Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Why Politics? II

Yesterday, I posted the first half of a talk I gave on Friday night at the State Election Forum hosted by my church. Here is the second half.

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But there is another way, as hinted at in our language of public servants and commonweal. Politics can be more than self-interest. Leadership can be about more than lining my own pocket, or having my ego massaged. It is possible for us to deliberate together about the common good, to ask what is best for society, indeed, not just for our nation, but for the whole human community. Such questions are, of course, often very complicated and difficult, and we are likely to often, even usually, reach different conclusions about what is the best course of action. Yet it is possible to elect servants who will represent us - not by simply mirroring the desires of every vocal interest group – but who represent us by being entrusted with the task of making wise judgements about what will serve the common good.

This vision of the common weal, the common good, of the greatest leader being the one who serves, is deeply rooted in Christian assumptions about authority and makes most sense when placed in the context of Jesus’ own example of using his power in service of others. I’d like to finish briefly by offering an answer to the question ‘why politics?’ with which we began.

As a Christian, I bother with politics, I put effort to thinking about how I vote, and take my political involvement beyond voting, because of Jesus second great command: to love my neighbour as myself. The decisions made across the road in the Town Hall, over in Macquarie Street* and down in Canberra affect us all in a huge variety of different ways. While I might feel pretty comfortable and have the luxury of cynicism, thinking that exchanging one set of politicians for another won’t make any difference, my many neighbours in need don’t have that luxury. It is because I trust Jesus that I seek to make a difference for my neighbour. Of course, voting, and formal political involvement is only one aspect of doing that, but it is one that we can’t avoid.
*The NSW Parliament is found in Macquarie Street, hence together with the Leichhardt Town Hall and Federal Parliament in Canberra, these represent the three levels of government in Australia.

I hope that tonight, we have a chance to start deliberating together, thinking about a couple of the issues that face our area and our state. As we do so, I’d like to encourage all of us, whatever our background, to think beyond our own preferences and desires and consider the common good: asking the question, how can I love my neighbour through my politics? This may be slightly scary exercise for some, because the danger is, if I don’t look out for myself, who will? The good news is that we are free to take this dangerous step of thinking more about our neighbour’s need than our own because Jesus has served us all. He has provided everything we truly need. If that’s a foreign idea or even ridiculous idea for you, then come and check it out. Try being part of a Christian community for a while and see whether mutual service makes sense in the light of the one who is the true prime minister.

So, as we start to engage with the issues, with the candidates, with one another, let’s keep asking the question: what will be best for all of us, not just me.
Apologies for the lack of pictures recently. Blogger wasn't letting me upload anything for about a week. Now that it seems to be working again, ten points for the historical figure in the statue down the bottom of the picture.

5 comments:

Anthony said...

Richard I - or his horse - but I assume Richard is the historical figure you're after...

byron said...

You're good. Very good. Ten points.

Bill said...

Great speach Byron, I'm sorry I missed the night. How did the candidates respond to your introduction in their speaches or question time?

byron said...

Unfortunately, all three candidates were late and so missed my intro. Oh well...

Mister Tim said...

Good speech.

A shame they mised the intro, but how do you think the candidates found/treated the night overall?