Pastoral Perspectives

It’s Time To Vote

In a few days’ time, every Singaporean citizen above the age of 21 will get to participate in this democratic process of voting for who we want to represent us in Parliament. The team or individual who wins by a simple majority of the total votes casted will get to serve as part of the national leadership governing Singapore for the next five years, regardless of the political party they are affiliated to. Considering that the last time every constituency was being contested for was some fifty years ago in 1963, GE 2015 is truly a significant occasion. While it remains to be seen whether it will be a watershed election, Christians should do our part and vote wisely and responsibly because every vote counts.

Firstly, we should begin to pray, do some research and then vote. Instead of relying on Internet chatter or soundbites from media coverage, there is no harm in visiting the Facebook page or website of the respective political parties to gain some understanding of their manifestos. We should give our ears to the candidates and consider what they are advocating and what values they are promoting rather than simply voting along party lines or out of discontentment and frustration.

Nevertheless, we need to guard against being easily roused by stirring rally speeches, where candidates promise us the moon but avoid spelling out what are the potential trade-offs and implications if certain policies are to be changed or implemented. After all, every opposition party claims that they want a better Singapore through change. But since change is also something that the ruling party acknowledges is necessary and has shown willingness to do so, one issue for consideration would be what are some changes that Singapore can afford to make?

Secondly, we should be mindful that to a large extent, a good rule of thumb is “The best predictor of future performance is past performance”. After all, when we are applying for a job, we also refer to our CV and testimonials, hoping that it might impress our potential employer or at least offer a fair assessment of our competency and possibly a glimpse of who we are. While no one should be condemned for their past, neither should voters be naïve and overlook certain recurring traits. Likewise, just because a candidate seems like a decent chap does not necessarily mean this person has the ability to get the job done if one has hardly any experience of governance at other levels.

Undoubtedly, it will help us to make a more discerning decision by prayerfully considering what a candidate has stood for and how he has conducted himself over the years. Although people do change and can learn from their past, who they have been is still a good indication of who they are and more accurate than who they promise to be or to do. With this in mind, it is heartening to know that some of those new faces have already been faithfully serving at the grassroots level or actively engaged in social issues prior to this election. Credit must also be given to those who have a proven track record, having delivered what they promised as well as to those whose passionate advocacy for certain causes have contributed to the well-being of society.

In contrast, we should take the claims of some with a pinch of salt, especially if they switch so easily from one party to another, have a tendency to side-step difficult questions or seem to only appear during election season. After all, if they promise that they will champion certain causes when they are elected, wouldn’t their lives already offer us a glimpse of what practical steps they have taken in order to make a difference?

As we head for the polls, we are to be mindful that no one party is omniscient and I doubt any of them have all the solutions to the challenges that Singapore faces. It is certainly not an easy task to navigate a tiny nation through the stormy seas of geopolitics and volatile global markets. Even as Christians are to honour our leaders (Romans 13:7, 1 Peter 2:13-17), let us also continue to pray that they will be public servants of integrity and compassion, servant-leaders who humbly acknowledge their limitations and who readily admit their oversight in certain policys or administrative lapses rather than giving excuses or claiming political victimisation.

In the end, Christians may differ in our convictions as to how best to serve God’s Kingdom in the political sphere. Some believe in pushing for change from within the ruling party while others are zealous about having more alternative voices. Regardless of our political affinity, we must be gracious when expressing our convictions in view of our primary allegiance to Jesus Christ. Whatever the outcome is after September 11, we can continue to trust in God’s sovereignty and his purposes for Singapore. Sometimes, God’s purposes are not the same as ours. But whenever Christians continue to be faithful to God and lovingly work towards the good of our beloved nation, surely we can impact many more lives for eternity than any “goodies” politicians dangle before us, to the glory of His name!

Rev Edwin Wong

September 6, 2015