On the National Election (Part 1)

(This is an article written prior to the election 4 years ago, but is important for today.)

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers,
intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,
for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
(1 Timothy 2:1–2 (ESV)

My grandmother always told me it wasn’t polite to talk about religion or politics.  Thinking back, I find it curious that she would say this, since she was one of the fiercest Democrats I have ever met, and a dyed in the wool Methodist.  Maybe she was warning me that I shouldn’t discuss either topic with her, since she knew that I was both a Republican and a Presbyterian.

Ignoring my dear grandmother’s warnings, however, over the next few weeks leading up to the Presidential Election I’m going to write about how our faith (or religion) and our politics come together.  We’ll start today, speaking in rather basic terms, and go a little deeper each week leading up to Election Day.

It is a Christian’s responsibility to vote

This is one of those lessons that must be inferred from scripture because you will not find it written explicitly.  There is no 11th Commandment saying, “Thou Shall Vote.”  When the scriptures were written, there was no such thing as a democratically elected government ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’ (though one could rightfully argue that the foundation of our representative government has its foundation in the elder-centered government of the early church).  There are occasions where lots were cast to choose a representative, or a consensus was reached after prayer and deliberation, but no general vote as we know it today.

But while you will not find hear St. Paul exhort you to “Get out the Vote,” we are told to be good citizens.  St. Augustine said those who are citizens of God’s kingdom are best equipped to be citizens of the kingdom of man.  In Romans 13, Paul teaches us that we are to be subject to the authorities in the land, “for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”  As Americans we are blessed to be governed by consent; those in authority have been elected by the people.  Participation in the process of election, then, is essential to effective governance, a vital part of our citizenship, and a key component in our duty of submission to those in authority.

It is a Christian’s responsibility to vote responsibly

While it is the Christian’s responsibility to vote, it must also be said that the Christian must vote responsibly.  I must confess, there have been times when I have gone to the booth and did not recognize the names of the people on the ballot.  Usually these were uncontested races for local or county positions – and I probably just filled in the circle because, the vote really didn’t matter.

Usually, however, the vote does matter, and you have to stay informed to know why and how each candidate is different.  I don’t have cable or satellite  TV, so I have been mercifully spared from the onslaught of political advertising this year. (And I am so happy to no longer live in Iowa, where it was a constant, multiyear campaign.)  But I do know this, you cannot trust the ads.  Put two political ads back to back and you will hear them say two conflicting things.  To get to the truth, you have to do the research on your own.  Read a paper (if that can be trusted), watch the debates (if you can stomach it), talk to your friends… Find out as much as you can about the candidates (and the referendums in South Dakota) so that you can make an informed decision.

It is a Christian’s responsibility to pray for elected leaders, regardless of whether you voted for them.

Most importantly, it is the Christian’s responsibility to pray for their elected officials.  Paul urges our “prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  Often, we need to remember this especially when our candidate did not win.

We must pray for those in authority over us; praying with the hope and conviction that God’s hand will guide and guard his people, realizing that no power that we face here can undermine the sovereign will of God.  We must pray graciously for those in authority, knowing that God works in, and often, in spite of, our elected officials.  And while it may be hard to pray for someone you completely disagree with, the very act of faithful and humble prayer will change your heart – you cannot continue to pray for someone without coming to love that person.

SDG

A Time to be Thankful

“Praise the Lord!  For it is good to sing praises to our God;
for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.”

(Psalm 147:1 (ESV)

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and what great timing!  The election is over, and regardless of who you supported, I don’t think anyone is completely satisfied with the election.  The money spent by each campaign was disgusting, the lies and falsehoods, scandals and cover-ups, were shameful.  The election revealed that we are a nation evenly divided.  There are wars and rumors of wars around the world, but political correctness and expediency keeps us from protecting and defending our allies.  Economies are crumbling, and those who have been elected to lead us lack the courage of their convictions to do what is right and necessary.  If ever we need a time to be Thankful, this is the time.

In spite of all that we see around us, let us never forget the blessings we have received from the hand of our Heavenly Father through the grace and mercy of Christ Jesus our Savior and Lord.  The blessings are innumerable, immeasurable, and incorruptible.  As the apostle Paul wrote, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph 1:3).

To this end I share with you the Proclamation of a Day of Thanksgiving, presented by President Lincoln on October 3, 1863.  In commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, but also the turning point in the war, Lincoln called the nation to a time of prayer and thanksgiving for the blessings and mercy that come in the midst of God’s dealing with our sins.  May this serve as a reminder of all those things for which we are thankful.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom.

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

May you have a truly blessed day of Thanksgiving!

SDG