So Australia has yet another new Prime Minister. It seems that no sooner have we settled into getting used to one leader of the country then we get a new one. Here’s the BBC’s attempt to set out the timeline…
What’s driving all this turnover? If you work your way through the narratives and accounts (with the benefit of hindsight for all those involved) you see a common theme. Pretty much every time we had a leadership change it was catalysed by the realisation that the party in question was behind in the opinion polls, and so MPs—nervous about the declining prospects of re-election—decided to change horses midstream. It appears that we’re doing it far more often than we used to.
So listening to the radio this weekend, I heard complaint after complaint about how foolish these politicians were. Why do they allow the polls to sway them so quickly? Why don’t they honour the choices that the electorate made at the last General Election? After all, the next one comes around soon enough (every three years here in Australia)—let the people decide again.
Now we might argue that this misunderstands the nature of a Westminster system of government (in that we vote for our local members, not for the Prime Minister) but that’s not the line I want to push today. Rather, as I sat and listened to the talk shows over the past few days I heard voter after voter blame politicians for what was, essentially, our own fault.
Yes politicians react to polls. Of course they do! Their number one priority is to remain elected so that they can implement the policies that they believe are best for the nation (or at least the policies that they think both they and the electorate can stomach). We’re the ones who respond to the pollsters. They ask us the questions and we tell them what we’re thinking. The politicians then read those polls to find out what we’re thinking. We can’t complain that the politicians don’t listen to us and then complain when they do! The slightest hint that our leaders can’t deliver on a promise and we’ll move onto the next one. We take such a short view of things.
The slightest hint that our leaders can’t deliver on a promise and we’ll move onto the next one. We expect a new government initiative to provide returns quicker than it takes to receive our chicken nuggets at the drive-through.
So we’re the problem! All of us together. We’re a society that increasingly wants a rapid result in every aspect of our life and that feeds through into how we judge politics. We expect a new government initiative to provide returns quicker than it takes to receive our chicken nuggets at the drive-through or select a new streaming TV series to binge watch. But the big things of life don’t work that way. They take time. Cut company taxes and it takes several years for the extra investment and employment to arrive. Reduce emissions and it might be a decade or more before the atmosphere shows evidence of a change.
And yet we want instant results. When they don’t arrive the polls nosedive. At that point you can’t blame the politicians for picking a new leader. They’re just giving us what we’ve asked them for.
Now politics is one thing, our lives are another. I wonder if as Christians we’re in danger of exactly the same sort of short-term thinking? What would it look like if I held Jesus to the same standards that I demand from a Prime Minister? I reckon I’d be calling for a leadership spill far too often. But that would only be because I had utterly unrealistic expectations about what should be happening. Yet I wonder if our increasingly short-term way of looking at things can play out in our spiritual lives? We can so often measure Jesus’ goodness (if you like, his “performance” for us) by the wrong measure. I wait 3 years for a new Prime Minister but possibly only one week for Jesus to turn a situation around for me.
At our church our Growth Groups are diligently working their way through Romans. As we enter chapter 8 it’s fascinating to see what time horizon the Apostle lays out for us when we consider Jesus’ work on our behalf…
Now if ever there was delivery on a promise then that was it. Why would we measure Jesus by anything else? Take the long view, Christian.