I want to share a few thoughts about our current national obsession: the elections. Early voting is already underway (have you voted yet?) and in a few days, the polls will open to receive the final votes of this election cycle. Voting is like a sacred rite and a sacred right guaranteed under our form of government. I hope and pray everyone who reads this exercises her or his right to vote. Your vote is important because there are issues of tremendous import to be decided this year that will determine how our counties, states, and nation meet the challenges of the future.
As your pastor, I do not publicly endorse candidates for public office. I will, however, endorse what I believe is a biblical viewpoint on God’s priorities for society: the care for the most vulnerable among us. We can find a number of verses in both the Old and New Testaments that demonstrate God’s preference for the poor, the widowed, the sick, the alien in the land. For me, these are summarized best in a passage from the Hebrew prophet Micah:
And he has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
When I vote, I look for candidates who have the greatest potential to fulfill this biblical priority of seeking justice. It’s true that no candidate or political party will ever perfectly meet this criteria. Jesus Christ is not running for any public office this year, or any other year for that matter. So I choose the people and parties I judge best able to promote equal justice, who care for the most vulnerable members of society, and who do so with humility and respect for the innate value of each human being.
Every person is made in the image of God. Every person deserves respect accorded to one made in that image. That is true regardless of race, creed, color, gender, sexual orientation, social or economic status, or political party. That remains true whether we agree or disagree about the policy prescriptions on offer to address the issues of the day. No matter your opinion, everyone deserves to be treated with respect.
As we are all too painfully aware, that R-E-S-P-E-C-T is hard to find nowadays. And the reason is all too apparent. For the past 30 years, we have engaged in a dialogue of demonization that denigrates the humanity of people who disagree with us. Radio and television and social media have amplified this, but the root cause is our willingness to go along with the invective of talk show hosts, opinion makers, influencers, trolls, and others who like nothing better than to shout down and insult folks who are different, folks don’t agree with them.
While the cause of our diminished dialogue—and this is true not just in politics but in other areas of our life, including the church—is known, the solution is less apparent. We have done this to ourselves; only we can undo it. In the prophetic words of the cartoon strip character Pogo, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” We need healing. We need reconciliation. And we need to begin to work toward it soon if we want to live and work together to solve the huge challenges that face us as a nation and as a world.
As one step toward healing, I’d like to suggest we work on the notion of respectful disagreement. Here’s a quote from John Wesley that has circulated on social media in the past few elections (although I’m not seeing it in this election cycle, which may just be another indication of how our national divisions have grown). I think it has some good advice for us today:
October 6, 1774:
I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them
- To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy,
- To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and
- To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.
The Journal of John Wesley
I’m going to admit it, number 3 is going to be a challenge. But it is vital, along with the other two, if we hope to come together as a people to solve the problems we face.
No matter the result of this year’s elections, one thing will remain true. God will still be God, and God will love us still. So let me leave you with one more quote, this one from a former Archbishop of Canterbury by the name of William Temple: “If we choose wisely, god reigns. If we fail to choose wisely, God reigns.” I hope you will find some comfort in that no matter the outcome of all of next week’s elections.
May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you and yours, now and always.