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

Vote Your Faith

“Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,
and to God the things that are God’s.”
(Matthew 22:21 (ESV)

The first presidential debate of the 2012 election has just taken place, the lines are being clearly drawn between the leading candidates, and November 6th is rapidly approaching.  And while there may be some grand revelation that comes out in the next 30 days, chances are, you’ve already made up your mind and know who you are voting for – in fact, with early voting, you may have already voted.

But here’s something to think about: Has your faith influenced your decision at the polls this year?  Interestingly, the Family Research Council reports:

many believers don’t even consider their Christian values when voting, often choosing candidates whose positions are at odds with their own beliefs, convictions, and values.  A study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life a few years ago showed that 62% of Americans say their faith has little to do with their voting decisions.  That’s tragic because Jesus expects us to influence every part of culture and society as salt and light-including the democratic process.

Too often, we connect ourselves with a political party, and then begin to project our values and beliefs into that party.  We think, ”Well, if I believe this, and I’m a member of the party, then surely the rest of the party believes it too.”  We look to the “religious right” or the “progressive party” to affirm and fight for our values, when in reality, neither party can perfectly represent that which makes up the Christians hopes and expectations.  We must remember that we are sojourners here, that our nation, while perhaps the best experiment in freedom and liberty man has known, is governed by fallen man, and is, as such, liable and even prone to fall and fail at times.

The Family Research Council goes on to say,

Obviously, Christian “rulers” would have Christian values, right?  Not necessarily.  There are a lot of folks who use Christian lingo, but when you look at their positions and votes and their associations, it becomes evident that they do not line up with biblical values.  That’s why it is so important to do your homework on the candidates.  Don’t just listen to their campaign rhetoric, look at their records in office.  Don’t just watch their political ads, look at their positions on the issues.  Think about this: Every candidate has his or her own set of values and positions on important issues. Don’t you think that where a candidate stands on moral issues is far more important than the party he or she belongs to or the campaign ads and promises?  Shouldn’t we vote for candidates who share our moral values?

So this hear, I encourage you to vote your values.  This may be a risky vote, because it may mean voting for a third party candidate, and the third party seldom has a chance to win a national election.  But win or lose, our loyalty must be with the Lord Jesus; we must vote his values.  This means, at the very least, voting for those who protect and defend the sanctity of human life, especially that of the unborn.  This means voting for those who protect and defend marriage as between one man and one woman, and will support the central institution of our society, the family.  This means voting for those who will defend the freedom of religion, the freedom of religious expression, religious practice, and religious assembly.

Next Week – What to do When You Don’t Like Either Candidate?

SDG