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‘Are we asking our politicians for what is truly just?’

by
01 May 2015

Appeals to self-interest have drowned out bigger concerns, suggests Lorraine Cavanagh

ONLY the Green Party majors in its manifesto on the idea of the common good, even if the connections it makes - or fails to make - between the common good and climate change are somewhat tenuous.

This does not help to assuage the collective unease that comes from not knowing what to think about politics in general and, more specifically, about climate change, and the conflicts that exacerbate it.

Climate change and defence are bound up in a single, but complex, moral imperative. Much of our unease derives from the fear and uncertainty generated by the turmoil in Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. No one party can, or should, proffer an instant solution on how to best defend ourselves against President Putin, or support our vulnerable distant neighbours in the face of barbarism and religious persecution.

Nevertheless, defence and its environmental repercussions ultimately define what we ask of our politicians. The difficulty lies in knowing what it is that we really expect of them, and whether we ask and expect what is truly just, and therefore makes for peace and stability.

So far, defence and foreign policy have not figured prominently among the questions put to leaders in public debates. The priorities set by most party manifestos suggest that health-care, housing, and maintaining a far higher standard of living than is even imaginable to those who live in conflict zones is what will ultimately decide the individual vote.

But these narrow and perhaps selfish priorities only serve to exacerbate a prevailing sense of political uncertainty. We are afraid for our pocket books, and many of us feel uneasy and a little guilty about this fear. We expect the next government, however it is composed, to square these two negative emotions for us.

But are such limited expectations, along with such a timid view of our collective life, worthy of us as human beings?

The Churches and other faith communities can help to reverse the kind of negative mindset which is both a cause and a symptom of the current political uncertainty. Together, they can speak of a just and merciful God who is outside the machine of self-interested politics, and who sets, in the most profound sense, the precedents by which his people should be governed.

We should test the policies of our preferred party or politician against these precedents. We should then take the trouble to vote for them on 7 May.

The Revd Lorraine Cavanagh is an Anglican priest in the Church in Wales. She blogs at http://jobbingtheologian.blogspot.co.uk; Twitter: @LorraineCavana2

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