Monday, November 02, 2020

Christian: What To Do About Election Day

When I was a sports official and assigned as the “crew chief” for a game, I would always tell my partners this: “After this game, a lot of folks are going to be happy, and a lot of folks are going to be unhappy. There’s nothing we can do about that, and don’t take it personally.” The reality is, there have been many games before, and there will be many games afterwards. There will always be winners and losers.

Same with this election. There have been many elections before this one; there will be many afterwards. Regardless of what we think, this election is not “the most important election ever in the history of the United States.” That’s been said about every election. While this election may be important to you and me, it’s hubris to think that our time in history is any more important than anyone else’s.

One colleague's words, Don Sensing, former Army soldier/Pentagon staff and now UM minister, saved me a lot of re-reading the Federalist Papers to summarize how many of the Founding Fathers felt about the governing of the new nation and today' predicament:

The present election has inflamed passions throughout the country, including to the violence that the Founders warned us. Neither candidate has made much in the campaigns of their religious convictions. It is just as well. America's Founders trusted neither religion nor its lack as a qualification of a candidate. While we may hope and pray that our national leaders will be guided by the highest ideals of moral and religious convictions, our nation’s founders warned us not to count on it, either for office seekers, office holders or voters. We must seek another source of unity for our nation, not to supplant morality and religion but to complement them. - from the Sensing Online blog: "Election and Unity - a reflection on this Tuesday."


That helps answer the question, "What's a Christian to do?" regarding this election. Going to one’s faith is not a universal guide nor always helpful to how one should vote or who should win this election. Southern Baptist leader Al Mohler, a conservative, has changed his mind from the last election and has found a moral way to support the re-election of our president (you can read what he says here). John Piper, Calvinist/Baptist pastor and teacher  – also a conservative - states that he cannot in good conscience vote for either candidate and makes a moral case for his decision (read his article here). More progressive religious leaders like Jim Wallis have painfully articulated the problem that he sees with choosing the Left or the Right in politics when viewed through theological eyes: despite who the president has been, (a) family breakdown is occurring across all class and racial lines, and (b) public education remains a disaster for millions of families. Moreover, for the progressive party-line platform, a consistent ethic of life (Wallis' words) means that if you are against capital punishment on the grounds of it being a premeditated murder, that means you must reconsider the party-line stance on abortion as well. It also means that both "sides" must take poverty more seriously than they do, as poverty encourages a culture of death. (Wallis, from God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It [2005])

My advice in this election is to exercise your right to vote or not vote, and if you do vote try to vote for the candidates that closely match your personal political platform as possible. If you can’t in good conscience vote for either choice, write one in or leave it blank. The perfect candidate doesn’t exist – and never will.


Nevada, 2016 Election
Interesting statistic: the practice of leaving a ballot choice blank (sometimes called a “protest vote” or “undervote”) has increased in the past two elections. In 2012, around 0.97% of those voting left their presidential vote blank. In 2016, that figure rose to 1.4%. Getting a ballot and not voting for one or more offices is (a) legal, and (b) still exercising your right to vote. In Nevada, you have the option of choosing “None of the above.” In 2016, NOTA received 28,863 votes… which was 2.56% of the vote, and more than the margin of victory which was 27,202 votes. 

Here’s what’s clearly not acceptable or desirable for Christians: if your candidate wins, don’t gloat. If your candidate loses, don’t despair (I'll resist posting scriptural verses about such). The sun will come up tomorrow. And the next day. And the next day. Some days it’s sunny. Some days it rains. Remember that it rains on the just and unjust.


As my friend Allan Bevere wrote a few years ago: if you read Romans 12 AND 13 in context, we pray for our leaders that they might be godly people, and then - pretty much - we pray that they might leave us Christians alone to do our work: to sacrifice, to not allow ourselves to be transformed by the world, and to please God. Let Caesar, the President, and whoever’s Prime Minister be about their work, but know as Christians that love fulfills the law and does no harm to a neighbor. We put on the robe of Jesus the Christ. That’s our task; not to be about a political party’s business, but to be about the Lord’s business.

Good friends, family, and Christians will disagree about politics, and/or find frustration with politics. After the election: don't gloat, don't despair, and don't let this become a deal-breaker where family, friends, and fellow citizens are concerned. Vote with conviction. Win or lose with graciousness - but be sure your convictions and struggles are stronger with the Faith than your patriotism. Where your treasure is, is where you will find your heart.


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