The widespread contention and cynicism of this year’s presidential race reminds me of hearing about a polling booth that had a saying from Dante’s Inferno above the voting booth saying, “Abandon all hope all ye who enter here.” This sour spirit is coming from more than a few Christians and Christian leaders who are distraught over the two choices we are provided in our binary political system. Beyond that, it seems like if any courageous soul dares to reveal their political leanings they will be blasted and demeaned by others who repeatedly chastise them by “guilt by association.” So, how can we think clearly and articulate our convictions compassionately in such a toxic environment? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Acknowledge that this is a really good system. Amazing, actually.
This democratic republic that we are privileged to enjoy is relatively new to the world scene (about three centuries.) We should remember that Kings and Emperors were not elected by majority vote. And, the admonition that the Scriptures give us about our governmental authorities happens to be during a time when believers, like everyone else, were under oppressive, totalitarian regimes. (Romans 13:1-7). So, every four years we have the opportunity to practice this most basic civic duty-casting a vote for the President of the USA. Unlike other civilizations, we are not just ruled, but we get to participate in the ruling. Have we possibly lost the sense of privilege in being able to participate in our own governance? Have we become individualistic, and perhaps even selfish with this opportunity of casting a vote? One way to resist the pessimism of this current political season is by celebrating our freedom to have a voice. And, BTW, we should praise the Lord, and every veteran we know for this amazing opportunity to be “We The People.” “The boundary lines have fallen for us in pleasant places.”(Psalm 16:6) I suggest a moratorium on the constant "gloom and doom" of so many Christians during this election season. Kindly, some believers have chosen to dive into a depressing bayou that seems to only rejoice in "I told you so" moments(each time a little more immoral rubbish is discovered about either of the candidates).
2. Politics is about winning, about power.
Politics is a discussion a society has. A debate. The political dialogue is about what best represents “life as it should be.” As a result of these conversations, candidates emerge. Then, we vote for the candidate that we believe will best pursue, preserve and protect the elements of the “good life” that we have identified. It is important to point out that politics are pluraland not essentially personal. Politics are collective rather than individual. In other words, we are casting our support behind principles that represent a collective agreement of the common good rather than a strict representation of one’s own personal conscience. Since politics is about winning, the reward for victory is power. Like any competition that has a winner and a loser, getting a win for the team is much more important than tracking individual statistics and personal records. Similarly, when a citizen insists that a candidate must measure up to almost every standard of their own personal conscience, that person has lost sight of the essential makeup of an election. It’s kind of like being discontented after your favorite team wins in a “nail-biter” rather than blanking the opposing team. Don’t’ forget, a “Win is a Win.” And, writing-in a candidate that has no opportunity to win is like wearing your favorite team’s jersey, and cheering for them in the Super Bowl even though they are not one of the two teams in the big game. Kind of foolish, don’t you think?
3. Discernment is about prioritizing. Make a list!
What is “discernment?” Essentially, discernment is the ability to compare and contrast multiple choices, and to, then, choose the best option. In politics, discernment manifests itself by our prioritizing the most important issues in the political debate, and choosing the candidate that will pursue, preserve, and protect those issues. Have you written down a list of priorities for the greater good? What current issues make your “top ten” list?
Do this. Write down, beginning with the most important, and decreasing in importance what issues define for you “the good life.” If you are a believer, I encourage you to add to each of the items on your list pertinent Bible references that speak towards why those issues should be priorities. As we prioritize our list, we should be cognizant that sometimes when we take a stand on principle, we might be standing on the wrong principle, or at least a lesser one. While the Scriptures are equally inspired, all Scriptures are not equally important.(Matthew 23:23) For instance, an issue like protecting the lives of the unborn will probably be higher on my list than affordable college tuition. Now, you are getting prepared for November 8th. Admittedly, at this point, none of us have any more impactful say as to who has made it to the “Big Game.” So rather than running towards a personal protest by boycotting your privilege to vote, or writing-in someone who is not even a legitimate contestant in the race, choose a candidate that most closely supports those priorities on your list.
Think about these scenarios. I realize they are a hypothetical and a wee bit bizarre. But, what if Herod and Pilate were running for office at the time of Christ, and God’s people had the opportunity nearly 2000 years ago to vote for one of the two candidates? Or, what if Samson and Jezebel(maybe a little too close to home :-) were running for office and God’s people had an opportunity to voice their discernment for the greater good by voting for one of those two candidates? How do you think they would have demonstrated discernment in those two hypothetical elections?
4. Don’t confuse the job of the state with the job of the church.
This is pretty amazing. Romans 13:1-7 calls an imperial , totalitarian government His “servant” three different times in just seven verses. God has created three major institutions: the family, government and the church. Scripturally, only one of those institutions, the church, is eternal. The government and the church have different goals. The State is supremely focused upon the temporal, the here-and-now, rather than the hereafter. The government is also primarily tasked with protecting its citizens and punishing evil-doers. The church, however, is tasked with proclaiming the Gospel, mercy ministry, and the ministry of reconciliation. The social and compassionate care of the most unfortunate, should be a major focus of the church, rather than the State. The government, on the other hand, should be mainly focused upon law enforcement, justice and protection. We confuse these at times, demanding that our government do a job that they were never tasked with, while at the same time excusing our own ecclesiastical delinquency. (James 1:27) I love this quote by MLK, Jr. Of course, he was referring to the civil rights movement. But, by extension, can't we see how the proper executive, legislative and judicial officials can do their God-given responsibilities by "restraining the heartless"?
“Morality cannot be legislated, but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.”
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
5. Enough with the smug, sanctimonious, attitude!
As forgiven sinners, we should be the most mushy-hearted people. Our words, attitudes and social media posts should reflect the “come unto me” of our kind and humble Savior. It seems like this particular election(no doubt provoked by how flawed the two finalists are), has brought out the worst in folks. "Do unto others as you have them do unto you." Really, we should stop the swift accusing of others with guilt by association. This is a flawed argument and really a double-edged sword. When an informed person sincerely supports a candidate, we should not assume that the person is now supportive of every choice they have ever made or every deed they have done. Neither should we begin to insinuate that they are somehow less spiritual or ill-discerning. There has been too much of this on social media. It is disappointing to see friends be pressured to remove posts because of corrupt communication that immediately appears in their comment feed. It is equally disappointing(and very irritating!) to read the condescending posts that seem as if the one posting has received some immediate revelation from God about how all of the universal church should vote. Enough already!
6. It will be ok. Really.
Yes, we should be thankful for this unique, privileged opportunity to participate in electing those who lead us. But, we should never lose sight of what we, as believers know to be true: The King is coming! We are dual-citizens. We are pilgrims. Strangers. Aliens. "This world is not our home, we're just a passing through!" So, patriotism should always be regulated by sound theology; and so should cynicism. He puts up one leader and takes down another. As Christians we have a great opportunity to demonstrate that we care about the laws that promote the greater good by voting for our school boards, various municipal referenda, city, state and presidential elections. All the while, we are "looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God!"
7. Watch MSNBC, CNN and listen to people who view things differently too.
For many of us, we actually never hear the other side. If all we listen to is Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, we will rarely(if ever) hear the other side of the issues that we write down on our priority list. We should tune in to the contrary voice. Have lunch, breakfast or coffee with friends who view some of your most important issues differently. Listen to them seeking understanding rather than forming your reply.
Don’t waste your vote!
A Historical Sketch of the East Brandywine Baptist Church (1843-2018)
10/4/2018 10:26:00 AM by: Brian Fuller
Cynicism: Frozen Heart Disease. Confessions From An Infected Soul
5/11/2018 11:37:00 AM by: Pastor Brian Fuller
Yours, But Not Ours
3/18/2018 12:04:00 PM by: Pastor Brian Fuller
Itching Ears and Q-Tip Teachers
11/19/2017 12:01:00 PM by: Pastor Brian Fuller
EBBC Announces Candidate for Pastor of Discipleship & Spiritual Formation
10/5/2017 11:54:00 AM by: Pastor Brian Fuller
Are We Territorial Church Members?
6/30/2017 1:27:00 PM by: Pastor Brian Fuller
The Baby With Four Names: Wonderful Counselor!
12/12/2016 2:14:00 PM by: Pastor Brian Fuller
Don't Waste Your Vote
10/14/2016 9:54:00 AM by: Pastor Brian Fuller
Saved People Serve People
8/26/2016 12:00:01 AM by: PJ
We Built a Wall
8/22/2016 12:00:01 AM by: PJ
Metzler House Fire - Ways to Help
7/6/2016 11:39:49 AM by: PJ
Dealing with Distraction & Division in the Church-Titus 3:8-11
5/28/2016 6:35:07 AM by: Pastor Brian Fuller
Under New Ownership
5/6/2016 3:07:19 PM by: Pastor Brian Fuller
More Power than a Vote
5/4/2016 12:00:01 AM by: PJ
Essentially Literal-The ESV at EBBC
1/31/2016 6:49:13 AM by: Pastor Brian Fuller
7 Social Media Tips for Teens and Parents
1/27/2016 12:00:01 AM by: PJ
A Case for Christian Merriment
12/1/2015 12:00:01 AM by: Pastor Brian Fuller
11/25/2015 12:00:01 AM by: PJ
Introducing EBBC's New Lead Pastor, Brian Fuller!
11/1/2015 12:00:01 AM by: PJ
Thank You from your Pastors!
10/29/2015 1:31:06 PM by: PJ
You're Invited to our Wednesday Night Prayer Group
10/6/2015 12:00:01 AM by: PJ
Doane Gift Card Collection - House Fire
9/7/2015 12:00:01 AM by: PJ
Transformation through Crisis
3/20/2015 12:00:01 AM by: Pastor Josh
A Youth Pastor's Graduation Survival Guide
3/11/2015 12:00:01 AM by: Pastor Josh Park
The Hurting Youth Pastor
3/6/2015 12:00:01 AM by: Pastor Josh Park
1/11/2015 12:00:01 AM by: Pastor John Haas