful skills is a morality issue. (One of my sons had to share text books with other boys, while the pupils in higher grade classes got issued one per pupil... when my son graduated with a degree years later I felt like rubbing it in his teacher's faces!) The mess that I see on our streets and in my drop-in centre with mental health patients struggling to cope with life is a morality issue. The way we spit people on to the scrap heap of life without enough real employment is a morality issue. The motivation of the politicians is a morality issue. The way they campaign and debate, the example they set of human dignity and the genuineness of their concern for people is a morality issue. The politicians view of our world wide scene, their perspectives on different cultures, their breadth of concern in a global sense is a morality issue. The low pay for the carers of elderly and disabled people is a morality issue for both the carers and their clients. The gap between rich and poor is a morality issue. All of these issues deal with how we value human life and the ethos of the community we want in our country. There are really no issues that are not "spiritual" and "morality" issues! The Old Testament prophets saw these "fairness" and "care for the vulnerable" and the "rich getting richer" as issues relating to the "righteousness" of the nation.

This reminds me of a false distinction often made in congregational and church government. We often set aside "Elders" to care for the "Spiritual matters". They look after such issues as the content of worship services, making sure the preacher is not a heretic, the correct spiritual/moral behaviour of people and the teaching in the church, etc. etc. Then we set aside all our "practical" people as deacons to run the finances, the church building, Trust Boards etc. etc. I have for years questioned this practice. The nature of the church building, its stewardship and use is a spiritual issue. The sort of atmosphere the building communicates is a spiritual issue. The use of finances and the priorities we see in the spending is a spiritual issue.

Anyway I urge you to vote with consideration for morality issues... but make sure you see the morality issues in virtually every issue that the politicians will talk about.

No comments: