In this final week before the Fall 2016 election, many are weary. It has been a long, bitter campaign season, and the anxiety and animosity have just worn us out.
Nevertheless, the right to vote in the United States must not be taken for granted. There are many in our world who do not enjoy this right, and many others for whom voting is not free and fair, but rather undertaken at some personal risk.
And so, as a pastor, I am pondering how to apply the tenets of faith to our U.S. political process. How does our faith intersect with the decisions we make as voters? Should we apply the Gospel? Should we look to Scripture for guidance? Should we ask, “How would Jesus vote?” Or is it better to leave our faith at home on voting day and just think as citizens of a democracy instead of as subjects in God’s Kingdom?
The way I see it, followers of Jesus ought to allow our faith to impact every part of our life, and that would include how we vote on election day. Christianity is a profoundly communal religion, meant to be lived together. The Bible is filled with guidance as to how people are supposed to live together in a way that is pleasing to God, a way of life that is characterized by love and grace, peace and justice, wisdom and truth. On an election day in the United States, we are as a community making important decisions about how we are going to live together, and what role our government will play in how that happens.
But another thought may even be more important for us to remember, especially in 2016.
Followers of Jesus ought to allow our faith to impact the way we treat people who may be voting differently than we do. In other words, “take care [your] spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side” (John Wesley). I have heard hateful things spoken about a number of candidates, many of the statements not only hateful but also false. To say such things is utterly incompatible with the teaching of Jesus. Our words ought to build others up, “give grace to those who hear,” because it is truly “out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.”
In an especially brutal election cycle, the Church has a definite counter-cultural role to play. It may not be easy to serve as ambassadors of Christ in the current climate, but it is crucial that we do so.
(Note: This week I’ll be sharing more election-related thoughts here as we head toward election day.)