How to vote


A few words before you vote tomorrow…or, if you’ve already voted, before you plant yourself in front of the teevee and pray to the God you do or don’t believe in…or, if you don’t plan to vote, before you climb into your storm shelter until sometime next week:

Do only what your spirit – your conscience – tells you is right.

Dozens of people have come to me in lament or confusion or anger or bewilderment or excitement (yes, a few) about what they’ll do tomorrow. And I do have opinions about the candidates and the situation, some of which I’ve shared rather openly.

But my only advice now is this: go to bed Tuesday night with a clear conscience.

Whatever you do, whatever you don’t do, resist the pressure to do what they tell you you must do. And they are those who you trust least and those who you trust most who hasten to tell you that what they will do is what you must do.

I don’t mean don’t listen to others. One of my clearest conclusions in the wake of this season is that we are terrible, terrible listeners.

So listen. Listen to be challenged, to be changed, and to be a more gracious and empathetic human.

And then do what you believe is right, no matter how obvious or unfamiliar it seems … no matter what you fear anyone else might think about what you do. Don’t do it defiantly. Do it humbly. Do it eager to continue learning about what you’ve done, about who we are, and about where we’re headed. Do it hoping for a better way for all of us.

I understand many aren’t sure what is right. That’s ok. Do your best, and DON’T do something that sits sideways in your soul. You owe no duty to any man or government that would compel you to say “yes” to anyone or anything you can’t in good conscience say “yes” to – and I include in that statement the possibility that some will be unable in good conscience to say “yes” to anyone.

In a conversation with a government official, Saint Paul the apostle said these words: “For that reason I make it my settled aim to always have a clear conscience before God and all people.”

You might get it wrong tomorrow. Lots of people will. It’s ok to get it wrong. Just don’t get it wrong because you’re afraid or because anyone’s opinion – mine included – cajoled, shamed, or bullied you toward doing anything that does not seem right to you.

Shut off the noise. Defy the fear. And make it your settled aim to go to bed tomorrow with a clear conscience before God and all people.

I still have a pile of thoughts about what I’ve seen and learned – and what I still haven’t figured out – during this strange act of the American story. At one time I thought I would complete a final passage before everyone votes, but it no longer seems helpful to add more noise to the crescendo of election-eve opinion. Someday soon, I’ll share some of that as a post-script of sorts.