Today is election day in America. Most folks are happy to punch their ballot and more folks are happier still that the incessant, ominous, television campaign ads will end. For a while, at least. This isn’t the last election cycle we’ll endure.
Politics are a big deal, and the line between politics and religion has blurred significantly in the last three or four decades. This is primarily due to the emergence of the Religious Right and the so-called Moral Majority. It’s also due to advances in technology and social media, allowing folks to protest, picket, and campaign with a couple of clicks of the thumb. Any message can be shared quickly in this day and age. It can also be misinterpreted easier than ever. Therefore, lines are inadvertently blurred.
We live in a polarized political universe, which is not a new thing. It does seem more nuanced, though, these days. It seems more embittered. This goes for both sides of the proverbial aisle. I have Christian friends who for some reason think I’m a liberal (er…excuse me…”Progressive”) and they take every opportunity to bad-mouth Tea Party folks in front of me. I don’t think the Tea Party is right about everything by any means, but I do my best to be fair and let my left-leaning brothers and sisters know that I’m not, in fact, Bill Maher.
But I’m not Ted Cruz, either. Recently I wrote a blog post to Houston mayor Anisse Parker, a letter that was widely misunderstood. Some of my staunchly Republican friends thought I was joining with them in the fight to take back America from the LGBT community!!! Don’t get me wrong, I meant what I said in the letter. But I meant all of what I said, not just the parts that may have also been said by Mike Huckabee. I don’t think the pastors should have been making a huge political stink. Though that is their right, I don’t think it was right. I think some powerful people use Christians to position themselves for a political advantage far too often. Most Americans are tired of the fighting and up for some civil dialogue. The church should lead the way in that, in my opinion.
The negative ads and the blame shifting and the political strategy based on deceit and manipulation and campaign finance corruption and all the rest of the stuff that turns people off are a real drag. It drives people to apathy. It makes folks suspicious. The whole enterprise is frustrating to most people, self included.
But all of that is a given. Nearly everyone knows all that–I’m not revealing anything new. Everyone who is paying attention knows the best funded candidate–not necessarily the best candidate–wins. Recently even our very democracy has been called into question as voter fraud takes center stage and redistricting maneuvers align certain areas for more favorable results.
None of these points are my main quarrel with politics, however. In fact, I would expect nothing less. It is, after all, politics.
The area I want to caution Christians in is the temptation to hope that any election can truly turn the tide of our country. Whether local or national, the change affected by the decisions made today will at best be temporary. More likely, in this log-jam kind of decision making system we have developed, there will be little change at all. Our sitting president campaigned on hope and change, and even Democratic candidates around the country are distancing themselves from him this year because, well, there hasn’t been much. Moreover, what change has happened is likely to be undone by the next president, the next Senate, or the next Supreme Court. Progress is slow.
So how can change really occur?
I believe the only Hope and Change we can bank on is that born out of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is individuals responding to the Gospel that produces individual change. It is families being rooted in the Gospel that can turn families around. It is communities being impacted by the Gospel that can truly redeem whole city blocks. It’s a nation being revived by the Gospel that can change things.
This change will be slow, too. But it is far more lasting.
From my vantage point in the church, we don’t just have the responsibility of voting once a year. Instead, we vote every single day. As Christians, it’s not our responsibility to cast a ballot for the lesser of all the evils (so many Christ followers lament this is as their only option). Rather, we punch our ballot each and every day for the Gospel. We aren’t banking on a person or an idea that is likely to be overturned. Rather, we place our hope in the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last. Republicans and Democrats will come and go, redefine themselves, alter their strategy, and do whatever it takes to be elected. Jesus wears no such labels and he needs no such assistance in redeeming the hearts of human beings. That was taken care of long ago. The effects of that work still manifest themselves every day. It’s a beautiful thing.
You’re going to see a lot of “I voted.” stickers around today. That’s great. Voting is every American’s privilege — a product of a great democracy that we can enjoy. I’ll be watching election coverage tonight. This stuff is important, and I try to stay informed.
But I won’t go to sleep depressed if my favorite candidate doesn’t win, and I won’t be upset if the issues I’m for aren’t passed. This is politics, and whatever is done today is likely to be undone later. It’s a tower built on quicksand.
Christian, we worship a God who cannot be moved. Whoever you cast your vote for today, don’t forget to also punch your ballot for Jesus.
He will not disappoint.