First published as a Guest Post on Think Theology on Tuesday 23 May 2017
This election is surely going to be remembered as the Brexit Election. It remains to be seen whether Prime Minister Theresa May manages to get that landslide majority that she wants for the EU negotiations already underway.
There is the drumbeat of possible independence from the United Kingdom as a whole, not only in Scotland but also in Northern Ireland.
While the EU Referendum was followed by resignations of the leaders of the Conservatives and UKIP, the future of the Labour Party and of UKIP now seem at stake over the election results and how those results are then interpreted.
The careers of many Westminster politicians and parliamentary candidates ride on the tide of how voter opinions are functioning en masse. Especially for those MPs defending relatively small majorities, this is a special time to give account for what they have achieved in just two years.
Maybe all too buried beneath the rhetoric of much campaigning and party politics at the moment, the following topics deserve some substantial discussion in my opinion:
• Increasing debt in the economy. The UK national debt is getting worse, not better. That is the total amount of money borrowed by the British Government at any given time. It currently costs about 5% of tax income just to help service this debt.
• Education. Problems of identity for teenagers have been building for some decades, but these have now become even more acute due to the latest addition of gender identity questions. The situation seems set to get even worse.
• Health. The prescription of anti-depressant drugs in the UK has risen hugely, a 93% increase between 2005 and 2015 (extrapolated from figures given by James Meikle in The Guardian on the 5th July 2016). Individuals needing such help deserve more of our attention. There has been little interest shown so far in identifying what relational and lifestyle choices and factors have contributed to this vast increase.
• Artificial Intelligence. AI is helping to produce a new kind of revolution that will have many positives but will also deprive many of their existing jobs.
• Elections. We have a big proportion of adults in the nation who are too unengaged to vote. When someone comes along trying to appeal to them, this individual is cynically labelled as a populist. Serious work needs to be done to engage the large number of unengaged people. Otherwise, we also may end up reflecting the despair of other prominent nations that have voted into office an outsider, with the attendant risks for ourselves and the world that that entails.
Most of us are not standing for any parliamentary election at this moment. However, I wonder how it would be if God turned to us and asked us to give an exact account of how we have personally contributed to the spiritual health of our nation over the past two years. In the UK, I suggest that the church is doing very well in some separate pockets but not so brilliantly in its collective effect.
It is very important for us to exercise our influence by voting, even though Christian support is happily not all concentrated inside one political party. Beyond the General Election, we have much work to do in helping to change our society, at all levels of politics. There is plenty of opportunity for our engagement in that, without our contribution just being characterised by protest.