Some voting thoughts for my Christian friends, particularly those for whom political decisions remain relatively simple:
A lot of your brothers and sisters are deeply conflicted. I’ve been voting for 25 years and paying attention to politics for longer than that, and I’ve never seen anything quite like this among generally theologically conservative Christians. What has long been obvious to most is not longer obvious to many. (This may confound or anger you, but ignoring or despising the truth won’t move us forward, so we have to find a way to engage and understand it.)
The Cruz/O’Rourke race in Texas is the clear case in point here. I do not think O’Rourke will overcome the inertia of the consummate red state and unseat Cruz, but the final numbers will be interesting. Every day I see or hear another few people defect from the Republican base (official or assumed) and declare they’re voting for Beto. Many have never voted for a Democrat for national office and aren’t that excited about doing it now, but they’re just done with the alternative – done enough to make a decisive statement against it. Others I know are disillusioned with Trump and Cruz and Republican politics, but they can’t stomach voting for Democratic candidates whose politics violate so many of their deep and sincere convictions.
I understand and empathize with both groups. My goal isn’t to justify or criticize either choice.
Instead I want to plead with those on either side who don’t relate to this dilemma and for whom this choice (or other similar ballot decisions) are obvious: Kill your condescension. Stop shaking your head and wagging your finger at people who don’t find this as easy as you do. Quit sharing memes and posts that call Beto a “dumbass” or reduce Cruz to evil incarnate.
What are you doing? What Kingdom is this that needs your candidate so badly that it justifies such nonsense?
To the liberals who have emigrated out of conservative Christianity and now find it repulsive and obviously broken: Have you really forgotten that five minutes ago you shared these convictions? Can you not find humble, gracious ways to make the case for your new beliefs? You ought to be the most compelling witnesses for your side, but you win no converts to a kinder, gentler way by savaging your former kinsmen and women, especially those trying to find their way through a new kind of disorientation and uncertainty.
To the conservatives who find any support for liberal candidates laughable and absurd: Are you sure everyone tiring of the Republican act is an idiot? This is a fairly dramatic exodus from the current state of conservative politics, and if you choose to believe it’s populated by only gullible, ignorant folks, you choose gullibility and ignorance for yourself. Some of the smartest, most pro-life people I know – people who have adopted babies who otherwise might have been aborted or raised in state-funded systems, people with lingering resistance to big government – are leaving the fold. What if instead of dismissing them as fools you asked why and actually listened?
To both sides: The choice to condescend and ridicule is self-defeating, both pragmatically and spiritually. If your goal is to advance the cause you believe in, rolling your eyes at those who don’t see as you see is wildly counterproductive. I’m continually bewildered that as these races grow tighter, so many of the true believers on both sides resort to more extreme ways of communicating that only alienate the people they need to persuade. It would be laughable if it weren’t so sad, this inherent foolishness in trying to demonstrate your own wisdom and “rightness” by calling people stupid. This is the fast track to losing the undecided middle. If I’m unsure or on the edge, dismissing my confusion or uncertainty as silly just pushes me further out of the boat.
More importantly, if you identify yourself with Jesus and are therefore alive to be an ambassador of His Kingdom, you are compelled to live and breathe and embody the way the of the cross. The flourishing of the Kingdom is evident in love for others, even in political disagreement. No political end justifies the means of pretending you’re exempt from the explicit, essential command to let your love and gentleness be evident to all. God literally says he hates that noise. We should try not to make noise God hates, yes?
I do not believe this means always remaining silent about politics. I reject the notion that any and all political expressions are sinful disruptions of our call to unity. There are crucial issues at stake, and since we’re here to be ambassadors of the Kingdom, we sometimes must speak the Kingdom’s words into these political moments. Discerning how to do that with the spirit of the King is the Kingdom’s difficult demand.
So advocate for your convictions. Do it boldly and clearly. I’ve done more of that in the last few years than in many years prior, sometimes well, sometimes poorly. But let’s not make it so tough for people to find in our words the message of the cross, through which God has chosen the wisdom of the weak to shame the strong – chosen the triumph of sacrifice and love over human wealth and power.
“Don’t let selfishness and prideful agendas take over. Embrace true humility, and lift your heads to extend love to others. Get beyond yourselves and protecting your own interests; be sincere, and secure your neighbors’ interests first.
In other words, adopt the mind-set of Jesus the Anointed. Live with His attitude in your hearts. Remember:
Though He was in the form of God,
He chose not to cling to equality with God;
But He poured Himself out to fill a vessel brand new;
a servant in form
and a man indeed.”
“Shoulder each other’s burdens, and then you will live as the law of the Anointed teaches us. Don’t take this opportunity to think you are better than those who slip because you aren’t; then you become the fool and deceive even yourself.”