Should I vote for a Christian candidate?

A polling station at a church in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.(Photo: Getty/iStock)

As we head towards another general election it seems as though there are particular issues for Christians, one of which is the question of who we should vote for and whether we should vote for someone specifically because they are a Christian.

I recall being invited to vote for someone at the University of Edinburgh whose sole pitch seemed to be 'I am a Christian, therefore I am honest'! He had no experience of student politics, yet was standing for a senior post on the basis of this rather flimsy manifesto. I didn't vote for him and he didn't get elected.

On the other hand, I have known fine, committed Christians, not just CINOs (Christian in Name Only) who have stood for, and won elections in most political parties. Tim Farron of the Lib Dems, Murdo Fraser of the Conservatives, Marsha de Cordova (Labour), and of course Kate Forbes of the SNP.

At one level I am more inclined to vote for a Christian because they would generally share the Christian values I would regard as important – but there are factors that might encourage me to vote for someone else. It's not just the person, it's also the policies and the parties.

The problem is that over the past few years in the UK it has become increasingly difficult for Christians to be involved in mainstream political parties – as the candidate selection process often seems to flag up Christianity as a negative factor. This is not new.

When David Cameron was desperate to show how compassionate/woke/normal the Tories were, I recall a prospective MP writing to me and asking me to remove her name from my website. It was only there because of a report I had given of speaking at her church, seven years previously, and she was only mentioned in passing as someone I was impressed with. Who would read that?

She explained that some activist groups were using search engines to try and find any dirt to lay on a prospective candidate – and even being mentioned in the past on a 'controversial' (i.e. Bible teaching) website would be a factor. Of course I complied, but she still didn't get the post.

I think of another very active Christian Green councillor who was forced to withdraw from her job because of her Christian views. Or the Labour politician who was opposed to abortion and faced a deselection process. Or the most recent example, the Lib-Dem David Campanale, who despite being an award-winning BBC journalist, looks as though he is going to be cancelled by his party because, in the words of one activist, he is a 'Christian nutter'. It makes me wonder why any Christian would vote for a party where they are so despised and discriminated against?

Here in Australia I have been reading the former Prime Minister, Scott Morrison's account of his time in power, Plans For Your Good: A Prime Minister's Testimony of God's Faithfulness. It is a fascinating overtly Christian perspective. One thing that stands out for me is the level of abuse that came 'Sco-Mo's' way, not so much because of his policies, but rather because of his Christianity. The lion's den exists for Christians in modern Western politics!

One of the difficulties that Christian politicians can have is that they are demonised by some anti-Christians for being too Christian on the one hand, and criticised by their fellow believers for not being Christian enough on the other. Politics is the art of compromise and what is possible. It's all very well for those on the outside to snipe and shoot arrows at those who have actually got involved and got their hands dirty, but it really doesn't help.

It shows an immaturity and impracticality that makes life even more difficult for those Christians who are seeking to make a difference. Of course they will make mistakes, but then so do we – and perhaps all of us need a little more humility because sometimes we just don't know what is going on. We should pray for our Christian brothers and sisters who are involved in the dirty business of politics, that they may be kept faithful, bold and loving. May they be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

An example of a young Christian woman who has had a remarkable impact on politics in Scotland is the Scottish Deputy First Minister, Kate Forbes. When Kate stated in an interview that she prayed to Jesus before deciding to stand, she was subjected to vile abuse to the extent that she was under great pressure to withdraw from the SNP leadership election. But she stuck to her guns and behaved with dignity, grace and clarity. As a result, she came within a whisker of winning, and if the SNP leadership had not shortened the election time, most commentators think she would have won. As a result of that, her personal and political credibility has risen to new heights.

In fact, Fraser Nelson of the Spectator thinks Forbes may actually be the game changer in the religion and politics debate. In a recent column he wrote: "Forbes may well never end up as first minister and, if she does, the SNP may still be doomed. But she has proven an important point: it's OK, now, to do God."

We can only pray so! May the Lord raise up many more 'Daniels' like her.

David Robertson is the minister of Scots Kirk Presbyterian Church in Newcastle, New South Wales. He blogs at The Wee Flea.