2020 will be my first election voting for a President—and what a first one it will be. Over the last four years, the last two in particular, I have begun a journey of searching for answers trying to decide who I am in a political narrative and how I want to use my voice. In true honesty, I never really cared that much about being able to vote, and I never really thought my vote could make much of a difference. Through learning more and more, I have come to understand how much a vote actually means in this nation and that it cannot and should never be taken for granted. I have also seen the power of the people—how “We the people” is the precursor and lifeblood of America, and we truly do shape and direct this nation. I am also a Christian, and this was one of the largest influences on my journey to political understanding and confidence in that understanding. I heard people from both sides of the political spectrum utilizing Scripture and the Bible to make their points. Along my journey, I had reached a point where I said “well, maybe my beliefs as a Christian and American should be separate because I cannot impose my standard of morality and living on others.” Yet, as I read the book “Compassion & Conviction: The AND Campaign’s Guide to Faithful Civic Engagement” I was challenged to reevaluate my thinking and realize that my faith should impact my political decisions and it’s not merely something we can separate (although in vulnerability, I am still wrestling with my stance on multiple issues).
When I began my journey of searching and researching, I would say “I don’t know what I am—Democrat or Republican, I’m working to figure it out.” Now, I would say: “I don’t know what I am—Democrat or Republican, but I don’t think I need to be either.” In a world that is screaming division and where we see anger and hatred bubbling up and spilling out, I believe as Christians we are called to the political sphere, but NOT to political ideology.
In the midst of such disunity and political unrest in the Christian church there tends to be two camps. And like most things, the truth lies in the tension between two extremes. One extreme seems to run from politics, disengage from political conversations and controversy, and avoid the news and anything contentious (oftentimes, in the name of love and peace or because we’ve bought into a side that says politics are too complicated and I don’t need to understand government because I’m not a part of it). I used to believe parts of this side up until about 2 years ago. The other extreme is one of drawing political lines in the church. This side likes to claim that “no Christian could be a (fill in the blank—usually it’s the same line from either side).” This side likes to bring Jesus and scripture into every political debate, and usually does not want to talk to the other side because they know what they believe and feel that it is God-ordained. I probably slipped over to this side various times in my life and the last two years, on both party sides at various times (I told you, I’ve been all over the board on my search for political clarity). However, I would argue that both of these sides are actually living outside where Christians have been called to be and ignoring important things in scripture.
First of all, countless times in the Bible God worked through politics to bring change for his people. From Aaron and Moses advocating for the Israelites, Joseph being a leader during a famine and controlling resources passed to the public, establishing judges and Kings to rule fairly and work through injustice, Esther stepping out in faith as Queen and compassionately pursuing justice, to Jesus engaging in political dialogue and conversation; God does not run from politics but rather uses politics. As Christians we are called to be beacons of light pursuing justice, love, and peace; the order of Government and workings of the law is a key factor in how we do this. To ignore politics or claim that we are above it, is not only ignoring an avenue for change that the Lord has provided us, but it is also unloving. It is unloving to ignore systems that affect the vulnerable and oppressed, it is unloving to think we are above helping our fellow man, and it is unloving to ignore blessing and privilege that we have been handed and refuse to use it for good. It is loving to advocate, to fight for, and to speak up for those around us.
However, we must be careful as we enter into political dialogue and debate that we do not get caught in the world’s snare of division and ideology. The world tells us that we must choose a political ideology and party and stay in it. However, political parties at their very core are based off division. Political ideologies are made by man and therefore they will have flaws and sin and corruption. We must never set aside the Truth of God’s word for the platform of a party, and we must never allow division to set into our Christian life. We are told, “don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think,” we are told to “agree wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose… don’t look out for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too” (Romans 12:2, Philippians 2:2,4 NLT). Does this mean we will never have disputes and will always see eye-to-eye? Of course not. The Bible is not a book of strict regulations and guidelines on how to vote (let us never forget Jesus purposely did not come as a political leader). The Bible was not written to determine if democracy or capitalism is the best form of government and economic policy, and the Bible was not written specifically for America or the western world. The Bible is a lifestyle rooted in the understanding that humanity is fallen and that apart from Christ and his sacrifice we would be nowhere. The Bible is a place of defining true community, of establishing values that we should all pursue, and a reminder of life beyond Earth. We might have disagreements on political policy and the way to go about things, but as Christians we are called to unity. We are called to recognize the inherent value and worth of each person who has been made in God’s image—meaning we appreciate the differences and diversity in one another that can broaden our understanding of just how amazing and big our God is.
One of the statements I have continually felt and still do feel is, “I wish someone would just tell me how to vote as a Christian.” I just want to know what the right party, the right choice, and the right person is. However, I think that’s the wrong sentiment. First off, the Lord gave me a brain and free will to critically think and make decisions for myself. Second of all, I need to ask myself if I am looking for man-made answers to a man-made problem. We will never stop injustice this side of Heaven, because we will never be free of sin this side of Heaven. While this doesn’t mean we stop fighting, it does mean we need to remember what the end goal is, and Whose the victory is. We get the joy of fighting for justice knowing that in the end the battle is already won, a big party is awaiting us, and all we are doing is building up the guest list! We must ask if we are believing the world’s lies that we must choose a side and stay in it. When people draw lines, Jesus steps over it. When we choose division, we are choosing friendship with the world and enmity with God. When we choose political ideology over the Truth of God’s word, we are walking a slippery slope.
None of my thoughts are a mandate or a judgement on your political view, because as I said, we don’t have to see eye-to-eye to find unity. I know there’s other thoughts out there (for example, maybe you choose a party and work from within to change it). I am aware that even my own opinions could change in another year or two—that’s okay, in fact that’s good. It means I’ve grown and been challenged to think differently. My take for right now is that I choose to be engaged in politics because it is a place the Lord has allowed us to work. I do not choose a political party because both are flawed and based off values of the world. I choose to live in the tension between two extremes and fight the good fight of working for all, voting for who I believe is representing Christ and His witness the best (in action and in speech), choose policies that enact change for the poor and vulnerable, advocate on behalf of the underrepresented and oppressed, and keep my eyes Heavenward.