Is there a Christian response to the result of the Irish general election? Should there be a Christian response to the election result?
In a country where clerical interference in politics damaged both the state and the church, there is a need for Christians to be circumspect about any political comment whatsoever, but, without the danger of engaging in the politics of parties or policies, there is the possibility of looking at general principles that should shape Christian thinking.
The Sermon on the Mount in Saint Matthew’s Gospel is at the heart of the teaching of Jesus and in the course of his teaching to the crowds listening to him, he makes a point that might be applied to all political discussions. In Saint Matthew Chapter 5 Verse 37, Jesus says, “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” Jesus’ call for plain speaking comes in the context of people swearing oaths, he is telling them that oaths should not be necessary for people who speak the plain truth.
“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No,'” Jesus is asking for honesty, transparency and integrity. Applied to politics, what does this mean? It means politics based on ideas, on philosophies, on arguments that are coherent and transparent, it does not mean the politics of personalities, populism or deals done for favours.
Irish politics has rarely been a matter of ideas to which people might say “yes” or “no,” instead it has been about two parties with no ideological difference competing for votes by trying to package politically similar policies in away that will attract voters and give the party the upper hand for the next five years. “Yes” and “no” might mean “yes” and “no”, or they might mean something entirely different, depending on what people want them to mean.
If Ireland is to have a political system that rests on competing ideas, competing views of how society is to be organised, then there needs to be a choice between parties whose policies stand Right of centre and those whose policies whose stand Left of centre. Such a concept is not radical, it is what happens in most parliamentary democracies around the world.
The principle that “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No,'” would exclude much that has featured in Irish political life in recent years, it would force politicians to be clear about their political philosophy and allow voters to judge on the basis of ideas.
A re-alignment is opposed most by those whose parties depend most on a political system free of normal politics. There is a fear it would play into the hands of Left-wing”extremists”, a fear that does an injustice to voters. Once normal politics emerged, a centre-Left movement would emerge to counterbalance the centre-Right who have dominated since the foundation of the state.
“All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No.'”