Pledge to Vote for What You Believe In - Number 7 Henrietta Cullinan

By Press Office
May 1, 2015

With less than a week till the General Election, we are inviting people to pledge to vote for what they believe in, according to the values outlined in our election paper.

To help focus our thinking, we've invited commentators from across the political spectrum to explain how the values are integral to their electoral choices. We are publishing a selection of pledges not to endorse any one party but to demonstrate how different people have responded to our values and are pledging to vote according to their beliefs.

Today's pledger is Henrietta Cullinan, writer, peace activist and Ekklesia administrator.

I am pledging not to vote in this election.

I could go to the polling booth and write ‘none of the above’, but that would imply that I thought there was an ideal party which could represent me, just not present now. But this would be a delusion. I am pledging to make not vote because I am pledging to be the change I want to see myself.

In Ekklesia’s paper, Vote for What You Believe In, voting is an act of witness and ‘a signal of what it is you stand up for’. Refusing to vote counts as ‘a matter of conscience in particular circumstances’. But refusing to vote is also an act of witness. Refusing to vote is also standing up for something.

I am part of the wider Catholic Worker community in London. The Catholic worker is a movement in the Christian anarchist tradition. Through living alongside the poor and dispossessed, through nonviolent direct action, through being part of the sharing and giving economy, the London Catholic Worker’s act of witness is a daily example of lived resistance against the power and violence of the state. Through roundtable discussion and regular bible study, particularly the Sermon on the Mount I realise Jesus is leading me to follow an subversive, anarchist path. I am unable to vote for a party, for any party, that will inevitably do the opposite of what Jesus asks.

Jesus tells us very clearly not to swear, not to call people names, and not to judge "lest ye yourselves be judged". I cannot uphold a government that calls people names such as ‘illegal’ and ‘migrant’, that categorises and discriminates between our brothers and sisters, into citizen and migrant, deserving and undeserving poor. I cannot vote for a party that once in government that will appoint judges and jailers. I cannot vote for a party which when elected will make judgements on other countries, make judgements on who are the ‘bad guys’, who is the enemy.

Jesus says resist not evil. I cannot vote for a party which once in power will use violence in the deployment of an army or the instructing of a police force, equipped with Tasers and water canon, which will help others to use extreme violence through arms sales, which relies for protection through the threat of genocide, in the form of Trident.

It was reading this passage that made me realise I must go further than just dismiss the state. I must put myself, my body, alongside many other people, in the way of Trident, in the way of armed drones.

Discipleship means that we must ‘be the change’ as Ghandi said. We must persuade by ‘righteous example’ as Petr Chelcicky said in the 15th century. This is why we hear people say change has to come ‘from the bottom up’, from individuals and communities. In that case, since it is urgent that there is change, I refuse to vote. Instead I pledge to be my own vote, to enact my own vote, to share what I have as much as possible and step out of the mainstream economy.

There are already many examples of people who have stepped out of the way of the state, some through choice such as the Catholic Worker but some through necessity. Many thousands of marginalised and destitute, refugees and asylum seekers, those suffering from benefit sanctions for months at a time, have no option but to live by the informal economy and make do as best they can. Rather like ‘turning the other cheek’, another verse from the Sermon on the Mount, choosing a different way of life removes power from the state by making it irrelevant.

To vote for what I believe in I have to be the vote. Instead of casting my vote I have to cast myself. Instead of voting for a party I am going to vote for myself! All the things I would wish to vote for, I am going to carry them out myself. I’m going to concentrate my efforts on making changes myself, or as Emmanuel Mounier would say, on being the best that I can.

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* If you would like to pledge to vote for what you believe in, please leave a comment on our election website here or on our Facebook page or email your pledge to votebelief@gmail.com.

* More on the issues in the 2015 General Election from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/generalelection2015

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.