2020 is an election year. And so it’s impossible to escape all the political messages we’re receiving on a daily (and sometimes hourly) basis.
We receive them in the form of advertisements on the radio, on television, and in our newsfeeds. We receive them in the form of infographics, memes, and social media rants. We receive them in the form of conversations with friends and neighbors. You may even hear a few from your pastor on Sunday.
And in the midst of all these political messages, many of which conflict with the others, it can be difficult to make heads or tails of it all. Sometimes, it’s hard to even discern truth from political spin. But perhaps the most basic question you’re left asking is, “Who should I vote for on Election Day?”
Regrettably, I can’t give you a simple answer to a simple question in this case. And if I’m being honest, I’m struggling with the exact same question myself. As I try to be faithful to my Christian convictions while fulfilling my civic duty of voting, I feel as though I’m left in a state of conflict, honestly not knowing whether it’s better to vote red or blue—or should I even vote at all?
As I survey all the important issues that help determine the best candidate or the best party platform, what I’m left with is two incomplete visions for what Jesus would want for a society of people.
Let me explain what I mean. Here’s why I, as a Christian, struggle with who to vote for.
I Long to See Justice for People of Color, Immigrants, Refugees, and the Economically Disenfranchised.
When I look at the ministry of Jesus, I see a man who spent almost all of his time with the “rejects” of society. His friends were not the social elites but rather the people who were on the fringes of society.
Jesus’ daily activities were marked by compassion. It welled up within him when he looked out on people in pain.
And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 8:35-36)
As I read those verses, I can almost feel the internal groaning that Jesus must have experienced as he looked out on the afflictions of the people. They needed to hear the truth. But they also just needed healing. They needed someone to see them—to really see them and to care for them.As Jesus looked out on the afflictions of the people, he saw that they needed to hear the truth. But they also just needed healing. They needed someone to see them—to really see them and to care for them. Click To Tweet
And so that’s what Jesus did. He also called his disciples to do the same.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 8:37-38)
My calling as a Christian is to see the hurts and dire needs of people and to be a part of bringing about healing. This includes proclaiming the good news of Jesus. But it also requires using whatever means I have available to me to be a part of correcting unjust systems that cause them pain.
And when I look out on the crowds of America, I see the pains of people of color, immigrants, refugees, and the economically disenfranchised. My heart breaks for the injustices they suffer. And one of the means available to me is my vote. It’s not the only means I have, but it’s an important one. So I want to vote for leaders who care as deeply as I do about these things. I want leaders who are going to work to find just solutions.
If you seek to locate these ideas in the current American political landscape, they would almost certainly be flagged as “liberal” or “Democrat.”
But the situation isn’t so simple. Because there are some other issues that I care about just as deeply.
I Believe in the Sanctity of Life and of Marriage.
Equally important to me is the sanctity of the lives of those the most vulnerable, namely the unborn and the elderly. That means that I stand firmly opposed to abortion, physician assisted suicide, and end of life euthanasia. I believe that humans are created in the image of God with intrinsic value that is utterly disregarded when their lives are cut short at the hand of another person.
And by the way, I also believe in advancing the rights of women. However, in the case of abortion, I believe the right to life of the unborn child supersedes the right of a woman to have control over her own body. I believe firmly in the idea that we are “knitted together” by God in our mother’s wombs (Psalm 139:13).
This is a highly conservative idea. But I believe that Jesus stands firmly on the side of protecting the lives of the most vulnerable.
I also firmly believe in the sanctity of marriage. On this issue, Jesus was so conservative that he may even be called bigoted in today’s political landscape. Jesus affirms the traditional idea that marriage is a covenant relationship between one man and one woman, that divorce is not God’s will, and that even thinking lustfully about someone who isn’t your spouse is as bad as adultery (Matthew 5:27-32; 19:1-12).When it comes to marriage, Jesus was so conservative that he may even be called bigoted in today's political landscape. Click To Tweet
Therefore, I want to vote for leaders who hold these same values and seek to preserve sanctity of life for the most vulnerable, as well as the sanctity of the marriage covenant as outlined by God and practiced by the Church since its inception.
If I were to locate these values within the current political landscape, they would be considered markedly “conservative” or “Republican.”
This is why I struggle in knowing who to vote for. As we look at what Jesus valued, what we see is that he was deeply conservative and radically progressive—simultaneously. That makes the choice on who to vote for in November a definitive shade of grey.As we look at what Jesus valued, what we see is that he was deeply conservative and radically progressive—simultaneously. That makes the choice on who to vote for in November a definitive shade of grey. Click To Tweet
In light of all that, here’s my recommendation.
My Recommendation for Election Day: Vote Based on Your Research and Convictions, and Don’t Be Judgmental of Christians Who Voted Differently Than You.
Even though there are no perfect candidates and no perfect party platforms, at the end of the day, you still have to vote for somebody. So my recommendation is this: pray about it, do your research, and just do the best you can.
And be humble about it too. Don’t throw stones at other Christians who don’t vote the exact same way as you.
Judgmentally saying that a brother or sister in Christ is complicit in the murder of infants simply because they voted “blue,” or that another is clearly a racist xenophobe for voting “red” isn’t helpful in the slightest. Those are straw man arguments that might make you feel really righteous. But if that’s your heart, you’re really just being self-righteous.
We would all be served well by developing a little more humility. American politics is a complex network of issues. And if it seems simple to you, may I suggest that you’re not being empathetic enough? There is more than one legitimate point of view. No voting choice is a perfect choice in a fallen world.
This is why we don’t ultimately place our hope in our government to bring about societal transformation. We certainly should be engaged. And as people who are blessed with the right to vote, we should use that power as a tool to bring about as much good as we can. But always bear in mind that whoever you vote for could never save the world.
The good news is that Jesus invites you to experience a power far greater than any government in the world. He has given you the power of his Holy Spirit, who moves within us to bring about real and lasting change to a world that desperately needs it.