This is quite possibly the craziest political season that our country has ever experienced, at least in modern memory. Voters all over the country are getting ready to vote into office one of two people who are dishonest, potentially (or completely) crooked, and who have used their connections or resources (whether political, financial, or both) for their own personal benefit. So, who will get your vote?
Now, stick with me here…I’ve got a lot to say! My goal today is to share with you a perspective on how you should process your vote, not necessarily who you should vote for.
I have typically refrained from giving specific commentary on this blog about specific issues or candidates. As a pastor, there is one principal reason why I do this. I desire to be the pastor of everyone who is a part of my church (whether they attend my church in person or watch online). There are so many political beliefs out there, and I never want my personal beliefs to be an obstacle to my most important belief: Jesus Christ!
Faith in Jesus Christ has survived (and thrived) in every political system and has crossed every cultural, ethnic, and national boundary. Jesus is universal! I never want a subset of political beliefs, even if they are rooted in faith, to be an obstacle to my most important belief…my belief in Jesus. I get frustrated when political figures try to attach Jesus to their political philosophy, to somehow convince everyone that Jesus is on their side.
Now, that being said, let me be clear about something: while I have very specific political beliefs, I am not a partisan. You know who the partisans are. They are those “friends” on Facebook (or elsewhere) who never listen to reason, blindly follow, and vote the party line above all else. Some of them resort to name calling. Their opinion can’t be changed because they have an emotional attachment to their opinion, which can’t be changed with logic. These people exist on the right and the left in American politics. Some are Democrats. Others are Republicans. Others are Libertarians, or Green Party, or other political parties.
Partisan is not a word that I use to describe myself. I am not beholden to a certain group, person, or political party. I happen to be registered with one, but I don’t blindly follow. I study positions and am willing to change if I believe it more closely reflects my values. In practice, I am probably more of an independent. There is a set of values that I hold dear. These values are informed by my faith in Jesus. I vote according to those values, looking at all the candidates that might potentially be the best fit for the values I have. I hold my values strongly, but my opinions loosely, choosing to see if there might be other truth out there that I might have missed.
With all of that said, I have been thinking through who I will vote for. But, more than that, I have been thinking about what’s going on underneath the political scene. What are the currents of belief that influence this election? What are people actually looking for when voting for a specific candidate? What should we look for when voting for a particular candidate? Can you still be a good citizen if you choose to vote for neither candidate (talking about Trump and Clinton here)? If you go for a third party candidate (like Stein, Johnson, or McMullin) is that throwing away your vote?
What I’d like to do is simply invite you to think through a few things that might form how you think about who to vote for.
First, your vote needs to be earned.
Your vote does not belong to a political party, whether you are registered with them or not. While your vote needs to be given (or potentially withheld purposefully), it does not need to be given freely. The candidate needs to prove their worthiness for the office that they seek. Simply saying that you might vote for the lesser of two evils requires nothing of the candidate to earn your vote. It’s ok to have expectations of the candidates and to vote accordingly.
Second, you must view your vote as having weight in two important areas: policy and culture.
Let me expand on this a bit. The human body needs two things to function: systems and blood flow. The systems of the body include systems like the circulatory, muscular, nervous, and others. But, even if every system is in perfect working condition, if there is no flow of blood, there is no life. In fact, you can live life without complete use of all your systems…but if there is no flow of blood, you’re dead!
Put simply, the blood is the life of the body, and the systems carry the life of the body.
I view the country in a similar way.
Policies = systems. Culture = blood flow.
Most people tend to view their vote only in the context of policy. They ask questions like: Does this candidate believe what I believe? Will this candidate enact the policies that I believe will benefit this country? Etc.
Those are good questions to ask. But they are not the only questions.
The questions of culture have to do with how our society functions, responds, and interacts, regardless of the policies that exist. Questions for this might be like: Does this candidate behave how I want them to behave? Does this candidate represent the character that this nation should have?
The relationship between policies and culture is symbiotic.
This means that they both influence each other. But, this leads me to my third point, which happens to be personal opinion.
Third, CULTURE trumps (no pun intended) POLICY every day of the week.
I believe who we are as a nation is quite possibly more important than what we do as a nation. Now, some of you might disagree. That’s ok! You might think that policy trumps culture. Or, you might believe that they are equally important. I can respect those viewpoints. All I ask of you is to take them into account in order to make your decision.
And, this is what makes it so hard. If you believe that culture trumps policy, then you might look at both principal candidates as being unfit for office. Or, you might believe one truly does have the character needed to be in office and to move our country in the direction it needs to go. Regardless of which way you go, I encourage you to evaluate the candidates according to this framework.
Fourth (and last), Jesus is above every political system.
The kingdom of God is not a human kingdom. While I love the United States of America, and consider it a privilege to live here, this country is not the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is eternal. His kingdom rests in our hearts, not in a political system.
Now, is it important to vote in the political system so that we might continue to live our faith freely in this country? Absolutely. But let me remind you: some of the greatest countries for the expansion of God’s kingdom on earth are also the most restrictive towards exercising faith. Think of China as one example.
I believe politics is downstream of culture. The reason why Christianity might be losing in the political arena is because it’s already losing in the hearts of the population. If we want God’s kingdom to spread in this country, it won’t happen because we get the right leader to be president…it will happen because the Church reaches people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Because of this, my hope is not in a political system, party, or leader. My hope is in Jesus! Choose to trust in Jesus, regardless of which way our political system goes in the coming years.
So, who will you vote for? Choose to think critically, using the wisdom that God gives, to come to the conclusion that you believe is best.