Wineskins Archive

December 5, 2013

Vote Like a Christian (Oct 2012)

Filed under: — @ 2:49 pm and

By Justin Simmons

It’s one of my favorite times of the year. (Well, actually, this time only comes around every two years.) As someone fascinated with both politics and history, every election cycle poses a delightful new set of issues, candidates, and story-lines. While there are so many things to love about the political process- the ability to choose our own leaders being at the top of the list- there are also a few challenges, particularly for people of faith. With no party having a monopoly on morality, how do I decide how to cast my vote in a way that reflects a commitment to my faith? It’s a question I have struggled with each time I vote, and unfortunately I don’t seem to be any closer to figuring out how to best use my vote to support all the issues I care about. And yet, despite the unanswered questions I find myself learning lessons about my faith, and what it means to be part of a Christian community, every time I cast a ballot.

– One of the most frequent complaints I hear about voting is that “my vote doesn’t matter.”

At its heart this complaint is not a lament about being a single individual, but rather an individual in a community. What really rubs us the wrong way is not that our vote doesn’t count, but that it doesn’t count anymore than the next persons. One of the most valuable lessons we learn every time we cast our ballot is that we have the right to make our voice heard, with the understanding that our voice is just one of many. The humbling fact that our vote is simply one in thousands, if not millions, is a powerful bulwark against the sometimes overwhelming tide of individualism that seeks to place our opinions on the pedestal of superiority. The bulwark is needed not only in our cities, states, and country; it’s needed in our churches. Few people pack up and leave the country when an election doesn’t go their way. Perhaps its just an issue of practicality, but I would like to think that its really an issue of commitment. Our commitment to our country keeps us here, even when things aren’t to our liking. Can we honestly say the same about our devotion to our community of faith?

– Our leaders are not perfect, but then again neither are we.

I must admit that as I was going down the ballot making decisions, I was struck by the lack of viable options in a number of races. I mean, seriously? There was even one time where the lack of an alternative led me to write in my dad for an office (which is actually kind of fun when your dad’s name is Richard Simmons, but I digress). When we look at the mud-slinging, the corruption, and the failures attached to almost every candidates name, we are left imploring the Almighty to save us from almost certain ruin. However, we must be honest and realize that the stark reality is that every one of us is flawed in some way. We open our Bibles and find an Abraham whose attempts to fix things only made things worse (a track-record of failure is unlikely to win over the voters), a Moses with a speech impediment (that would go over real well in the media age, although it does work for Lou Holtz), a David who is not only adulterous but who also murders to cover it up (imagine trying to put a positive spin on that one), a Peter whose first reaction is to chop a man’s ear off (would you want his finger on the button that controls all the nukes?), and a Paul with a history of persecuting the very people he is called to teach and lead (I can’t help but think King George III would not have fared well in the first presidential election).

I could go on and talk about the Father of our country who owned slaves, the hero of New Orleans whose treatment of the Indians would have made him a war criminal in the 20th century, the victorious Union General/President with a drinking problem, the womanizing skipper of PT-109, or the Watergate kleptomaniac whose insecurities severely damaged America’s faith in its leaders. Whether its the pages of the Bible or an American History textbook, the examples of leaders who failed significantly are seemingly endless. I think this is good. For one, it reminds us that no one is perfect, not even the person we see in the mirror. But more importantly, it shows us that so long as our hope is in man there will be severe limitations, and even disappointments.

If you have even made it this far, you are probably thinking that the title of this note is extremely misleading. I said I was going to tell you how to vote like a Christian, and yet I haven’t told you who to vote for or what issues God most cares about. For once, I would like to suggest that voting like a Christian is not only about how you vote, in terms of candidates and issues. It’s also about how you vote, in terms of the respect, dignity, and responsibility you bring to the political process itself. To that end, I would like to suggest a few things you can do to “vote like a Christian”:

1. Remember that each and every person, every candidate and even every person with whom you vehemently disagree, is made in the image of God. I am passionate about my political opinions. They are the product of years of study and contemplation. However, as a Christian I should be the most passionate about seeing the imago Dei, the image of God, in each and every person I meet, and loving them the same way that God their creator does.

2. Choose your battles wisely. The older I get, the more convinced I am that the Devil’s greatest trick is to lure the church into battles fought on the grounds of the courthouse and in the halls of Congress. Indeed, there are times when the church is called to witness against various forms of oppression that exist in society, but our goal is not to make our views the law of the land, but rather to help usher in the kingdom of God where love, peace, and justice are written on every heart, not on tablets of stone or pieces of parchment. Any triumph at the courthouse or in Congress that creates alienation or bitterness is a Pyrrhic victory won on the wrong battlefield.

3. Remember your calling, and in whom your hope is found. No matter which political party you belong to, in the last decade you have experienced at least one election that proved to be disappointing, if not a downright disaster. In addition to the natural urge to want to be on the winning side, we are saddled with the constant threat of impending doom if those on the other side aren’t stopped. If you listen to the political ads no matter who wins, America is going down the tank in a hurry. Shockingly, as a Christian this doesn’t bother me much. Don’t get me wrong, I love my country. However, as a Christian my identity is not in my citizenship, where I went to school, my ethnicity, the size of my bank account, or my good looks (that’s a relief!). My identity is found in Christ, and my calling is to be His disciple. Imagine if the players on the winning team in the World Series could look ahead and know they were going to win in seven games. Can you picture the scene as reporters interview them after losing game six? I think the most pressing question might be: “How is it that you are all so calm, when you are one game away from losing the World Series?”. As silly as the scenario sounds, it should be familiar to those of the Christian faith. We profess to know what happens in game seven. Indeed we are calm even in the midst of perceived defeats because we have faith that the final scene will be the eschatalogical ticker-tape parade that celebrates not the hoisting of a championship trophy, but the full realization of God’s kingdom here on earth.

Regardless of whom you vote for or what issues you chose to support in the week ahead, my prayer is that you vote like a Christian.

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