SA Voters’ Guide Critique #4: Free Market vs. Socialism

We continue our critique of the Christian Action document Biblical principles for Using Your Vote on http://www.savotersguide.com. The author’s fourth principle is ‘For Free Market (Against Socialism)’. Continue reading

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SA Voters’ Guide Critique #3: Education

We continue our critique of the Christian Action document Biblical principles for Using Your Vote on http://www.savotersguide.com. The author’s third point concerns the parties’ position on parent / state control of education.

The author’s heading of this section reads, ‘Education: Parent Controlled and for Religious Freedom’. His thinking here is rather mystifying. There seems to be something of a false dichotomy at work. It is not at all clear that parent-controlled education has anything to do with religious freedom, and nor is it a given that state-run education is opposed to religious freedom. But let’s have a look at what guidance is given us. Continue reading

SA Voters’ Guide Critique #2: Abortion

We continue our critique of the Christian Action document Biblical principles for Using Your Vote on http://www.savotersguide.com. The author’s second point concerns the parties’ opposition to abortion.

Is this principle Biblical?
Yes, it is. The Christian case against abortion rests on the idea that man is created in God’s image, and that man’s life is a gift of God from the womb. For Christians, human value rests in our created nature, and every living human being is worthy of protection.

Is it essential?
This certainly is an essential issue for Christians. However, I am hesitant to say that a Christian may not vote for a party that is pro-choice for the following reasons.

Christian arguments against abortion seem to begin with the Christian presuppositions mentioned above, and tend not to go any further than that. Peter Hammond’s article against abortion does just that. It begins with a brief Biblical case proving that abortion is murder in scripture, and then provides anecdotes from people who now regard abortion as despicable. In other words, the only argument of any kind is a scriptural one.

But given that we live in a plural society in which scripture is not acknowledged as authoritative, can we hold parties responsible for not listening to us if we have failed both to understand abortion from a secular viewpoint, and failed to argue in terms that are common to all? We have quoted scripture to a world that disbelieves it, but we have done little or nothing to actually persuade our nation of the wisdom of our beliefs.

Almost everyone agrees that a foetus is alive in its own right. We disagree over whether human life is worth protecting in itself. From a secular perspective, personhood depends upon the functioning of human memory, reason, will, self-awareness etc. If these elements are not present, a human might be alive, but it is not a person. Killing it, therefore, is much like killing an animal, which, while not desirable, is not usually illegal. If a family can’t afford to keep its dog and thus has it put down, we might frown upon the action, but we wouldn’t call it murder. If we want to outlaw abortion, we need to demonstrate why killing a thing that may not even have a functioning nervous system yet is worse than killing a pet, and as serious as killing the child’s mother.

Given that we generally fail to argue convincingly (or at all), we can hardly find political parties culpable for sustaining their own beliefs and rejecting ours. After all, we do much the same when reject Sharia Law because it holds no authority for us.

Abortion is important, but it is a relatively small part of governance in general, and so if there is a party that stands for justice (and which therefore might become convinced that abortion is unjust), a Christian might be able to suspend judgment upon their attitude to abortion until such time as we’ve made a properly reasoned case against abortion.

The rule here is for Christians to obey conscience in voting, and to work harder in persuading the world of our wisdom.

Has the author been fair?
In general, yes. However, a simple yes or no answer is often not satisfactory. For example, although he marks them as in favour of abortion, the IFP claims to be opposed to abortion but with limited exclusions, such as when the mother’s life is in danger. I would be interested to hear what Christian parties say about such extreme cases.

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.

What does that Coke cost?

I was just linked to an article by Johann Hari, who has once again managed to gall me into action. This time, it concerns two exposes of the serious degradation and injustice being perpetrated by soft-drink manufacturers in 3rd-world countries. We certainly need to think harder about where all of our wonderful luxury items come from, and what they truly cost.

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-my-new-year-resolution-is-to-lose-my-bottle-ndash-and-quit-coke-1219991.html

[Please read the article below, quoted in full.] Continue reading

Third Degree Burns

The following is a letter I just wrote in order to complain about that TV show 3rd Degree. I hope it’s not too rude, but really, if we don’t stand up for genuine enquiry instead of bigoted tyrades, then can we complain when the quality of thinking is so poor? Continue reading