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Conscience votes that count

September 15

Conscience votes that count - and a new species of "Pledge Card?"

Christians have been encouraged to do what politicians sometimes do - create their own pledge cards, and exercise a "conscience vote" at Saturday's poll.

Dr Anthony Dancer, the Social Justice Commissioner for the Anglican Church, says both major parties are

"desperate for power. But what kind of power do they exercise? Who does it serve? Who does it liberate? And what kind of power did Jesus exercise? Who did He liberate?"
The answers, he suggests, are found in Gospel passages where Jesus announced that his mission was to the downtrodden and excluded and involved "preaching good news to the poor"*. Elsewhere, Jesus tells his followers that whatever they do "for the least of these" He regards as having been "done for me." **

"God's justice," says Dr Dancer, "is at the heart of God's Kingdom."
And so he suggests that Christians, and people of good will, might create their own mental "pledge card" by which they measure the various parties' own pledges. That might include, he suggests:

- "Considering the policies and personalities on offer in the light of the values of the Kingdom.
- "Thinking more about how the various proposals will affect the most vulnerable and marginalised in society - and less about what benefits there could be for middle-income New Zealand.
- "Considering how the parties will care for creation - what will be the immediate and long term, direct and indirect costs to the environment of what they propose.
- "Looking at how the parties propose to deal with refugees and immigrants whom the Gospel calls us to welcome at our table. Jesus himself was a refugee."

Dr Dancer acknowledges that many Christians are disturbed by what they see as Labour's "atheistic liberal agenda" in legalising prostitution, for example, and instituting civil unions.

"Some," he says, "view Labour's social policies as a form of "social engineering' and will use their influence as voters to reject it."

National, on the other hand, is vulnerable to charges that it does not care "for the least of these," says Dr Dancer.

"The National commitment to the abolition of the Maori seats, for example, must be viewed in that light. When the interests of minorities and those on the margins are not represented and safeguarded - when they have no voice - then democracy has failed the "least of these.'"

Dr Dancer also sees the democratic benefits of MMP being eroded in the photofinish between Labour and National.

"Giving up on MMP is a mistake," he says, "but using the system is hard and challenging work."

"Fundamentally, it means voting for what we actually believe in, not simply for one of the main parties as the "lesser of two evils.'

"As Karl Barth once pointed out, the greatest service the Church can give to the State, is to hold it to account. Voting for what you really believe in, voting with your conscience, does that. It calls the State to account."


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