We are just weeks away from the presidential election, and I know there are many of you who agree with me that I wish it were already over! But it is not, and I fear it is likely to get far worse in tone and tawdriness until election day.
For many reasons, this is one of the most important elections in this century. The appointment of up to three Supreme Court Justices, overturning Citizens United, and continuing to solve the healthcare situation, especially for women and the poor are just a few of the domestic issues that loom in the near future.
There is also the growing global crisis in war, terrorism, and the resulting wave of millions of refugees worldwide, in trade and finance, and in the environment that affects every living soul on earth. Whether we like it or not, our President sets a tone for the world, and is looked upon for leadership and direction.
Sadly, the mudslinging, scare tactics, name-calling, lies and promises that can’t be kept aren’t new in 2016. Though we are bombarded with ‘he said/she said’ and a level of public discourse that has reached a new low, one does not have to look far back in history to realize that this has always happened to some degree in politics. Even though the political rhetoric gets outrageous, and “spin” and “talking heads” muddy the already-murky waters, the checks and balances of our constitutional system have continued to support our democratic process year after year.
Sadly, however, some of the 2016 candidates are making it a central focus of their campaigns to denigrate and cast doubt on this democratic process – to sow seeds of distrust and anger about our national institutions and elections, and to foment dissatisfaction wherever possible. Although our system of governance and of choosing our leaders may have some glitches, we would do well to remember that US democracy is far more successful and promising than any governance human beings have developed to-date, anywhere on this earth, and we must guard it with our lives!
Still, some shrug their shoulders and say, ‘it doesn’t matter if I vote – it’s all rigged” or ‘I don’t like any candidate so I will make a protest vote – it doesn’t matter who wins”.
If you feel this way, I want to ask you to reconsider. As Christians and followers of Jesus, I urge you not only to vote, but to realize that your vote matters— like never before! I ask you to consider several basic concepts springing from our faith that can help influence your decision.
INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM VS. THE COMMON GOOD: The central struggle of modern societal ruling systems has been to balance the rights of the individual with the needs and structure of the community—to seek the common good while preserving personal freedoms. If one takes time to read the platforms and policy statements of the four groups vying for national office, it is clear where they stand on matters of great national importance: regulation, public vs. private institutions and ownership, access to the laws and the courts, healthcare education, religion, etc. From the first recorded moments of His ministry, we know that Jesus taught inclusiveness, caring for your neighbor and “the least of these,” non-violence, and fairness. We are taught to “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39), “go the extra mile,” “welcome the stranger” (Romans 12:13) and to love and treat others as we wish to be treated (Luke 6:31). Racial, religious, economic, and social barriers must be broken so that we may all be one as “Children of the Light” (Luke 16:8). Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12) is a profound and simple model of what is important and eternal in relationships and in nations. We must seek leaders with policies and positions that strive for that model. We must go beyond our personal fears to seek and support those who espouse the good for each of us within what is good for ALL of us! Playing on our fears, our greed, our hubris, and our prejudices diminishes us all.
COMPROMISE OR ”RENDER TO CAESAR THE THINGS THAT ARE CAESAR’S”: Politics is messy and often unfair. Just as in Jesus’ day, many groups, interests, and powers make up society, and the struggle to live together must involve “give and take’ if it is to succeed. In Mark 12, Jesus avoids the trap of literalism in which his enemies sought to ensnare him. Instead of railing against unfair taxes, Jesus reminds them that taxes, societal laws and regulations are all part of the earthly realm of Caesar, and not of God, but if we are to live in this world successfully, we must at times live by the rules of “Caesar” so that we may do the work of God! No one likes to compromise their values or integrity, but we have all done it at one time or another, and in politics, we’d best follow Jesus advice, and seek leaders who have been willing to compromise in order to get something done for the good of all. “My way or the highway” may sound high-minded and tough, but in fact, it migrates against moving forward any discourse or action for the benefit of all. Jesus would urge us to support leaders who have shown themselves able to master the give and take of difficult agreements in the world of “Caesar”!
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS: Since childhood I have heard the adage “talk is cheap,” and with most political rhetoric, promises are made and broken on a daily basis. Several times in His teachings Jesus reminded us that we can be judged best by what we DO, more than what we say. In Luke 6:44 we find:
For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good, and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.
In the book of James 2:14-16, we are reminded that faith without works is dead—and so we must look to the candidate’s actions and deeds, rather than listen only to what they promise. How have they lived their lives? What have they valued and fought for? That tells us more about what they will do in office than any catchy slogans or bold assertions!
DO NOT DESTROY THE GOOD IN SEARCH OF PERFECTION: We must remember that only God is perfect and we all fall short of perfection. But Jesus continually urges us to
“seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)
to keep trying. Our leaders fail and make mistakes, but many do good things in the process, and in the chaos of the political arena, have fought and proven themselves. As we learned in our Scripture last Sunday, he who is faithful in small things, can be trusted in large things (Luke 16:10), and so let us not deny the leader who has shown in his or her life a determination to work for the best for us all, despite his or her mistakes and failures. Let us ardently support those leaders who did their best to work with love for compassion, peace, and justice for all of us. Remember, we are also choosing for the world!
YOUR VOTE MATTERS—for today and for the future of America and the planet! I urge you to take your faith with you passionately and enthusiastically into the voting booth!
We must pray for all our leaders and the candidates – pray that they will consider the teachings of Jesus in their lives and their elected functions.
And no matter what, no matter who is your favorite,
WE MUST ALL GO VOTE!
This is the one time that the ‘government for the people’ can actual be determined ‘by the people’.
written for The Crossroads, Saint John’s Worthington and Parts Adjacent, Worthington, OH; 17 Sep 2016