In the last few days – amid yet another outbreak of scandalous news items and a second debate involving the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates – traditional and social media continue to warn us that if the “wrong” candidate wins, the sky will fall, children will starve, and the Yellowstone caldera will erupt.
Then there are thoughtful commentaries by Christian writers and leaders, trying to present biblical reasons why Christians should vote one way or the other. Theologian Mirasolv Volf says the policies of Hillary Clinton best represent Christian values; theologian Wayne argues that Trump is the better choice.
Christian progressives wag their fingers at Christian conservatives for being single-issue voters, without admitting that they themselves often are too. And don’t get me started on the old argument that “if you don’t vote, then X will win and the sky will fall, children will starve, and the Yellowstone caldera will erupt.”
If I am for anything in this election, it is for hitting the reboot button on 2016 and trying again.
I am pretty sure that as Jesus watches this election, he is slowly beating his head against the pearly gates.
Of all the presidential elections in my ever-lengthening lifetime, this one is the most bizarre, frustrating, and insane. If nothing else, it is a commentary on the level to which we the American people have sunk.
As an independent who leans right of center on most issues, my struggle is not which candidate to vote for, but whether to vote at all. I know, I know – in a constitutional democratic republic such as ours, voting is a privilege and a duty. I agree. But this time, it feels like a choice between being buried alive and being burned at the stake. How can I vote for either?
Honestly, as an evangelical Christian, I have serious problems with both of the top two candidates. Equally.
I know it’s un-Christlike, but I have trouble seeing either of them with the compassion of Christ. I would prefer that neither one be my president. Neither exhibits the moral compass or the character traits I desire in my nation’s leader. Both seem corrupted, out of touch with ordinary people, and willing to say anything to get votes. And in truth, one cannot—absolutely cannot—point out the character flaws in one without pointing out virtually the same flaws in the other. (The conspiracy theorist in me can’t shake the uneasy feeling that we, the people, are somehow being played.)
No matter who becomes president, I am not optimistic about the next four years.
So as Christ-followers, what do we do? Here is my advice to all Christian voters, which I really hope to follow myself.
Vote your own personal conscience. If, unlike me, you have a preference of one candidate over another, by all means vote. Even if you simply feel led to choose one as the lesser of two evils so the other doesn’t win, then cast your ballot. But don’t delude yourself that your candidate will advance Christian values. In politics, Christians – like most other segments of our society – are just a voting block to be patronized or demonized every election year. No matter what is promised before the election, Christian concerns are unlikely to carry any special clout afterward.
Pray for the candidates and other leaders. It looks like either Clinton or Trump soon will be elected president. Yet neither seems to be seeking God’s perspective. That’s all the more reason to follow the biblical mandate to pray for them, and for our other leaders. And our prayers should be not cynical (“Lord, help this idiot to get a clue”) but sincere, seeking God’s wisdom, discernment, and protection over the White House, Congress, and the Supreme Court as well. We must pray with a pure heart for the occupants of all three.
Remember that God’s kingdom is greater than earthly governments. The kingdom of God never has been, and never will be, represented by any secular government. It begins in our hearts, not in Washington, D.C. – and is carried out through our own actions, not through the actions of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of government. No matter who wins this election, things can change, rights can be taken, and Christians can be pushed further toward the margins. But the kingdom of God has outlasted countless forms of government in the last two thousand years. We can be pretty sure it will outlast a Clinton or Trump presidency. It will even outlast a shift in the Supreme Court.
In less than a month we will have a new president, and the winning side will wrongly claim that their win is a mandate. (I say wrongly because when a majority of voters see both candidates unfavorably and blindly vote for the one they find slightly less despicable than the other, that’s not a mandate.) Then the losing side will vow cooperation with the new administration, while at the same time planning its demise.
Many voters will be filled with gratitude that this surreal election is over – but also filled with fear and anger at the outcome. Maybe, instead of railing against the new administration, we should spend the next four years reflecting on how the winner was able to channel that fear and anger into votes by tickling our ears.
And each Christ-follower should spend the next four years being the church to his or her own little corner of the world. Doing so will bring change far better and faster than any bloated bureaucracy ever could.