There's no doubting that among many Britons, Barack Obama is seen as the man for the job. In fact he's the most popular candidate across Europe. In a recent survey of British attitudes towards the candidates Obama would win the election by a landslide if Britons voted. (I'm sure there is some relief in the States that we don't get to vote!) Why might this be?
Well, according to the same research, Britons are more liberal in their voting strategies than Americans. Here are some figures:
In other areas there are big differences. 7% of Britons would not vote for a divorced person (compared with 30% in the States), 23% would not vote for a gay or lesbian leader (compared with 43% in the States), and 20% of the British public would not vote for a political leader who was an atheist (compared with 53% in the States).
There's some encouragement for me in these numbers, albeit possibly a little odd for me to say so. I'm encouraged because the statistics about British voters suggest that we are less likely to focus on a single issue than I thought we might be. On the other hand the survey does not discriminate between how Christians (evangelical Christians particularly) compare to the general population. Having sat in various political pre-election meetings and listened to the questions Christians ask, I suspect that there's a lot of single issue focus to many an evangelical vote. And that bothers me.
It bothers me because I'm concerned that some of those single issues are not the issues that matter to God. He's probably a little miffed that many people don't give him the recognition he deserves for his creative work in establishing the universe, but I suspect he doesn't see the teaching of creation in the classroom as a truly important political issue. I may be wrong.
On the other hand he does care about the poor and those who suffer injustice. Micah 6:8 ring any bells? Or what about Luke 4?
So I just wonder how different our elections would be if we sought to discover who had the policies that we believe would best fulfil God's heart for justice for the oppressed, the poor, the alienated and marginalised. I wonder how different foreign policy might be if we asked, "How can we help you?" rather than, "Why can't you be just like us?"
My prayer for all American voters is that they will take their responsibility seriously and vote with their hearts and minds engaged with those things that matter most to God. I know no single candidate will ever have the monopoly on these things and, dare I say, just because they express faith doesn't mean they will have it right by default either.
And when our election comes around, I hope that we too will look with fresh eyes at the choices we will have before us.