Ten reasons why Jesus might not vote Labour

By Jonathan Bartley
April 4, 2010

Andy Flannagan, director of the Christian Socialist Movement, has written a good blog on Labour List about why ‘Jesus might vote Labour’.

Predictably, some people will respond by saying he is claiming Jesus is the domain of one political party. That of course, is not what Andy is saying.

As he points out Jesus cannot be co-opted, most notably in the way that the church has been for centuries, for the cause of politicians. But as Andy highlights, Jesus can raise questions and challenge agendas. And it is helpful to have these kinds of conversations, as it helps expose values and perspectives.

There is a lot that Labour has done which is good. But in response to Andy, here are my ten (big) reasons why Jesus might not vote Labour (and indeed might not vote for a number of other political parties either):

1. Jesus’ teachings about peacemaking, love of enemies, and turning the other cheek cannot be easily squared with the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan.

2. Jesus' teachings cannot be easily reconciled with underwriting the commercial arms trade, maintaining nuclear weapons or renewing/replacing Trident.

3. Jesus would probably not have bowed down at the altar of economic growth, technological progress and wealth creation. He is more likely to have challenged robustly the capitalist economic model which Labour has bought into, and which led the global economy to the brink of disaster. He would no doubt have robustly challenged a system based on credit/usury.

4. Jesus would probably have challenged the idea of decisions being made first and foremost in the national interest. He appeared to teach that all are made in the image of God and of equal worth, regardless of where they live. The parable of the Good Samaritan was about love of neighbours beyond one’s borders.

5. Jesus would probably oppose the idea of migration controls based upon where a person was born, also on the basis of 4.

6. Jesus challenged the tribalism of the parties of his day. The Apostle Paul similarly challenged ‘party spirit’ robustly. Labour has however pursued policies that have created more, not less, party spirit. It has introduced party lists in elections, and sought to control candidate selection from the centre in its own party.

7. Jesus seemed to believe that minority voices should be heard and represented fairly. Labour broke its promise for a referendum on a proportional system of voting for Westminster in its 1997 manifesto. The best it has come up with 13 years later is AV, which would still fail to give minority parties a political voice.

8. Jesus would probably not have approved of the detention of children, a policy which Labour defends. Again, some of his harshest words were reserved for those who would treat children badly.

9. Jesus seemed to advocate freedom for captives, not more prisons. His approach to criminal justice was not so much punishment-based, as restorative. He certainly wouldn’t have pandered to the Daily Mail. I doubt he would have supported the stigmatisation of those undertaking community sentences.

10. Jesus would almost certainly have challenged the privileging of religion which Labour has supported – whether it be ongoing reserved places for religious leaders sitting unaccountably in the House of Lords or the promotion of religious schools which discriminated in employment and admissions against the non-religious population as well as other religious people. Some of his most challenging words were of course reserved for religious people who put their own interests first.

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