Fifty Percent!

It was fascinating to follow the Mid-term Election Campaign in the USA. How convincing each good speaker seemed, how justifiable their arguments, and the President seemed to win applause wherever he went and for whatever he said.

The polls were correct in what they forecast, so we already “knew” the result of the election if we believed the polls. Those pollsters are experts: from a small cleverly selected proportion of many people they can forecast the probable results.

Does that please you? That we are so alike, though we think ourselves free and independent, that we shall vote or behave just as many in our age bracket or social position or similar home addresses will vote or behave. We are predictable. Behavioural scientists tell us so.

That makes democracy a frightening game. To win 51% of the vote is to claim victory and the 49% will have no voice if the 51% decide to ignore them. Once in power, for a limited time, the 51% and their representatives can act like dictators.

Very disappointing your good arguments can be ignored. You lost the election. You must wait or rebel for the chance to be heard. Your “rebellion” might bring about a change – but for the better? Then, the defeated may take their revenge: a swing of a few percent will do it and the 49% defeated become the 51% victorious.

Far better, say some of our religious leaders, to trust in God and God’s representatives rather than bend to the winds of public opinion. “Trust in God, trust in me,” are beautiful words in John’s Gospel that Jesus spoke to the disciples at the Last Supper. “Trust in God, trust in us,” the religious leaders with, or wanting, political power say to the people.

We look at the reigns of Popes and Mullahs and Ayatollahs and others and say “No thanks.” We look at Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Ireland, Spain and Portugal in the 21st and 20th centuries and we don’t like what we see. We might be argumentative, divisive, biased – but we are free to elect or reject and to wait for our turn. Religious political rule claims God as its justification for all it does, approves, forbids – and allows no appeal. If only they were honest and admitted they want to be in power.

Now, what were we saying about Brexit? Same as always –

God bless us,

Fr John
(11th November 2018)