As we enter the final week of campaigning for our first December election in almost a century, brought about by the vexed issue of Brexit, we are left reeling in the wake of another shocking terror attack in London followed by the revelation that 74 convicted terrorists have been let loose on our streets (i.e. on early release) – effectively giving them a licence to kill in the manner of Usman Khan who knifed two young victims to death.
And all the while the nation witnesses the ongoing humiliation of a prince amid the beginnings of what could amount to a crippling rail strike.
But spare a thought for Israel where they face the prospect of a third election this year after the first two failed to deliver a decisive result.
Whereas we have long been the envy of the world as the cradle of democracy, Israel has more recently earned the dubious credit of being a ‘democracy on steroids’. Their form of proportional representation – which includes some Arab members of parliament (the Knesset) effectively seeking the Jewish nation’s destruction – is so ‘fair’ that it is becoming increasingly difficult to form a coalition government from the many and various parties vying for a share of power.
In Britain, on the other hand, we have survived for much of the past century on a see-saw political system based on two main parties reflecting either centre-left or centre-right policies. Although this gives the appearance of splitting the nation in half, we have learned to live with it so far as neither ethos has been too extreme.
So it seems that democracy works best when national life is relatively stable, whereas now we have a nation divided as never before in living memory. Who could have imagined that we would see tempers flaring over Europe in the way that we have, and all kinds of other issues, such as climate change, adding to the mix with children taking to the streets making impossible demands of the government instead of attending classes? Whoever is first past the post next Thursday will inevitably inherit severe social problems, possibly even leading to civil unrest, that could make Brexit debates seem mild by comparison.
But fear not, for God is in charge. Democracy might be the best we humans can deliver, but it’s not God’s ideal. He never really wanted Israel to be ruled by kings, but his people cried out for a human institution they could see and touch.
Nevertheless, God still has the final say with all human authority, for “he deposes kings and raises up others” (Daniel 2.21). When Jesus was on trial, Roman governor Pontius Pilate challenged him with the question, “Don’t you realise I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” (John 19.10)
But Jesus answered: “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (verse 11) In the same way, Israel’s Culture Minister Miri Regev told a radio station that “God, not the people, will determine who Israel’s next Prime Minister will be.” Against the background of a largely secular society, she was criticised and even scorned for her comment. But she was right.
That is not to say we shouldn’t exercise our hard-fought democratic freedom by voting. We surely must, as long as we recognise that God, not us, will decide the final outcome. And it may not be to our liking. It might be that we get the government we deserve. For over half-a-century we have hardly raised a whimper of protest as a succession of grossly immoral practices have been legalised. And those of us who are Christians must take most of the blame for this, for “to whom much is given, much shall be required” (Luke 12.48). What have we done with Jesus’ call to “make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt 28.19f)?
No amount of clever campaigning will affect the result – or not-so-clever campaigning in the case of Labour’s promise to value certain named minorities without mentioning the Jews. And despite the emergence of new contenders for power in recent years, it looks once more like a two-horse race.
In normal circumstances, Labour’s neo-Marxist agenda, defying logic as well as the lessons of history, would rule them out as non-starters. But many young voters have been lured by promises of radical change reflecting the far-left thinking of our university campuses and, increasingly, our schools.
Eton-educated Boris Johnson, for his part, has defied the odds by winning over large swathes of traditionally Labour-supporting England – something no Tory has managed before. And most of the 300,000-strong traditionally Labour-backing Jewish community have deserted the party over the ongoing scandal of anti-Semitism, for which Jeremy Corbyn’s apology has probably come too late.
That should narrow it down to a lone rider, but I wouldn’t count on it. Polls are rarely accurate anyway, and your vote does count. God sees your heart, your conscience, and your desire for a better country. Do what God places on your heart, and then leave the rest to him, “for there is no authority except that which God has established,” (Rom 13.1) as the Apostle Paul emphasised when writing to the believers at Rome (a mix of Jews and Gentiles) who endured dreadful persecution under harsh and unyielding pagan regimes. So whoever is elected, we must pray for them (1 Tim 2.2) and respect them (Titus 3.1, 1 Peter 2.1f).
Tragically, humility is a rare trait among today’s politicians. Gideon of old turned down the chance to lead his people after he led a stunning victory over the Midianites with just 300 men. “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you. The Lord shall rule over you,” he declared. (Judges 8.23) Moses, too, was reluctant to take on the role, but was fortunately finally persuaded.
A nation under God? That will never happen without repentance. But with a humble leader who acknowledges his dependence on divine authority, surely anything is possible? It’s in God’s hands anyway.
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; and A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International