(Note: This PS was originally published on Steve Stockman's blog Soul Surmise and is used with permission.)
I am a roving voter who takes serious consideration of a range of issues before deciding who to vote for and in what order. Well, actually I vote for everyone. It is the order that is obviously crucial!
The first thing I have done over this campaign, and all those before it, is to neutralise the colours on the front of the manifesto leaflets and posters. I refuse to let our politicians insult my intelligence or use fear tactics in order to manipulate my vote. The UK/Irish border is NOT at stake in this election. If there is ever a Referendum on that issue we can surmise on it then. Not this Thursday!
We are more than orange and green and indeed if we are to find ourselves moving forward faster then we have to vote for parties who have gotten over the orange and green cards. Which leads me into my second consideration.
I always to vote for the candidate who has convinced me they are interested in the widest common good. As a follower of Jesus I have never been so self indulgent to vote for myself. There might be all kinds of reasons why a candidate or party suits me. They might make me richer, they might fly my flag, they might help me impose personal opinions.
There seems nowhere in Scriptures where I can find that kind of voting open to me. I am always drawn to Jeremiah 29 where the prophet calls the people of God in the alien place of exile to "Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." If the common good benefits, I too will benefit!
So, thirdly, I am looking down the manifestos or listening closely to the debates in order to see who might be closest to what Jesus was about. I will be holding the manifestos up side by side with Jesus first public declaration:
"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour."
Who is going to fulfil the Old Testament prophetic imagining that Jesus read here? For God throughout Scriptures the poor, the marginalised, indeed the widow, the orphan, the stranger are in the forefront of his laws. Who will be fighting for those whom God has a heart for in Stormont!
In a N. Irish context there is another huge issue to surmise before ordering my candidates. Luke 6 is also a vital text in any election here. As we move away from the violent trauma of our past, which candidate will be most likely to take Jesus call to love former enemies seriously.
"But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you."
The party or politician who puts reconciliation at the top of the agenda will always nudge my Biblical pencil with most force.
One last thing. I will have been listening throughout the campaign for the politicians who are most generous and gracious in their public debates and deliberations. A Christlike approach to other parties and fellow politicians will speak loudly into my decision making. The more I hear about the faults of the other politicians the more I district the weight of a politicians own case. When slander and a nasty approach to fellow politicians are used then I personally have heard enough.
As I consider my first preference and, just as important in PR elections, who is 2, 3, 4 and 5 I will be aware that no one candidate or party will encapsulate all that I would like to see.
However, I believe I have enough sieves in place to help me sort out the order. I also believe that with the differences I have with all the parties and politicians there is more than enough in common for me to find enough names to put a 1,2,3,4 or 5 beside and hope that our future might be better than our past.
Now... a few more days in listening, surmising and prayer!
Steve Stockman is minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church. He blogs at Soul Surmise and is an organiser of the Four Corner's Festival.