This election campaign I’ve been struck by a number of things: David Cunliffe’s expressive neck, Peter Dunn’s impeccable hair, Collin Craig’s awkward ‘Mr Burn’s’ like walk. But I’m always intrigued by how quickly the media (and other people) lazily stereotype the “Christian vote” as automatically being of the Conservative Party persuasion. For example, last election I was involved in an event that saw around 300 young adult Christians surveyed over who they were going to vote for. And it showed a surprising shift in the way young people of faith were voting.
Any chump will see a big split between the majority Greenies on the left, and then the National blue bloods on the right, with poor old Labour pretty much being left to wither & die in the middle. (Note: this was after the glory days of United Future, and before the Collin Craig Conservatives had come to town proper)
Now, I’d imagine that John Key would probably see this as business as usual. But, a party who’s roots were probably more in the humanist camp, has accidentally found themselves attracting a big chunk of the younger Christian vote? I suspect the Green Party would be pretty darn surprised by those numbers, and this seems to signal that a wider range of ideas are getting traction when it comes to the way faith and politics mix for the next generation of voters.
I realise for some older Christian voters seeing so many votes going the Greens way will probably give them chills (this was before the abortion policy flared up too), but let me give some quick thoughts on why the surge.
In the past many kiwi Christians have sort of imposed the American political scene onto our own - assuming the politics of the right has equalled family values, a conservative social ethic and economic stewardship.
But in recent times Millenial’s have resonated deeply with a theology that has a heavy emphasis on holistic Shalom and the Kingdom of God: social justice, Jesus’ bias towards the poor, care of creation, the Good News embodied. And what are the NZ Green party's big three catch phrases? A fairer society, a greener economy, and a cleaner environment. So even though I doubt this was ever the Green parties intention with these policies - it’s pretty understandable that some young Christians who have been told God is deeply concerned with unjust social structures, environmental care and those in poverty would see them as the party who most overtly articulates these Gospel values.
Every major party is made up of strange bedfellows with strangely convergent interests. For the Nat’s it’s corporate stockbrokers and farmers, for Labour it’s coal miners and the LGBT community, for United Future it’s family value Christians and duck hunters. So, when the Greens announced their abortion policy a few months back - it made huge waves in the Green voting Christian community - as people wrestled with what seemed to connect deeply with Kingdom values on one hand, and seemed to go contrary to Christian ethics on the other.
Anyway, it proves we shouldn’t swallow the overly simplistic stereotypes of voting blocks that are often dished up by the likes of Newstalk ZB. And that for all of MMP’s foibles, it’s blessed us with at least one great thing:
Way more options when it comes to allowing Christians to express and articulate the kind of country we think God wants New Zealand to be. It’s just the choice isn’t always black and white. Or blue and red.
Have you taken the time to read up on all the various political parties? What issues do you think are most important this year? What policies will sway your vote? (For a larger version of the image at the top click here.
This one's easy: get up and vote tomorrow. And have fun watching the vote counting on election night. Why not make it an event?
Rev Spanky Moore is the young adults ministry guy for the Anglican church in Christchurch and has just started as the chaplain at the University of Canterbury. He’s spent the past four years wrestling with the questions and tensions that happen when you mix young adults, faith and the church through things like the Society of Salt and Light and the Thirsty Workers Guild. He loves to think about the way church, mission and culture shape & fight each other, and also has a widely acclaimed beard.
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