Faith, Politics and the Election

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

This is the first post in a debate sponsored by my publisher, Energion on the upcoming election.  The starting question  is:

How does your faith inform your decisions during this election season, including both thinking and actions leading up to the election (involvement, etc) and your vote?

Let me start by stating up front that I do not see my view, in any way, as being “the Christian view.”  It is very easy when laying out one’s views, particularly in such a short space, to take the positive affirmations I make as somehow implying criticism of others who have reached somewhat different conclusions.  That is neither my belief nor my intent. I fully believe that there are devoted and believing Christians who reach very different conclusions, just as Christians do in so many other areas.  That one, or both sides may be wrong is not a reason for criticism, but for dialogue and prayer.

My starting point, at least for this question, is that I believe we should be involved.  In short, I take the verses that talk about our relationship to the state to basically mean that we should be good citizens. In a democratic form of government this means that we should take an interest in government and that we should vote.

We are to be the salt of the world, and while I do not believe this is primarily a political command–far from it–neither do I think that this excludes politics.   While it is easy to be discouraged and fatalistic, after all, God is in control; what can we do; the same could be said of witnessing.   While it is true that there are a lot of unsavory people involved in politics, I would argue that this calls for wisdom and caution, not avoidance.

So if we take involvement as a given, and if not, the rest of this is pretty much meaningless, how then should we be involved?  As with everything else in the Christian world, this will vary significantly from person to person.  A few will be called to be active, and fewer still to run for office.  For most it will simply be a matter of becoming well enough informed so that one can cast a considered vote.

But this raises the question, how will you decide for whom to vote?  After all Jesus is not running and no one else will live up to his standards.   Everyone will be deficient in one way or another.  While true, this is no more relevant to picking someone for City Council or President than it is for picking someone to be your pastor.   The bottom line becomes who is the best person, among the candidates, for the job.

Now here I am going to step on some toes, and I apologize in advance, but voting for someone who cannot win is, in my mind, an act of selfishness.  To me this is removing oneself from the final decision so that one can feel good about themselves, whether it is a vote for Ross Perot in 1992, or Ralph Nader in 2000.   In this election, either President Obama will be elected to a second term, or Mitt Romney will be elected to a first.  Voting for any other candidate is the same as not voting. It removes one from the decision making process and leaves it to others to make the decision.

As for what shapes my decision, that is probably best summed up by 1 John 3:16-18.

This is how we have come to know Love: The Messiah gave his life for us. We, too, ought to give our lives for our brothers.  17 Whoever has early possessions and notices a brother in need and yet withholds compassion from him, how can the love of God be present in him?  18 Little Children, we must not express love merely by our words and manner of speech; we must love also in action and in truth. (ISV)

A full exposition of these verses would take more space than I have, so let me just highlight a couple of points.  First, we as Christians do have a duty to those in need, as Christ sacrificed for us, we too should sacrifice for others.  This is not just a command to give of our excess, of what we can spare or afford. After all could Christ “afford” his life?

Secondly, notice that verse 17 talks about withholding compassion, not about withholding possessions.  Our primary duty is not to give, but to love. All that we do must stem from a true love for those in need.

Finally, our love cannot just be an expression of concern, but it must work itself out in our actions and in truth.  In fact the concepts of Truth and Love are central to much of John’s message and finding the correct balance between them is extremely difficult, as these two often seem, at least to us, to be in conflict.

Of course, trying to take the concepts of truth and love, which are difficult enough on their own, and apply them to public policy is not an easy  process, which is why Christians can and do reach such different conclusions.  Applying them to a choice of flawed men running for office is even harder, which will probably become apparent in the following weeks.

This is one of the reasons why, while I may politically differ with other Christians, I am not going to question their commitment to God or their faith merely because they reach different political conclusions than I have.   Again such disagreement should call, not for condemnation, but for more dialogue and prayer, as we all seek to live our faith in love and in truth.


Aug 13th, 2012

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