12 Oct, 2023 The election is over – so WHAT NOW? (A specific strategic proposal)
The election is over – so WHAT NOW?
(A specifically strategic view)
In this article I propose three ‘unexpected’ courses of action for God’s Church nationally – in view of our politics.
- However, because a Doctor cannot give the right medicine if they haven’t first correctly diagnosed the problem, I give 2/3 of this article to explaining WHY I think the problem is the continuing loss of human freedoms in our nation.
- The 3 unexpected solutions I am proposing are then based around the words HISTORY, GOOD WORKS and UNITY.
I pray you find this very INTERESTING to read! 🙂
Dictatorships vs democracies
Kingdoms and dictatorships have subjects, while democracies have citizens. Kingdoms are ‘top down’ – while a democracy is ‘bottom up’.
The difference in a democracy (or democratic republic) is therefore in our freedoms and ability to engage with the seats of power – because those in power are supposed to be there to represent us.
For a perspective: Nearly all Governments in history have been dictatorships of some kind – until Christianity! (Even the republics of Greece etc… were still largely ‘top down’, being ‘democratic’ amongst the ruling class, as a defence against tyranny – but not on the premise of the value of the individual like we have it).
The vulnerability of the NZ context – so we understand the importance of the discussion
The key difference between a Republic and a Democracy is that a republic has a constitution the leaders are beholden to (under). While the leaders are in both cases elected from and by the people, in a Democracy almost anything could be changed – while in a Republic there is an unchangeable constitution, created to protect what was considered to be of value when it was created.
- Where that constitution has been written from a Christian point of view – esteeming the unique value of each individual who has been created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), that constitution will also protect the common people. This is the American system – while also noting the UN Declaration of Human Rights, which is is an expressly Christian document, premised (by Eleanor Roosevelt who wrote it) on the same root Christian idea and value – except with the word ‘God” removed throughout.
- To note something intriguing – in this sense, if a democratic Government has the ‘fear of God’ in it I suggest it is very-much like a Republic, because the good moral code of God functions very-much like a constitution, making some core values that ultimately will protect charity and human wellbeing unchangable.
- However, if that Government rejects the idea of a God, it will invariably reject that ‘Biblical Constitution’ also. This puts everything back on the table again for the taking. Power corrupts. Power also naturally accumulates more of itself – except where Christ influences a person to limit their powers as a servant of the people. Absolute power then corrupts absolutely.
With the context of our vulnerability stated – elections come every three years. What are our most basic responsibilities, and if we are unhappy with the Government we have, what can we do?
I suggest our most basic responsibilities as citizens are as follows:
1. To vote
…because we are citizens
2. To stay in touch with our MPs once in power
…to keep them accountable, and to let them know the will of the people (ourselves) who they are supposed to be representing.
3. To then support those who can advocate on our behalf for what you consider to be just, true and right.
If those in power are failing to represent us, we need to look to groups who seek to call the Government to account. Right now I hold both Family First and The Free Speech Union in high regard. They are doing good and needed work for us – the people. We therefore can (i) donate to them, and we (ii) read their updates – (iii) to sign petitions we agree with – all to empower them to act on our behalf – potentially then also passing on BRIEF encouragements to our elected officials on some matters, as at point 2 above.
But what else can we do?
We’re largely powerless in reality! But not entirely!
Remember, there are only two types of Government: Top down, and bottom up. Somehow we went from Top down to bottom up. It happened – so it can happen again! The DNA of Governments can be changed!
4. What we next need to do is to work out how we might intelligently engage with the perspectives of the public – who choose what is valued in our nation.
But this begs another question – before any action steps are considered. What needs changing?
We need to clearly identify the problem, or threat to the freedoms and wellbeing of the common people.
What then is the actual PROBLEM that needs addressing?
I suggest that personal freedoms are literally under threat. They will only be protected where the individual is believed to be created in the image of God.It’s that simple.
It is singularly upon this basis that the idea of ‘human rights’ has stood, and that governments have self-limited their power – taking only as much power as has been needed to create environments conducive to the freedom of the people. This enabled our unparalleled levels of prosperity, equality, freedom and charity.
As Christian values are rejected, our basis for valuing the rights of individuals rather than the power of the state will become lost. In short – power will then corrupts. The cycle has happened numerous times in history – noting 55 nations falling to communism last Century as a very clear example.
To articulate some VOCABULARY
Socialism – is an essentially atheistic (human centred) leadership idea, in which the State is viewed as the greatest good, needing power to change the environment, to shape the thinking and behaviour of the people for their good. It wrongly assumes that human nature is good – and that the leaders will therefore use their increasing power for actual good.
Having identified the problem incorrectly (e.g. inequality, inequity, the rich oppressing the poor, racial in equity etc…), the incorrect medicine is applied – to the detriment of the people.
As Validmir Lenin put it (quotes paraphrased), the goal of socialism is communism. Socialism is the intermediate stage. As political commentator William J Federer beautifully put it, socialism is communism-lite. As Anne Rand (who suffered under Russian Communism) put it, in socialism the people are ruled by vote, while in communism they are ruled by force. In other words, the only true difference between socialism and communism is in the degree of power yet taken and used.
Of course, a smart communism will give the people an appearance of freedom because this appeases them. And this is – I suggest – what Fascism actually is and achieved. Fascism is (I suggest() incorrectly thought to be on the Right of politics because it seems to value a level of individual freedoms and rights for its citizens. Its initial polities therefore mimic some ‘Right’ policies that might equally come from a Christian value. But this similarity is merely an illusion. Make no mistake, in a fascist nation you were only free for as long as you fully complied with the State. The values were (and are) the same as those of Communism. Both are applications of ‘Socialism’. It’s merely the starting ideas that are different. This explains why the results of Communism and Fascism in history are the same. Both are atheistic, top-down Government, in which the STATE is the greatest good (not the individual), and in which the end justifies the means (because there is no actual / fixed morality coming from God to define and limit that thing we would otherwise call ‘evil’).
For an interesting idea – consider how China released capitalistic (individual) freedoms a few decades ago. I suggest they shifted from being Communistic to being more Fascist. The appearance of freedoms that they gave brought about an explosion of wealth – because it empowered initiative where Communism would not. Those freedoms were, however, an illusion. If a person ever dared to disagreed with or defy those in power, they soon knew it – losing their life, disappearing, or still free – but you might hear that they donated their great wealth to the Communist Party out of their great generosity.
To bring this closer to our own situation, the question is ‘What is the problem in our world – really?’ Communism (which had Karl Marx’s socialistic teachings at its roots) identified the private ownership of land and assets as the root problem. Put differently, problem was financial inequity. This pitted the wealthy against the poor. The wealthy were therefore the oppressors and creators of ‘evil’. If you could level the playing field, making everyone economically equal, Marx thought this would remove the root of all evil, bringing out the good that he believed to be inherently within people (if not for the corrupting nature of wealth).
- Communism failed because the core idea was incorrect – even though the same general philosophy is still being applied in our time. It isn’t money that is the root of all evil, but instead the selfishness (sin) in the human heart.
- The denial of ‘sin’ was therefore a key flaw in Karx’s diagnosis. (Note – the Bible says money is the root of all kinds of evil, not all evil – to note the distinction. The selfish and evil inclinations of our hearts are ‘the root of evil’).
To analyse this against God’s Word – the Bible: In contrast to Communism Bible affirms the private ownership of land in clear form in the 10 Commandments.
- The command, ‘Do not steal’ affirms the right to private ownership of land and assets.
- The command, ‘Do not covet’ likewise affirms the same rights, though extended to include much wider personal security (like people wanting your donkey/car and wife, and finding ways to take them).
To bring that into our day, the World Economic forum is famous for its specifically Communistic statement, “You will own nothing and you will be happy.” Of note, the WEC is now directly connected with the United Nations. This development surprised me – because I believe they should never have joined hands.
- To state specifically what is happening: They are allowing the unelected wealthy elite with their large private corporations to have the same say, position and power as Governmental leaders. The entire playing field of global power has now changed!
- (Private enterprise is collaborating with those in Governmental power, to together usurp global power – for our good).
This is a ‘global power grab’, and it is both seductive and powerful!
Here in NZ, our politicians are often more than willing to ‘dance’ to the tune of these global leaders. For decades already, the most compliant of our politicians (to global Government / ‘sustainable development’ agendas) have been rewarded with positions in various global leadership organisations like the UN, World Bank, WHO and similar. It doesn’t’ take long to investigate this.
The allegiance of or politicians is being called for – by the global elite. It’s very hard for politicians to stand up against, because the ‘marrying’ of Governments with powerful corporations (banks, Google, Social media giants) is a powerful force. They can affect public opinion via digital technologies.
Our ‘Liberal Democracy’ is therefore under threat
- “Liberal” in this context means ‘free’ – in reference to the idea that we value the freedom of the individual).
- I suggest this broader change values (rejecting the Christian faith – and therefore the idea of the individual as the greatest good’), is the primary issue or problem, leading to the demise of personal freedoms and wellbeing.
For another brief bit of understanding about our selves… before moving on to the action steps I suggest are needed…
A Liberal Democracy is premised on a couple of core values.
(1) The private ownership of land
In history it is well demonstrated that this is a key to personal freedom. Without this, we’re at the mercy of those we rent our houses from – which would be the Government. They can make us poor or homeless in a second. We are therefore at their mercy, and cannot argue with them! The private ownership of land is a fundamental to person freedom!
I point out that CBDCs (Central Bank Digital Currencies) create the exact same problem – if ever implemented as the only currency.
(2) The value of the individual
This has already been stated above.
What then is the goal?
The moral fabric (beliefs) of a nation is what ultimately writes its future!
- Only a moral people can have a moral government.
- To fix our politics I suggest we therefore need to re-educate the people regarding what it was that led to us having it so good here in NZ – so the values the brought the blessings can be esteemed, regarded, respected and lifted up again!
At its core, this effort is also unavoidably religious. While our schools don’t teach us how to think about or understand these things, moral values do come from religion – full stop! They are one and the same topic – and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know what the are talking about.
Of particular note regarding our own cultural heritage and values, without Christ slavery would never had ended, the women’s rights movement never been born, education for all never have started, our liberal democracy would never have existed, the scientific age would never have happened, our culture of charity would never have existed, and the personal freedoms we enjoy would never have been ours!
However, the strategic starting point isn’t to tell everyone to follow Jesus. Clearly a journey is needed, requiring ‘Clapham Sect’ (and WEC) type of thinking, strategy and work.
WITH THE CONTEXT OVER – THREE ‘UNEXPECTED’ SUGGESTIONS
…How could the values that enabled our freedoms become esteemed again?
I see three general areas. These all relate to the Christian faith – because our present blessings are the product of our past values. The entirety of this is premised on the idea that beliefs precede thinking – which precedes behaviour. But also a recognition that human prejudice powerful – so we need to engage with that prejudice!
The three areas relate to:
- Good works
Our engagement in all three areas is about one thing: Informing the public, to change the perceptions they have been given regarding our faith and it’s values – because these values are the basis of our freedom, prosperity, equality and charity.
The religious nature of this conversation is difficult to avoid. It is very simple logic to recognise that behaviour comes from thinking, which is shaped by beliefs.
If we are falling under ‘socialism’ (top down Government), this type of Government is likely going to be atheistic – like Communism and Fascism were. Christianity therefore needs undermining first. This therefore prejudice that we need to recognise – to therefore engage with.
For a simple example…
- Voltaire taught (about 80 year prior to the French Revolution) of the need to undermine the Christian faith, because they wouldn’t be able to overthrow those in power (who he believed were corrupting their society) until the unchangeable moral convictions of the Christian faith were removed.
- Tactics for changing the beliefs of the public even included writing books in the names of dead people. These books were then popularised – to intentionally breed a culture of scepticism and mockery toward the Christian faith.
- Once the true faith was undermined, the path was open for the manipulation of the masses – leading to the devastating Revolution, overthrowing the Monarchy, Governmental Systems and Clergy (church).
- Socialists praise the French Revolution – which in reality brought poverty and suffering to the people, the murder of hundreds of thousands of their own countrymen/women, and then the death of millions on the Napoleonic Wars that followed.
- (As a rather telling comment – they were objectively better off under a corrupted Monarchy and Church than through the overthrow of these – which left them at the mercy of an atheistic totalitarianism. We are reminded that there is no perfect Government – so we must be careful what we destroy when seeing to build a brighter future! The ‘myth of progress‘ is dangerous if we don’t fully understand the good that is around us, to ‘conserve’ it in the process. This is, by definition, what ‘conservatism‘ is about! Many of the modern ‘work’ are caught up in this ‘myth of progress’, and as a result are working passionately to undermine the foundations they stand upon – due to a misdiagnosis of the problem!)
Those who control the present can control the past.
This is to say, those in power can control what history is and isn’t told. If we see this, we need to act!
The three ‘lenses’ initially suggested for the new birth of our public education on NZ history reflected this well. Even with amendments made following broad public feedback, it remains that only our Māori history is being taught.
- I applaud that it is being taught – but it’s still only a small part of our history!
- Our education still leaves out the most significant Christian dynamic which is foundational to our values, charity, prosperity, equality, freedoms and care.
Who we actually are is defined by our values more than any other thing!
Those who tell the history write the future
This is why we must act – because there is hope! No one else is going to tell the history of our freedoms, charity, prosperity, democracy, equality and more for us. So we need to do this ourselves – and until we do, we are leaving ourselves perilously vulnerable, because others are quite literally working to undermine the foundations we stand upon!
What is needed is a multi-faceted effort to revive a knowledge of the history that gave us our values and freedoms as a people.
- The actions of many can make a difference.
- Many of the reforms within culture and society have started in the pulpits of the churches!
- We have enjoyed the benefits of prosperity, freedom, equality and charity to a level almost unequalled in the world – and certainly in human history prior! How? Why? We must know and answer that question!
A re-education regarding our HISTORY needs to begin with our pastors and through them to their members.
We need to educate ourselves on our own cultural history – to empower the thinking and actions of our members.
I do not know how to state that more strongly.
- This all seem too simple a strategy for leaders who are conditioned to ‘big programmes’
- Yet I suggest it (and the next two proposals) addresses the very core of the issues we are facing!
One of the first strategies of socialism is to take charge of the education of the children. This was as true of Communism in in Russia and China as of Fascism in in Italy and Germany.
I think church people and their leaders have been conditioned into thinking they cannot affect anything nationally.
- I think this is true if they think they serve one congregation or one denomination.
- But if the idea that we are on Church can take root in our key leaders – I suggest the above and below are viable strategies.
Change actually is possible – but only if our churches and their leaders think and act differently to how we have in these prior decades.
#2. Good works
My second strategic suggestion is that we ‘make famous’ not only our history, but also the good that the Christian faith is doing in our society today.
We are already doing many good works. Yes – we need to be known for our love. This has always been true. God is love – and we are called to reflect him.
The problem we currently face is that the STORY of this isn’t being told!
Just as those who control the present can control the past, they can also control what is known and perceived in the present! This affects public perspective – which shapes their values – and from that the things they then support.
It’s not therefore only more good works that we need to do. We need to engage more intelligently around how we might help the story of what is already being done be told and known.
- Because we ARE being maligned. This is a gradual process. It is a natural product of the ‘religious secularising’ of our nation.
- And no one else is going to tell our story for us!
To note it, the Christian Church is – without a doubt – the largest non-Governmental charity here – and globally – ever.
To note it, the Government doesn’t really do ‘charity’ too – for an important comparison. The money comes from taxes – not voluntary donations, and those working in our social service agencies all get paid good salaries (though might believe they deserve pay raises still, and I have no opinion on that).
In contrast, Christians donate money voluntarily – and at a greater level than non-Christians – this being potentially verifiable by a factor as high as 5x (Noting a Victoria University study). Christians also give more time to volunteerism – this being potentially verifiable by a factor around 2x. Additionally, where people are paid in church charity (noting ‘the worker is worth their keep’), it’s often at a ‘lower than market rate’.
This is why we – the Shining Lights Trust – have proposed the HeLP Project
This is a multi-faceted initiative purposed to tell the story of what churches (and associated trust, running by the same values) are doing to help within communities – by way of promoting the help on offer.
- It’s not a random ‘great project’ we’d like to do because it seemed a good idea
- It’s a specific project, proposed on the basis of specific thinking and analysis, considering our culture, and therefore also what a viable response might look like.
- This effort is hindered for the lack of a $400,000pa – which is a meagre sum when the scope of this unique innovation is considered – representing a Christian Church with maybe $5 billion or more of assets (mostly in our many buildings), with a probable turnover of a few hundred million per year (I don’t actually know how much).
- (My brief indignant complaint is over 😉
Certainly more needs doing than this. (The challenge is – could we, as God’s Church nationally, even enable this?)
To reiterate the point: The need isn’t only that we do good works, because we already are. The point is that public media and education won’t tell that story often – while they will quite readily tell negative stories about is.
- There are meanwhile 1000 untold positive stories for every negative one told – if not tens of thousands were we to calculate.
We need to engage intelligently to tell our own story – to affect public perspective – to bring favour toward the Christian faith – to restore openness to dialogue around the kinds of Christian ideas and values that enabled our unparalleled prosperity, equality, freedoms and charity.
Thirdly, I believe church leaders need to work out how to engage more wisely at the city level.
A Bible verse that suits this point – as also the prior point – is where Jesus said, in Matthew 5:16 that we should ‘let our light shine before others that they might SEE our good works and glorify our Father in heaven’.
To state it openly – without desire to offend, we are not overly strong in our unity as churches. It’s a product of our human nature, as also a hangover of the Protestant Reformation.
- NZ unity is sometimes stuck at a valuing of relationships, while occasionally praying together – as if that were amazing and to be praised.
- If we cannot identify and state a problem – we cannot address it.
- I suggest the mission that God has given each church is also the mission of the united Church. There is therefore a united FUNCTION we are to pursue and fulfil.
- Just as God can raise leaders for small groups and local churches, he can raise leaders for his united Church. God’s methodology for this is as in the book of Judges. GOD raises people – rather than people appointing people. People RECOGNISE those God has raised up. They are often not what is expected too (Gideon – lowly member of a weak clan. Deborah – woman. Samson – lone hero).
- Our role is therefore to DISCERN individuals (not organisations) that God might have called and favoured in a given season, to bring direction to us all in a given area.
- Those individuals should be respected for what they bring in their area of expertise – not all areas.
- They should be regarded for their potential leadership in that area in its season – not for all time.
- The organisations they initiate as conduits for their work should be regarded for their function – in their season – not memorialised for all time as ‘sacred institutions’ to be preserved, with succession plans (Israel tried to appoint Gideon’s sons as their leaders).
If we can learn a few things about how united Church leadership works – this is a starting point, because only then do more sensible conversations on how we might function differently in the unity space become possible.
- My own contribution in this space focused on seeking out, and then articulating, both a paradigm and vocabulary for a pursuit of ‘united function’ that could work for all of our denominations. This took all of a decade of national work and travel to process and then articulate. The conclusion is in the book ‘In One Spirit’ – free online here – and I especially note the last chapter.
With the above vocabulary in place – what then could we do?
I suggest we would be wise to follow the paradigm of ‘HOPE Together UK’. They saw pastors united in 1500 areas of England in 2008.
The single strategy was to ask each group to find ONE THING they could together (that they could not do apart), to serve their community – and to do it.
For some this was a large social event – to pull people in their community together, because a lack of wider cohesion in the community was a problem.
In other areas it was a community project to meet a recognised need.
What this achieved is what is also listed at point #2 above about ‘Good works’ (not doing them – but instead seeing the story told – to affect perspective and build hope)
- Suddenly those in positions of power in local Government, the police, social agencies and more SAW the churches for the first time!
- This resulted in churches being invited into the conversations of their community.
- This has led to churches being more highly regarded.
- To evidence the results: Paid national surveys were conducted, which have verified a measurable change in the perspectives of the public toward the Christian Church in England.
- It is now, therefore, more common for public funding for social needs to be given to churches together – to deliver the result. This is because they are known for bringing more ‘bang for buck’ that a Government department could.(I suggest is due to the authenticity and strength of the charitable spirit coming from our faith).
The challenge to the city and town pastors’ groups is therefore above – and simple.
(To maintain balance: I do, however, still suggest this doesn’t negate the importance of – in addition – our city and town pastors’ groups continuing…
1. Discussion every year through the ‘spheres of influence’ – to know what exists in your city or town, to bless, support, endorse and utilise it together as ONE Church, in and for the city. I believe this to be a necessary catalytic activity.
2. Intentionally engaging with the seats of power
- The quarterly ‘pastors’ group convenors’ updates exist to aid the intentionality of our nation’s city pastors’ groups in this season. See AllTogether.co.nz/pastorsgroups. The most recent update is always there via a graphic at the top right.
- Any pastors’ group conveners not receiving this can request it. (For all others we do pastors updates, prayer updates and youth leaders updates).
The above three areas of strategic action will be surprising to most because of their simplicity – and yet I suggest that they can affect public perspective. This is the point. We are not a small body of people – if ever united behind simple and sensible common goals!
- However, this will require INTENTIONALITY – and also UNITY in the goal.
- This is the continuing challenge.
The biggest hindrances to this are likely
- …that our communication lines are too weak for the vision to be heard – sufficient to endear a united vision and focus
- …and the fact that the proposed action steps are so simple. (They are easily missed – as compared to something ‘grand’ and ‘big’ that involves and event, meetings and programmes).
- …and the continuing challenge (I suspect) of our NZ Church culture, which I suggest doesn’t yet have a sufficient body of leaders within it schooled in how the united Church could function – to enable that united function. Though I might be wrong in this last point. Only God knows.
To repeat the three areas
1. History – we learn and then tell the story
2. Good works – we keep doing these, but now with a more intentional view to how we might connect more widely to tell our own story
3. Unity – the same mentality then comes to our unity groups (pastors’ groups), to engage intelligently – knowing the times are are in, and therefore the approaches that are most needed.
Does this make sense?
I welcome all feedback, engagement (and funding to be able to simply tell stories as we’d like to)
I do believe the above a viable strategy – if we could but serve sensible strategies rather than merely repeating the thinking and programme-patterns of the past in our churches and unity movements.
Are we capable of thinking clearly – to engage as is needed? That is the question, and challenge!
Other articles on this topic:
- Democracy – understanding the CONTEXT of the challenges we face –https://alltogether.co.nz/electionreflection/
- The election is over – so WHAT NOW? (A specific strategic proposal) – https://alltogether.co.nz/future
- Short educational Q&A Videos – around the principles and ideas of democracy from a Christian perspective – https://AllTogether.co.nz/democracy . Freely share these.
DAVE MANN. Dave is a networker and creative communicator with a vision to see an understanding of the Christian faith continuing and also being valued in the public square in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He has innovated numerous conversational resources for churches, and has coordinated various national nationwide multimedia Easter efforts purposed to open up conversations between church and non-church people about the Christian faith and its significance to our nation’s history and values. Dave is the Producer of the ‘Chronicles of Paki’ illustrated NZ history series created for educational purposes, and the author of various other books and booklets including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last” and “The Elephant in the Room”. Married to Heather, they have four boys and reside in Tauranga, New Zealand.