I am amazed by the stupidity and pastoral short-sightedness of some of my fellow clergy. Facebook is full of vicars telling people to Vote Labour, to remember how awful the Tories are, to realise that Clegg offers the only way forwards, to understand that Cameron has the only answers to Broken Britain.
Guys - if you want to be politicians, get a new job. If you want to have the right to tell everyone about Jesus, then don't alienate the majority of your flock with your party allegiance during an election.
Yes, it's amazing, but Jesus doesn't belong to one party. There is good across the board. Even in some of the extreme groups, I daresay, though I haven't looked long and hard. And when clergy get all hot and bothered and too closely alligned to one party (especially in the rather heated moments of the final stretch of an election) all it does is show everyone that they are about as much to be believed generally as the politicians they suddenly champion (and about as much to be trusted as the other politicians they are so roundly denouncing - after all, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is a line that works well any time).
In congregations, people think differently to each other. The vicar telling them all to "vote Labour" (or any other way) is offensive. Anti-democratic. It is spiritual bullying, because it is a pretence of God telling them to do it - "I'm the spiritual authority here, and I say this!"
If I ever tell anyone how to vote it is like this:
1. Vote every time. People have died that we can do this - we should cherish the chance.
2. Vote after thinking about what matters to you, and how you think the candidates have addressed these issues.
3. Or do what I do - if at all possible, vote for a friend standing in your constituency...
4. Vote secretly. It's your vote. Let no-one pressure you into voting like they did.
(Secrecy is especially important when you have TWO friends standing at the same election, as I do this time!)
So - if you are one of my clergy friends and have transgressed, beg your congregation's forgiveness and don't do it again. You have just lost the right to tell many of them about Jesus. You have just lost the trust of many of them. But asking forgiveness is a start in gaining back what you ought to have.
Sure - we should be passionate about issues and justice and compassion and the needy: but people are never our enemy. People are people. God so loved the world he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him might have eternal life. Elections are no excuse to forget this and indulge in name calling and faction. Unless of course - it's not a case of forgetting, more a case of revealing what's going on the whole time.
Then that's a whole different thing that needs sorting...