It saves me having to spend hours trawling through Google to find a profound quote on democracy just to make it look like I remembered a profound quote on democracy from one of the many hundreds of books I’ve read about democracy.

I’m a politics graduate who counts The West Wing, House of Cards and Veep among my favourite shows ever. But until last night, I’d never been to a hustings. It’s only recently that I even learned that ‘hustings’ is just a fancy olde English word for campaign debate. The fact that Northern Ireland has only had a few elections in recent history where members from opposition parties would be in the same building together might account for some of that.

More than ever I’m convinced that I, as a Christian, have a responsibility to contribute to the flourishing of society. And in this context, we get a vote. This video from Tom Wright on the matter is really helpful. It doesn’t feel like I’m changing things by putting paper in a box, but Lord knows I’ve been told enough that I am. I was also advised to get to know the issues, hence the hustings. So, I decided to get my civic duty on and hear what my local candidates would have to say for themselves. Without boring you about the specifics of East Belfast, here’s what I took away from it.

Democracy boos sometimes 

Flags, emblems and parades have been a bit of a sore spot for people in my community recently. And there were several views on the issue present on stage. And even louder in the audience. Some people heckled; I felt uncomfortable. But that’s okay. Democracy is about the people and they need to be heard.

There’s no one party that meets all my expectations

The temptation is to throw the baby out with the bathwater and switch off entirely. But that’s immature. Where in life should I ever expect to see all of my wants catered for? My colleague, Amelia, said this in a helpful threads article earlier in the year: “… you’ll never find a perfect political party or candidate. Much like church, friends, spouses, jobs and so many other things in life, compromise will be necessary.”

Politicians are people too

At some points, the debate got heated. It even got a touch personal at one moment. They were asked tricky questions by both the chair and by the audience. At no point during the evening did I consider wanting to be up there. Which gave me a lot of respect for them. I know it’s all in a day’s work for them and that the achievements they proudly boast are the pinnacle in the art of blowing one’s own trumpet, but they still put themselves forward into the lion’s den of public opinion. That has to be applauded. Politicians have flaws and baggage too, all while having to put up with ours. I made a note to try and make an effort to contact my elected representatives on the service they’ve put in.

The whole system isn’t perfect. But then I don’t think it ever will be – at least until Jesus returns. For now, I’m convinced that I’ve got a duty to contribute my part to a society.

We’re hosting a hustings on Thursday 23 April in London with our pals at Rhythms. Tickets are going fast so get signed up here.

Lastly, here are a few deadlines to be aware of in case you haven’t registered or need to vote by post:

Written by Thomas McConaghie // Follow Thomas on  Twitter // Thomas'  Website

Thomas is a coordinator for threads. He's an elder in his local church (Village Church Belfast), working on a Masters in urban planning and geeks out on football. He's married to Laura and the father of two-year-old Ezra.

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