Dear first-time voter, you’ve got a lot to think about
Ng Zhiwen // July 4, 2020, 1:37 am
Congratulations first-time voters!
Come Polling Day on July 10, you’ll exercise your legal requirement to vote for the first time. In this General Election, every constituency is being contested. So unless you are under quarantine or overseas in some ulu place, all of you will get to vote.
Isn’t this feeling of responsibility exciting? So I say, congratulations! But at the same time, I wish you well. Because you and I have been asked to do the impossible.
It sounds easy – just mark an “X” on the ballot paper. But think of all the considerations you could possibly have: Who are you electing? An individual, a team or a party?
And what are you electing them to do? To address constituency issues like town council management, community lopment and helping the needy in the neighbourhood? Is it for representation in Parliament? To govern as a key political office holder?
Complicated right? And that’s not all – how do you even decide who to vote for?
There are just so many questions!
How do you assess individuals? Between two candidates or between two groups of candidates? Character? Competence? Charisma?
Do they want to do good? Have they done good? Or do they just look good? What about commitment and conviction? What good will they promise to do if elected? (This is usually reflected in party manifestos and campaign speeches.)
And how will you tell that you chose the better option? What information do you base your assessments on? Is it what you’ve observe over 10 days of campaigning – or the past five years (have you been keeping track)?
Have you met any of these individuals before? Or are you relying on the news and social media – and what have you been fed with?
Aiyoh. All this amounts to a very complex matter when you enter the polling station and have to choose where to mark your X.
I hope that reading this will get you to do your “homework” before July 10. Don’t head to the polls just relying on snapshots and slogans.
But if it is any assurance – you are not going through this alone. The whole nation is.
Now, here’s the even more impossible task (and more important): How shall I think and act Christianly throughout the General Election?
The system is set up to be adversarial, but we need not let that dictate how we act.
Sad to say, in the heat of the hustings it is easy to go haywire. I have seen heated exchanges, name calling and families fighting and arguing just because they don’t all support the same party.
Sadder still, is when Christians do it. I’ve seen it happen.
What good is it if you gain your favoured candidate but lose your soul? God help us. So let me share some thoughts on getting about this task of voting.
FAITH: DON’T LEAVE IT OUT OF POLITICS
Biblically, faith is more than just belief. It means allegiance, commitment. Not to a party or individual politicians, but primarily to our Lord, Jesus Christ, to whom all earthly governments, authorities and candidates are accountable.
The heat of the hustings can make us lose sight of ourselves – of who we are in Christ. We must exercise our voting rights with a clear mind.
Live guided by Romans 13 and Revelation 13: Between honouring the authorities as appointed by God, and resisting them when they are bent on evil against the ways of God.
This tension helps to frame the way we relate to government and political parties.
Young people, here’s a biblical example: Consider how Daniel (probably in his 20s to 30s) engaged the mad king Nebuchadnezzar on governance (Daniel 4:26-27).
HOPE: VOTE AS CITIZENS OF HEAVEN
The General Election comes every five years, but throughout the rest of the time we should be seeking the welfare of our nation – showing others a foretaste of what heaven is like.
Who we vote for and how we vote should merely reflect our calling and hope. With heaven in mind, I’d vote knowing that the only real hope for the nation is the Lord.
When Jesus announced the Good News that the kingdom of God was at hand, it was a challenge to the powers of the day – that they were not doing what kings and powers ought to be doing.
We are looking to a better King and kingdom yet to come – when heaven comes down.
In the meantime, we have been given this curious democratic responsibility of voting for who should lead us… which Caesar shall it be?
I would vote for whoever I think best reflects the kingship of Christ, having observed how they lead and serve.
What drives their heart to serve? Watch what they have actually been doing with their lives – will they truly serve for the good of the people?
I’d vote for the party that best exudes the spirit of the kingdom of God. I’m looking out for how it conducts itself collectively, how it communicates with grace and truth.
I’d examine the extent to which the party prioritises kingdom values – faith, hope and love. I’d watch for how it confronts and opposes evil, and how it faces its opponents.
All of what I observe should only stir up my longing for the return of the true King. You can read more on this topic from my buddy, Pastor Dev Menon.
LOVE: REMEMBER YOUR NEIGHBOUR
We should not just be interested in who we vote for, but also in how we conduct ourselves during the campaigning. Yes, I mean we the voters.
It is often said that in politics, it is par for the course for people and politicians to be scrutinised for “dirt”, attacked and undermined.
The system is set up to be adversarial (us versus them), but we need not accept it as it is. We need not let that dictate how we act. There are better and more gracious ways of showing disagreement, pointing out un-truths and confronting evil.
The descent to nastiness is steep and slippery. How fast we are to undermine and put others down, to twist words and meanings, to attribute the worst intentions to the “other side”. We are swift to accuse others without examining ourselves and even utter curses.
It breaks my heart most when I see this happen between Christians!
Depending on how our instincts have been formed, when we hear or read such things, we may either shrink away as one avoiding poison, or secretly indulge in them. Which will it be for you?
Here’s a simple action step you may take: Pray for the candidates on all sides. Pray for the parties. In God’s presence, on bended knee, pray for them, remembering that we are all made in the image of God.
And remember that we wrestle not against flesh and blood. But against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
This same darkness seeks to infect and divide all persons – you and I – regardless of party allegiance. It can also threaten to divide the body of Christ.
So remember who the real enemy is. Choose faith, hope and love to be the mark of the Church for such a time.
This reflection was first shared at a Zoom meeting with a group of Christian young adults who are all first-time voters. The full version has been published on Zhiwen’s Facebook page.