Since the General Elections in Barbados on May 24, there has been much political and economic analysis on the outcome of those elections, but perhaps there is a theological angle to the outcome that is worthy of some consideration as well. Never before in the history of elective politics in Barbados have we witnessed such a large number of professed Christians (either as a collective or as individuals) entering the political fray as candidates. The sheer number of such ‘people of faith’ into this arena offered the hope that what Jim Wallis calls a ‘politics of God’ would be articulated. Unlike many, I do not share the view that politics and political involvement should be the domain of only those outside of the Church. It amazes me that in 2018 there is still a debate over whether Christians should be involved in politics since there is no place, no sphere of human endeavour (activity) – not in the heavens, not in the earth, not under the earth over which God does not exercise His authority and control. Not even in hell can the spirit of self-rule exist (Clements). Jim Wallis in his book God’s Politics argues that the Bible reveals a very public God, but in an age of private spiritualties, the voice of that public God is often not heard. He asserts that religion usually serves more to silence the politics of God than to announce it to the nation and private religion avoids the public consequences of faith.
So is there really a politics of God? And did those politics have any impact on the recent general elections in Barbados? I have to say that I was sceptical and remain somewhat agnostic regarding some of the spiritual edicts, prophetic utterances and decrees I heard on the political platforms. For me, a question still remains whether what we heard coming from the lips of these men and women of faith was more about using God to justify their individual politics than articulating a distinctive politics of God which would transcend the kind of partisan political discourse to which we have become accustomed. The truth of the matter is that God’s idea of politics and government is not based on party identification or ideology – God is neither DLP nor BLP. He is simply concerned with the promotion and practice of just and righteous government; government that promotes love for God and the interests of people, particularly, those who are on the margins of society. Paul talks about this type of government in Romans 13. The contrast to that kind of good government is found in Revelations 13; it is a type of government that ischaracterised by wicked self-interests, even self-worship, and violates the rights and ambitions of citizens.
Sometimes lessons are taught in the negative and there are perhaps a few spiritual lessons that emerge from the recent elections, of which we should take note. First of all, an authentic politics of God will not accommodate prideful, arrogant displays of political posturing. Some of this was evident on the DLP platform, even though in my view, it was often shrouded in a mask of false humility. The political reasoning sought to convince a nation that the pain they were feeling and experiencing on a daily basis was not real – the only thing that really mattered was the perspective of the leader and the ‘gospel’ of the DLP. Pride always goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall, like with King Nebuchadnezzar, who stood on the roof of his palace in Babylon and shouted ‘Isn’t this the great Babylon which I have built’ ascribing unto himself things that only belonged to God. The Bible says that the words were no sooner off his lips when he went stark raving mad. His sanity returned seven years later when he looked up and acknowledged the Lordship of God. John Stott, whom the Rev. Billy Graham called ‘the theologian of the last century’, summed it up this way – ‘pride and madness go together, humility and reason’. The lesson we are to learn from Nebuchadnezzar’s and ultimately from Stuart’s experience is this: “those who walk in pride He is able to put down.” Jeremiah 4.
Secondly, politicians do not have the ultimate say in determining what is right and what is wrong in the eyes of God and the people. Righteousness still exalts a nation but sin in any form is a reproach to any people. Thankfully, it is God who sets the moral code and standard around which we as a people should live. He says. “Look, I am setting a plumb line among my people – I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line.” (Isaiah 28 vs. 17)
The authentic God politics, therefore, abhors and even rejects the preaching and practice of a selective morality. This was another area in which the DLP platform floundered. In some ways, it resembled the Pharisees in Luke 18 who, confident and obsessed in their own righteousness, looked down on the perceived misdeeds of everyone else. But morality is not simply a personal matter, there is a public side to morality as well. It is clear from the results of the election that the people felt that the issues surrounding public morality trumped the personal morality issues which predominated the DLP platform. Issues related to stewardship, accountability, perceptions of corruption, non-inclusion, not reining in the excesses of government and not acknowledging or appearing to care about the plight of ordinary people, were foremost in the voter’s mind. In the final analysis, the test of good government is about how the poor and most vulnerable in society are treated. “For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25: 35 -40)
The Christian response to evil government is always resistance, even civil disobedience. In the face of the oppressive regime of the Roman Emperor Domitian, the people decided that ‘if into prison we must go (for the sake of right) then into prison we must go and if by the sword we must die then by the sword we must die.’ (Rev. 13 vs. 10) – in other words, they were ready to die for their faith.
In contrast, the Bible encourages us that our response to the good model of government outlined in Romans 13 is to submit to that governing authority as a matter of conscience, for there is no authority except that which God has established. Our duty, therefore, must be to support and pray for our new Prime Minister the Hon. Mia Mottley and her administration – she deserves the space to craft a new vision for Barbados and to govern the country with reverence for God and in the interests of the people. God rule (theo-cracy) and people rule (demo-cracy) can often be at variance, yet there are those who believe like the old Latin proverb says, that ‘the voice of the people is the voice of God.’ I have to say with regard to the outcome of the last elections, that on this occasion, I am inclined to agree.
Graham A Clarke