Jesus calls us to be salt and light in the wider community and to love our neighbour (Matt 5:13-15; 22:39).
One way of doing this is by speaking Christian truth into the public square.
In a day when the Biblical tower of Babel looks like an orderly discussion, Christian people have many opportunities to put in a clear word for the Lord. What not add a thoughtfully written Christian voice to that discussion?
One way to be salt and light is by writing to elected politicians. Many politicians look to ‘sniff the breeze’ and follow public opinion and especially so on contentious issues. This is a chance to write as a Christian.
Politicians listen. There’s an old saying that a picture is worth 1,000 words. Likewise, a politicians office has a formula of how many people each message represents. We cannot assume that a politician will personally read every message to them, let alone respond. However, every message will be read by someone in their office and will be included in the summary briefing to the politician.
How to write to a politician
Prayerful care is needed in writing to a politician. Consider to whom you are writing and for what purpose. Draft your message, put it aside and then polish it before sending.
Here are things to consider when writing.
- Get the address right
A quick Google search makes it easy to find the office contact details of politicians.
- Use a good medium
Email is time and cost efficient, saves generating wasteful paper and goes straight to an in-box.
- Be concise
Don’t polliewaffle with 1,000 words that will be unread! Think of a piece of paper that can be read in one or two minutes and stick with that. If the politicians want to hear more from you, they can ask.
- Be polite
You may think that the politician is %#@*# but don’t say it if you want to be heard. This is a person made in God’s image and to whom you can model Christian dignity and respect.
- Find the connect point
Messages need to catch attention in the opening words. Acts 17:22 is a good example of finding a velcro point with an audience. How can you connect with your politician on your issue?
- Avoid special pleading and insider language
The Bible is our standard for belief and conduct and we know that the church is God’s chosen instrument. Unless the politician is a Christian, that’s not where he starts. So, work within assumed public values and language.
- Make it clear
Be unambiguous and precise in what you say. Don’t ask for the impossible and don’t state your opinion without asking what response you seek.
- Make it gospel-grounded
Everything we do should be worthy of the Lord and arise from our identity in him. This doesn’t mean that a message to a politician becomes a gospel tract, but it should reflect the gospel
- Make it personal
Avoid using a standard ‘campaign letter’ as that may receive less attention. Instead, gather your key points and write a letter that is ‘you’.
- Get the timing right
There is no point in writing about today’s issue tomorrow. If you know that an issue is coming up in a week or two, write now.
- Don’t be that guy
A weekly rant to your local member about everything is a dead end. Choose issues and occasions carefully.
- Be appreciative
Politicians receive many cranky and demanding letters. Can you set a different tone by thanking them for their service or even just for reading your message and considering your view?
- Include your contact details
Messages without your details are likely to head straight to the shredder. Including them makes the point that you are a real person and enables a reply.
A sample letter
The following email was sent to every member of the NSW Upper House at a time when a Bill allowing Voluntary Assisted Dying was coming before Parliament. A similar letter was sent to the relevant lower house members.
Dear Ms ??,
I write to you as a member of the NSW Legislative Council.
I understand that a Bill is shortly coming to the NSW Parliament to legalise voluntary assisted dying (VAD).
I write to express my opposition to this bill and to ask you to vote against it.
I write as a member of two public ethics committees in which the values of beneficence and respect are prominent.
Experience elsewhere persuades me that VAD often falls short of these values of beneficence and respect. I believe it a real danger that VAD opens the way for implied and actual pressure on ill people to accept VAD. That pressure may be linked to medical facilities looking to clear beds of unpromising patients or relatives looking to be free of the burden of caring for their ill members.
I believe that a first duty of governments is to protect its citizens. In my view, legislation permitting VAD is a failure of this duty.
Thank you for reading this,
Over to you
To whom can you be Christian light and salt today as an act of loving God and neighbour?
– David Burke