The referendum on the Voice to Parliament is fast approaching. If your experience is the same as mine, it’s a topic coming up in many conversations. I thought I’d make a few brief comments about it – not ‘how to vote’ comments but ‘how to think about voting’ comments. More specifically, how should our Biblical convictions shape how we approach discussions, and what issues do we consider when casting our vote?
What follows are a few thoughts and links to some resources that I have found informative and helpful. I hope and pray that, as believers, we will be able to honour God in how we speak and conduct ourselves both before and after October 14.
I have read various articles by Christian people. Some argue that if you are a Christian, there is only one ‘right’ way to vote (writers come down on both sides of the argument). My own view is that gospel-centred believers can validly arrive at different conclusions on the decision before us.
Here are a few things that have been significant in shaping my thinking:
1. Have compassion
There is widespread agreement that deep historical wrongs have been done to Indigenous people, which still have a significant impact today. Indigenous people, on the whole, are worse off than other Australians. They suffer higher infant mortality, lower life expectancy, higher incarceration rates and other entrenched disadvantage. Christians, along with many other Australians, will be keen to address these issues.
Jesus, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, urges his listeners to ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbour as yourself’ (Luke 10:27). Most, if not all, believers are concerned to care for Indigenous Australians. However, believers may have differences of opinion about the best way to achieve this and, therefore, vary in their thinking about whether they will vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on the constitutional Voice proposal.
When discussing the referendum with others, can I encourage us all to keep this as our starting point? It is easy to leapfrog over this concern for Indigenous Australians and launch straight into the arguments for why we are likely to vote one way or the other.
2. Do some thoughtful research
I say ‘some’ because there seems to be no end of articles, podcasts, news items and television programs being produced on a daily basis. The level of coverage is mentally fatiguing and emotionally draining. You can’t read and listen to everything. I have found the following to be helpful in providing me with ‘some’ information and perspective on the issues:
The Uluru Statement from the Heart.
The Australian Electoral Commission has published some ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ papers that provide essential information and background. You can find this information here.
Christian arguments for both sides
The Gospel Coalition of Australia website is an excellent go-to spot for Christian perspectives on a range of topics. Michael Jensen and Sandy Grant have both submitted recent articles. I respect both authors, and you will be able to see that one leans towards a ‘Yes’ vote while the other is inclined to vote ‘No’. These articles are not ‘shouty’ but reasoned and thoughtful pieces that attempt to combine information with theological reflection. You can find the articles here: Michael Jensen’s article and Sandy Grant’s article.
Some Trinity Network resources
Two of our Senior/Lead Pastors have worked on and produced some very helpful material. Des Smith has written a brief paper for the congregation at Trinity Church Lockleys, which you can find here. Geoff Lin spoke on the topic at Trinity Church Adelaide on September 24, and you can find the recording here.
3. Be careful how we speak
There has been a lot of rhetoric and divisive commentary around the Voice. Some have resorted to name-calling and manipulation. Christians should be measured and careful in what we say and write. When I say careful, I don’t mean dispassionate! But we do need to speak wisely in the lead-up to the referendum and afterwards.
In James 1:26, we read, ‘those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves and their religion is worthless’. The same applies to keyboards. Be thoughtful and loving as you engage in conversation on this topic.
If you are discussing this with other believers, remember you will spend eternity with one another. That is, while we may have differing views regarding the referendum, these views should not cause division among the family of God.
4. Maintain perspective
God has, in His kindness, given us an eternal perspective on life in this world. Lately, I have been reading through 1 and 2 Thessalonians. These letters talk a fair bit about the day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:2). In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 we are told we ‘belong to the day’.
Knowing that Jesus will return to the world to wind up history dominates our thinking and behaviour. We know that a day of final judgment looms. That has very clarifying power.
Of course, we will keep labouring for justice in this world. But we know that, from this eternal perspective, reconciliation with God through Jesus is the most critical issue for all Australians, whether Indigenous or otherwise. This will be of special significance in informing how we act and speak.
I realise my brief comments only scratch the surface, both in analysing the issues surrounding The Voice and what we are called to be as God’s people. Hopefully the referenced material will assist you in exploring things further.
I encourage us all to keep calling upon God that ‘the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (2 Thessalonians 1:12).