Well, election season is upon us in the USA. It’s sort of like a major televised sporting event, except the athletes don’t actually run anywhere or toss any balls around or lift anything, they just stand around and talk and yell at each other. There is no measurable way to score points, other than the crowds watching in the stands and at home, voting in polls and tweeting on the internet. And the way to win the game is get the most votes at the end of the tournament.
And just like the way Americans pray for their favorite team to win the Superbowl, the symptoms of a full blown case of electionitis have been readily apparent in the postings of American Christians all over the internet. Electionitis is when the church en masse displays its various opinions about candidates, not just as opinions informed by our spiritual inclinations, but at *the right choice according to God.*
Mini holy wars break out in families, in churches, and definitely on the internet as people prepare to burn the heretics – ie, christians who have different political leanings than they do – on the stake of “You’re bringing down our country with your apostate understanding of Christianity, vis a vis your political choices.” It’s as simple as the “unfriend” button on Facebook.
Look – there is a lot in the Bible about what God thinks about things, and what Jesus thinks about things, and as we know, Jesus was a Jew. I’m also a Jew so I can get away with quoting the old adage, “If you have two Jews, you have three opinions.” Jesus is not altogether immune from this facet of his ancestry. As such, even people who are earnestly trying to follow Jesus might ..just might…see things somewhat differently about the same election.
Ok, ignore that paragraph. What I really mean to say is: some folks act as if the entire Bible was written because in any election there is at least ONE political candidate who is stone cold dead EVIL, and one political candidate in any election who is God’s perfect choice which represents God’s perfect will to be performed in the earth, and anyone who can’t instantly see that as clear as the nose on their face doesn’t deserve to be called a follower of Christ.
Look, it doesn’t work that way. That kind of mentality has a psychological term – it’s called “splitting.” I wrote about it a long time ago in this post here.
Realistically – there is nothing wrong with trying to understand morality through the lens of faith in Christ as best as you are able, and picking a candidate to support who best represents what you think based on that and other factors would be the best person to vote for. But there is this machine that goes into operation every election season that tells Christians, “You have to make your decisions based not on a whole assortment of complex moral and ethical and other considerations, but you have to decide who is best to vote on based on the issues WE TELL YOU are the most important issues right now in your country as God sees it.”
I want to say – “No, that’s not true. Anytime, someone tells you what God thinks is most important in this country right now, they are in essence, prophesying – whether they call it prophesy or not.” And the Bible is very clear that prophesies all have to be tested.
There is a whole other contingent of folks, that believe God is really, really pissed at America. And they think – that God wants to give us the worst president he can find, because what He really is out to do is bring judgment to the USA. Nothing brings judgment like a REALLY BAD PRESIDENT. So these people teach that Christians should vote their conscience, but, at the end of the day, they should sit back and relegate themselves to the fact that good candidates don’t win, only really bad leaders win because God likes giving this country really bad leadership. It’s His plan for bringing down the USA – and the church just isn’t working hard enough, with tears and prayers and earnest repentance, to change that fact.
OK, ok, so what do I think?
One day several years ago I attended a worship conference in Germany, where Christians from all over the European Union had gathered together to pray for Europe. It was in the middle of a debt crisis, and when the topic of leadership came up, the European Christians I was with were so strikingly different than anything that I had ever seen happen in the USA that I was quite frankly, amazed by the difference. Not one negative word was spoken about any European leader. No one talked about whether the leaders were real Christians, fake Christians, closet muslims, atheists, or anything about what the leaders believed at all. Instead, the conference statements about their government went basically like this:
Europe is in crisis.
Our leaders need wisdom.
Let’s pray for them to have wisdom.
Really. That’s all that was there. You would have thought these people had the utmost honor and respect for every single pagan, protestant christian, catholic, muslim, agnostic, and atheist leader of Europe. You would have thought that they all thought God had given them wonderful and respectable leaders, and now all the leaders needed was help from on high to do their jobs well.
Of course, it wasn’t election season. But even so, even during the off-season in the USA, people don’t really respect the person who got elected if they hadn’t elected him or her themselves.
So how do I think we should be handling election season? I do think we should be able to share our viewpoints with each other. We should be able to pick a candidate we think is best for the country and share that viewpoint without fear that our friends, or church, our family, or any other brothers in sisters in Christ will judge us and consider us somehow lacking in personal integrity because after weighing all the factors we decided one candidate’s strengths were better than another’s – and that one candidate’s drawbacks were more worth overlooking than another’s. The people I really worry about are the ones who seem to think that there is no valid set of strengths and negatives that someone else could legitimately pay attention to when choosing a different candidate.
And if someone you consider “evil” wins the presidency – it might not be because God wanted to bring judgment on the USA. It might be, that despite the 99.9% things that are wrong with that candidate, that what God really wanted to accomplish in the USA in the next four years relates to the one thing that that candidate would do that no one else would do. Maybe there’s one kid in the backwoods of Louisiana somewhere who is going to grow up to (insert your favorite thing here: win an entire nation to Christ, find a cure for cancer, bring down communism in North Korea, find a new class of antibiotics, grow up to keep someone else from killing themselves in a rehab center who gives birth to someone else who does something amazing). Maybe it’s a butterfly effect thing – maybe this “evil” president will affect that one kid’s life with some bizarre decision he or she made that in God’s eyes, was worth putting that guy/girl on the throne of the USA.
We like to think God is looking at the big picture. We can pray He does. But we really never know quite what He is working out. We try our best, pick good candidates, but at the end of the day – have faith that good things are happening anyway, even among the worst of the worst. And I think what is even more important to God is that we still respect and love those among us who see things differently.
So let’s pray:
God, the USA is in crisis.
Our president, whoever he or she may end up being, needs your wisdom.
Please help him or her, and help us as we choose them.
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