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24th April 2015
With the General Election less than two weeks away, the UK's political parties are hoping to persuade more and more people to choose them to lead the country. But, sadly, there is an increasing apathy surrounding politics, with only 65% of people in the UK taking part in the last election. Whether you're a committed voter or are new to the process, here are three reasons from our history, our culture and the Bible explaining why it's so important for us to take part.
We haven't always been able to vote. In the mid-19th century Britain wasn't a democracy, so although wealthy landowners could vote as they liked, the interests of ordinary people were not represented at all. And after years of reforms, it wasn't until 1918 that all men over the age of 21 and women over the age of 30 were entitled to vote, and only in 1969 that it was decided that all men and women over the age of 18 could register. It's easy to take this for granted in today's society, which may be part of the reason why so many people don't take part. Nevertheless, the right to vote is a privilege that we've been given to have a say in how our towns, counties and the country is run, and because every adult in the UK is to be represented through today's system, we have a chance to be heard that we musn't neglect.
Secondly, the idea of this kind of choice is unheard of in many parts of the world today. In the UK we are incredibly fortunate to live in a society where we are not persecuted for our beliefs, where we have politicians that acknowledge the public, and where, despite some discontent with national policies, we're given a say in what we want. Those in authority can be easily reached, too, with social media encouraging us to network with almost anyone. Additionally, we can't forget that many of this country's policies have met many of the needs that we face on a daily basis. Maslow's 'Hierarchy of Needs' is a famous illustration of what every human being needs to survive, including everything from the food we eat to the love and acceptance of others and achieving our own goals and aspirations. Compared to other countries, and much of the world beyond our comfortable Western mindsets, it seems that we're being led humanely and fairly, with many of these fundamental needs met, and even some of the more aspirational, which is something we musn't take for granted.
Finally, one of the things that most puts people off politics is the fact that it's so difficult to agree completely with any single party. Many of the policies outlined in manifestos or in live debates seem difficult to choose from, and there always appears to be a compromise when we choose one party over another. However, the good news is that we have a God who is much bigger and much more powerful than anyone ruling over us! Romans 13:1 says, "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." It couldn't be clearer: everyone we are subject to is subject to God, and all authority is put there because he decided it should be.
Does this mean that we shouldn't vote, because it won't make any difference to God's plan? I would say that it's more important to think about who you should vote for, because this is the means by which authorities come to power. Thinking about which party best represents God's policy on different issues is a helpful way of looking at it. And, if you're completely stuck, we have a faithful helper and friend in God, and for me this is something that takes the pressure off when making my decision!
It's the first General Election in which I'm legally allowed to vote, and I'm excited about the opportunity. Although it's unlikely that the whole UK population will turn out this year, I'm hoping for an increase as people begin to realise how important it is to have a say in how our country in led. An estimated 80% of Christians surveyed by the Evangelical Alliance say they are certain to vote this year, compared to only 41% of the national population, so we have a responsibility to encourage others to take part. Bearing in mind the favour we've been given in our county from our history, our cultural make-up and above all, with God in charge, I think we're in a very privileged position and can't afford to waste this opportunity.
Click here for an article by Andrew Wilson giving helpful advice on how to vote.
Posted by Sian Francis-Cox