Voting as a discipline

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'Discipline' is a word which for many evokes physical revulsion. In our age of emancipation many of us expect to be entirely unrestrained by the impositions of institutions, organisations or persons. There is an implied order and responsibility to discipline which causes some of us to baulk and walk away. The gripe over discipline is that it is just too much like hard work (I visualise others in my life shaking their heads at such a notion as there's nothing they love more than to roll up their sleeves and get another job done).

The recent unstable nature of politics in the UK is due partly to a shift in atmosphere which stemmed from frustration around centre ground politics not effecting positive change, leading to a move to the far left (Corbyn's Labour) and far right politics (from Johnson's Government to the present). This is representative of trends in politics in the Western world.

When it comes to elections it truly does take a dogged determination to discern what information we can use to vote when sifting through the candidates, the party manifestos, and the inevitable mudslinging of those trying to gain an unfair advantage. Since I joined CARE in 2013 we have gone to the polls in: 2014 for a European Election; 2014 for the Independence Referendum; 2015 for a General Election; 2016 for the Brexit Referendum; 2016 for a Scottish Parliamentary Election; 2017 for a snap General Election; 2017 for local elections; 2019 for the UK's final European Election; 2019 another snap General Election; 2021 for a Scottish Parliamentary Election; and 2022 for local elections.

That's eleven times to the polls in a decade for those of us north of the border. And it's not much less for everyone else in the UK. And soon we are asked to cast our vote once again which will require discipline to muster up being bothered. That is especially the case if you believe that your vote has made little to no difference in the overall outcome during this time. Or perhaps your enthusiasm is sapped by the fact that there appears to be no one you believe you can have a little hope for in voting.

But let's think a bit more about the concept of discipline for a minute. When we're asked to pray for rulers and those in authority, usually that takes discipline. It doesn't appear self-evident. I do it because Paul implores me to do so as a follower of Jesus. I do it because I trust that as I act on his Spirit-inspired words I act like a little Jesus in this world. It's an act which brings me into alignment with how He wishes me to live in the world.

No one at any stage of following Jesus can rest easy. Such is the work that needs to be done to become more like Jesus. Our lives require rewiring. The whole self needs a thoroughgoing renovation!

So when it comes to our will and motivation, discipline should be an inherently positive term for the follower of Jesus. For living our lives according to His pattern and desire is right and good. In fact, it is the only way to be fully human at all! But it doesn't come naturally. And if we're out of practice in doing good (Galatians 6:10) it can be very difficult indeed! That's why the apostle describes such discipline with a boxer in training analogy: 'nor do I box as though beating the air,but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified' (1 Corinthians 9:26b-27).

It takes real effort to live in this world. Oftentimes we need to push ourselves to do what we ought in order to be in step with the Holy Spirit. Come General Election time, such a moment will present itself. Let us see the opportunity to get out and vote as one of those moments to steward the earth well. After all, the mandate to look after it is remains applicable today (see Genesis 9). So can we at the very least resolve to get up out of our comfy seat and cast our take on what should happen this General Election? Abraham Lincoln once said that "He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help." So rather than being armchair critics with no concrete action attached, can we get ourselves to the polls with some information to work with? And even if we need to drag ourselves through those school doors and pick up a small pencil to mark up a sheet, let's rouse ourselves to do so. Discipline is required this General Election.

Find a range of resources to help you think, act, and pray before you cast your vote at CARE's dedicated election website: engaGE24

Stuart Weir is Head of CARE for Scotland