After some serious thought and reflection on the upcoming U.S. presidential elections, combined with my desire to integrate my commitment to follow Jesus in every aspect of life, I have some distinct and specific guidance on how to vote in November 2016. I write these things directed at myself, but I hope they challenge you as you prepare to vote in this most unusual election year. Incidentally, if you’re not registered to vote, do it!
Vote Thankfully. I need to start by thanking God that I have the privilege of casting my vote, even if I’m not happy about the candidates. There are still too many places in the world where people are oppressed and unable to vote in any style of free or democratic election. In locations where dictators still rule and the elections really are rigged, people are amazed at our low voter turnout in the USA. Being thankful to God for my privilege and my responsibility to vote, I must not waste my freedom to vote by abstaining in a protest that no one will hear. Even if I dislike both candidates, my failing to vote is functionally casting a vote in favor of the candidate I like least. And one final thought here: I’m not the most patriotic American, but I do honor the service of soldiers throughout our history who have made great sacrifices to defend my freedoms/our freedoms – including our freedom to vote. I dare not dishonor their memory by staying home on November 8, watching the results on CNN and complaining at either outcome.
Vote Graciously. At age 62, I cannot recall any election – especially a presidential one – where there has been so much schoolyard name-calling, insulting, fabrications, and foul language. As a Christian, I am challenged to keep control over my tongue (James 3) and offer speech seasoned with grace so that I know how to answer people (Colossians 4:6). I know that our national family and my Christian family deeply disagree over this election, the candidates, and the issues at hand, but I must be willing to air my views as graciously as possible, with conviction but without trash-talking the people with whom I disagree.
Vote Discerningly. I need to ponder and investigate before voting rather than reacting emotionally and resorting to one-issue voting. Concerning the candidates themselves subjectively: character matters; faithfulness matters; truthfulness matters; compassion matters; integrity matters. Objectively concerning the overall elections: there are multiple voting issues at stake, and one of the things that help make our American system “work” is our governmental systems of checks and balances. Thus, my research on the person I vote for as president is important, but so is the research I do on who I vote for in the senate and the House of Representatives, all the way down to the local school committee or sheriff.
Vote Reflectively. Let’s assume that I “Disapprove” or “Strongly Disapprove” of one or both of the presidential candidates. If so, I need to take a reflective and repentive step back and ask the question, “What do these candidates tell me about my country? About our values? About ongoing racism? About our commitment to truthfulness? About our view on the sanctity of all human lives? About me?” I find it easier to confess before God that “I live amongst a people of unclean lips,” but I don’t like the idea of confessing that “I am a man of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6). I hate turning the mirror on myself and acknowledging that I am part and often a participant in America’s problems and sins.
Vote Globally. I have been told on a number of occasions from Christian leaders in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia, and even Europe that the person we choose as president often has more impact on them and their countries than it does on us here in the USA. One Ugandan leader actually joked that “the rest of the world should get to choose the USA president.” He was only half joking. Whether or not these leaders are absolutely accurate is not the point. The point is that I need to pay careful attention to issues of the candidate’s foreign policy positions and proposals as these pertain to how the USA will relate to the world, to NATO, to China, to India, to immigration, to our allies, to Islamic states – not to mention issues of climate change, global population growth, and inter-dependent economies.
Vote Prayerfully. The recitation of these overwhelming global issues reminds me that I am commanded to pray for our current president as well as the person who will be elected president in November. 1 Timothy 2:1-5 commands such prayer, and I remember as I read this passage that the “kings and those in authority” that Paul refers to were a far cry from any godly leader that Christians of that day would have voted for. These leaders were corrupt, Christian-hating torturers, but Paul urged prayer so that God’s purposes could be fulfilled. Peter did the same in 1 Peter 2:13-17. Paul’s command to pray for these leaders also reminds us that the sovereign God of the nations is bigger than Donald or Hillary or the USA. God is not in heaven wringing His hands over the size of Donald’s hands any more than He is divinely surprised at the discovery of Hillary’s secret emails. Our God is the God who calls the pagan Babylonian king “Nebuchadnezzar my servant” (Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10) and the Persian king “Cyrus my shepherd” and “my anointed king” (Isaiah 44:28; 45). Donald and Hillary, God’s servants? God is in control and my responsibility is to pray.
Vote gratefully and wisely on November 8th remembering Who we serve.