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Religion & Culture | 'Should Christians vote?' - Is politics a moral evil?

Published:Sunday | October 9, 2016 | 10:00 AM
Jamaicans going out to vote in the general election. The question being asked is: Should Christians vote?
Ashby
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It can be successfully argued that politics has sown the seeds of the greatest of human tragedies over the years.

Realpolitik, geopolitics and hegemonic ambitions have spurred centuries-old vendettas, creating a cyclical cauldron of enmity and distrust. History bears out this truth.

But apologists have argued that there is an innocuous, worthy side to politics. They point to the good of democracy in promoting equanimity and the rule of law.

They believe that the failure of fascism, communism, and theocracies have left democratic rule standing vindicated. Multiparty systems - the politics of tolerance and the tradition of western-style democracies are touted as the authentically viable means of promoting the common good.

But is there truth to this commonly held belief? Not according to some Christians who have shunned involvement in politics. They have discouraged voting, citing scriptural verses to bolster their position.

In Should Christians Vote?, Eric Snow argued: "If He were on earth today, Jesus certainly would publicly condemn various sins our nation is guilty of, such as abortion. But he wouldn't pollute Himself by participating in a human government that Satan controls (Matthew 4:8-9) and that His own 'incoming administration' shortly will replace (Revelations 11:15, 17-18)."

Many, though, hold that Jesus' message was politically transformative. It challenged our inner and outer environments. They can envision the Christian messiah advising to use reason, not emotion, as we search the hearts of those who promise the world, and that we render unto Caesar the things that are Caesars's, while recognising that inner tranquillity and contentment are never tied to a political party or ideology.

We live in a world churned by politics and should be dutiful while mindful that truth is found elsewhere.

And for this reason, extreme apolitical positions adopted by some Christians have been rightly denounced. Undoubtedly, the world has seen meaningful change for some good, but change is never fluid. Sometimes change is clothed in blood.

Political or apolitical, we all benefit from the sacrifices of others. Blinded by extremity, Christian leaders, such as Snow, are clearly unable to articulate their concerns in a measured and more comprehensible manner. But for all their shortcomings, they have touched on a troubling side of politics that has become the norm.

 

FEEDING DISTRUST

 

Although we have fashioned our democracies after Athenian polis and the spirit of Magna Carta, we have failed to meet the needs of the collective good. Democracies have grown to promote and feed on division and distrust.

And political narcissism that buried autocratic states are very much alive in democracies, only repackaged for palatability. Regarding the two-party system, I recall Sir Arthur Lewis, who was critical of this model of governance.

"The opposition and ruling parties," he said, "are intent on gaining and maintaining power at all costs even at the risks of dividing the population and destroying lives ... . Often, the opposition exists merely as a token that democracy exists because the opposing politicians disagree with bills and refuse to approve legislation which are beneficial to the citizenry."

This folly has destroyed the democratic principle throughout the Caribbean. It has led to cronyism, gangsterism, corruption, and the erosion of productivity and national ethos.

And in countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana, politics is infected with racial poison, conveniently administered by politicians.

This terminal problem was laid bare after the 2015 general election in Trinidad and Tobago. Commenting on this parasitic emotional illness, Dr Dylan Kerrigan argued that such racist things through social media are basically a deeper manifestation of deeper philosophical and historical problems that are embedded in our society.

In the United States political fissures are caused by competing values - conservatism vs liberalism, and ascribing the colours of red (conservative) and blue (liberal) to states.

The upcoming presidential election in the United States has polarised the nation.

 

SUPPORT FOR DONALD TRUMP

 

In Hollywood, a liberal hotbed, some conservative actors have charged that they have been blackballed for supporting Donald Trump. Antonio Sabato Jr complained on national television that after returning from the Republican National Convention, jobs that were already lined up "weren't there anymore".

And in Texas, a Public Policy Polling poll found that 61 per cent of Trump supporters threaten to secede if Hillary Clinton wins the White House.

During his acceptance speech as the Republican nominee for Illinois' senate in 1858, Abraham Lincoln culled the biblical verse: "If a house is divided against itself, it cannot stand."

It remains a haunting reminder that politics ignites our worst impulses. Indeed, politics can be a moral evil - a deliberate thought or action that is contrary to our humanity and essential goodness.

Today, in particular, when politicians promise the heavens, the immortal words of Euripides scream for attention: "When one with honeyed words but evil mind persuades the mob, great woes befall the state."

- Dr Glenville Ashby is the author of Anam Cara: Your Soul Friend and Bridge to Enlightenment and Creativity now sold as an audiobook. Feedback: glenvilleashby@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby