The countdown is on. There are just days left before we cast our votes and determine the political future of the country we call home. As the clock runs down, I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce you to six types of people I have met as I have been out and about in churches, university Christian Unions and festivals recently. Names have been changed to protect identities.
1 Calculating Chris
Chris is the holy grail of this election. All the parties seem to be targeting their efforts at winning his allegiance and securing his vote. Chris votes with his wallet in mind and his calculator in hand. He has done the maths and has added up the offers of the various parties. Is he going to be better off because of the tax cuts that the Conservatives are proposing, the end to austerity that Labour are promising or the rise in minimum wage that the Green party are pledging? If his family circumstances and lifestyle choices mean that he is quids in under one political party, then that will determine his support. He doesn't mind if his neighbour will be worse off or if the vulnerable in our society are protected. So long as the government can pledge to improve his bank balance, he will be happy.
The economy is of course an important factor of governance – but should our personal benefit really be the controlling factor in our decision making? What would it mean for Calculating Chris to love his neighbor as he weighs up the financial implications of the election? What will it take to help him think beyond his own wallet?
2. Idealistic Ida
Ida is not convinced that any of the politicians are worthy of her vote. "They are all a bunch of liars" is quoted in every conversation. The expenses scandal and the privileged background of many of those running for office have contributed to Ida's loss of confidence in the candidates. She knows all the stats: she knows that an Ipsos-MORI poll in January 2015 found that politicians are trusted less than estate agents, bankers and journalists. She is openly one of the 84 per cent of Britons who do not trust politicians to tell the truth. (Compare this 16 per cent trust with the 90 per cent trust that doctors and 86 per cent trust that teachers have. Even clergy received a 71 per cent trust rating.) Because of this, Ida is not going to bother to vote at all. She believes it won't make a difference – they are all as bad as each other, irrespective of which political color they sport.
It's hard to imagine what life would have been like in the Roman world. Soldiers could force you to carry their baggage, extortionate taxes were put on individuals and gruesome public executions were common place. Yet into this situation Paul writes that we are to submit to the authorities, pray for those in power, and live as model citizens; even though our citizenship is ultimately elsewhere. What would it take to remind Idealistic Ida that however bad our politicians may or may not be, they are nowhere near as brutal as those in New Testament times? Will she heed the Bible's call to faithfully play the part we have been given in the political process?
3. Single Issue Susan
Susan is very angry about gay marriage. She feels betrayed by the government because, in her eyes, the right processes were not followed and the right result was not achieved. Even her local MP didn't vote the way she wanted and so Susan is going to vote for someone else. Just like she did back in 1994 when the Sunday Trading Laws were changed. Susan is usually disinterested in politics but is happy to join in on campaigns for Christians to get their voice heard in the public sphere. Susan sees herself as a faithful foot soldier: she leaves the decision making to her church leaders and willingly follows along.
In the book of Acts, the Bereans are commended because they didn't just blindly listen to what Paul was saying, but diligently searched the scriptures to see if what he was saying was true. I wonder if Single Issue Susan has noticed that the parable of the Good Samaritan indicates that a good citizen and a good neighbour cares about the whole of a person's needs – their financial, social, educational and legal needs, not just the spiritual ones (he did not simply leave an evangelistic tract in the beaten man's hands). What would it take to help Single Issue Susan to reflect God's concern for the whole of our being – even if that means that our single-issue passion is overlooked?
4. Predestined Peter
Peter believes that God has ordained who will lead our country already. There's scripture to support his position: "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God." Romans 13.1. Peter thinks his vote counts for very little anyway, and if God has determined who is going to rule, then his vote actually counts for nothing. In fact he believes that any kind of political engagement is a waste of time. Someone once told him that these verses were used during the Second World War against the confessing church for daring to challenge Nazi rule, but he still believes that Christians should submit to authority, not challenge or contradict it.
The Bible definitely teaches that God has determined everything: from the dice throw in a game to who is going to be saved to the number of days that are allotted to us. But it doesn't go on to conclude therefore that human activity is a waste of time. Does Predestined Pete acknowledge that even though God may have decided who he has chosen for eternal life – the church is still to be active in mission? Does he agree that even though God knits us together in our mother's wombs, humans are still to be (Praise the Lord!) proactive in procreation? Perhaps Predestined Pete can also come to realise that the fact that God is in control does not exclude us from joining in God's work in building his Kingdom through voting.
5. Lazy Linda
All this politics is stuff is boring and uninteresting so Linda does not bother to vote at all. God wants her to happy and contented and so she will not worry herself about politics. In fact, to worry would be a lack of faith. Anyway she has enough on her plate without reading pamphlets and debating manifestos and thinking about stupid things like job creation or boosting the economy. So rather than upset her joy and peace she will steer clear of all things political.
Does Lazy Linda not realize that whenever she sings that Jesus is Lord, she is making a subversive political statement? Does she not realise that her verbal confession must imply that Jesus is Lord of all (including politics) and that she is pledging to proclaim through lip and life his good and true reign in every sphere of our lives?
6. Clean Clive
Clive is concerned. Clive considers politics to be a dirty game and if Christians are to be holy and clean they should steer clear of the mess that is politics. Clive is upset about the state of the nation, but sees it as part of the culture's drift away from Christendom. Clive prays a lot. He prays that if this is the end of days, that Jesus would come back quickly and put all things right. In the mean time Clive shares his faith as often as possible because although he might not be able to change the world, he might be able to change someone's world. If he votes at all, it will be for a Christian candidate, preferably one that attends his church.
What would have happened if Jesus thought like Clean Clive - better to steer clear than enter our dirty and broken world? What would it take to remind Clean Clive that Jesus (the holiest and purest person that has ever existed and yet who still willingly entered our broken world to preach the gospel and do good – Acts 10:38) taught us to be salt and light in the world? Will he ever get his hands dirty by getting involved with broken and damaged people and systems and bringing change, like Jesus commanded?
Dr Krish Kandiah is president of London School of Theology and founder and director of Home for Good, a brand new charity helping to find loving homes for every child in care that needs one. You can follow him on Twitter: @krishk