SA Voters’ Guide Critique #1: Acknowledgement of God

It’s nearly time to vote again, and so Christians are once again asking how they should use their vote. Unfortunately, there is not much that has been written with the intention of guiding specifically Christian voters through the complicated web of party politics. What is even more unfortunate is that the document that inevitably fills this void is so unforgivably bad.

It comes from Christian Action, and can be found on http://www.savotersguide.com. Seeing as it is such a well-known and widely distributed document among South African Christians, I decided to take a closer look at it this election year.

The author touts the document as ‘Biblical Principles For Using Your Vote’, so I will proceed by examining each of the eight principles that he’s chosen to see whether it is indeed Biblical; whether or not it is essential for a Christian to affirm what the author affirms; and then whether or not he has fairly represented the evidence from the parties. There are eight principles, so I will look at them each in turn over the next few posts.

#1. Acknowledgment of Almighty God in the Constitution

The first principle is whether or not the party acknowledges God in the Constitution.

Is this principle Biblical and essential?
The key verse chosen by the author is, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” (Psalm 33:12). Of course this verse is true, but it is important to remember that we are not voting for a national religion, and neither would we want to use voting for that purpose. It would be wonderful if all South Africans knew the blessing of having the Lord as their God, but this is not so, and a political party could never achieve this end. If a Christian party came into power, would we have a ‘nation whose God is the Lord’? No, we would not. Is it legitimate then to insert it as a token in the Constitution?

Given that it is the role of government to provide laws that govern all the peoples of South Africa fairly, and given that we have a nation of multiple religions, it is essential that the Constitution be framed in terms that serve all of South Africa’s people. It is not Biblical to allow every religion to fill the title ‘Almighty God’ with whatever content suits them, so Christian parties would either insist that the nation is constituted under the Triune God (an idea that much of the nation would oppose), or they would have to regard this clause as unnecessary. So, this is not an essential issue for Christians, given the nature of our country. It is right and just to make Constitutional provision for people of all beliefs, not just Christians, and it is right not to discriminate by showing one religion favour.

We should rather be asking whether the parties promote freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Without these, we are unable to exercise our faith and to carry out the Great Commission, and yet it avoids the injustice of any party showing favouritism to one religion within plural society.

Has the author been fair?
The parties to which the author gives a ‘No’ status have voted against making this clause an essential part of the Constitution. It does not give any indication of their disposition towards Christianity in general.

Christians therefore need to be sure that they vote for a party that protects gospel freedom in South Africa, but not be concerned about their position on the Constitutional enshrinement of the Christian God.

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3 thoughts on “SA Voters’ Guide Critique #1: Acknowledgement of God

  1. RevGrant says:

    Jordan – thanks for this; how much we need more thoughtful biblical approaches to the issues of our country instead of the usual stuff which is often political conservativism dressed up in Christianese!

  2. Michael Wiles says:

    Are there not two main schools of thought on this issue, the issue of what party to support.

    The one view says I want God’s laws to be the Countries laws and I will only support a party which has that agenda, while the other says, I don’t expect God’s laws to be the laws of the country – it is not mandatory requirement that a party has that agenda.

    I think your critiques in general are a very strong defense of the latter approach while, AFAIK the SA voter guide that you’re dealing with takes the former approach?

    • Jordan Pickering says:

      Yes, good comment. I’m sure you’re right. I stand to be corrected, but I think that the extreme right are called Reconstructionists (maybe because they’re trying to reconstruct Israel-like theocracies, I’m not sure). Either way, not even Israel was ruled involuntarily by God’s Law, and I think that it is a deep error to try to create a government in this way. Don’t get me wrong, I think that God’s law is good and wise, but we have a nation of nations in South Africa, not a homogenous people group, so our laws must be instituted because they are seen to be wise for everyone, not because they are God’s laws. Otherwise we are trying to rule for God by force, which is, I think, not our calling, and not good for the gospel.

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