We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.— Abraham Lincoln.
What’s going on here with politics and religion?
How Should Christians Vote has a provocative title, but it is not an answer. It is a question for Christians about politics and religion.
It is an invitation to reflect on whether Abraham Lincoln was right, and whether we have better angels of our nature. Better angels, that perhaps, can help us to see our politics not exclusively in terms of right and wrong, righteous and evil, friends and enemies. Instead, can we reflect on our role in the world as Christians, and consider the problem of pride in all of our hearts? It is a chance to stop and think about motivations, and ask if we’re willing to examine our own more critically than we do others. For those who are willing, it is perhaps also an opportunity to contribute with empathy and vulnerability and humility.
Now that you’re here, here is some additional context about what this is, and is not, intended to be.
This is an uncertain attempt at obedience
I’ve struggled mightily with the idea of faith and politics for years. I’ve slowly come to realize how similar I am to the Pharisees, having spent ample (and unknowing) time as both a Conservative Pharisee and a Liberal Pharisee. In February of 2020, I felt like God was calling me to explore this subject more. The question, “How Should Christians Vote?” came into my mind during a quiet time, and I committed that if the domain name was somehow available, I would get it. It was and I did.
Since that time, I really have had no sense of God leading anywhere on this subject, other than to keep thinking about it and reading on the subject. And now, some of those thoughts are published here, including thoughts on marriage counseling and politics.
This is not an attempt to change a vote
I am a registered Republican who would describe himself as an Independent. I do not know who I’m going to vote for in the next election, and haven’t even decided if I will vote at all. I believe there are informed voices that have an informed perspective on the topic, but I personally have no unique insight to share that should influence your voting plans. What I do have is a deep and growing conviction that the intersection of faith and politics has been a highly problematic one for Christians like me, especially evangelicals. At the very least, I know that it has been hard for me.
If there is a mission statement to this exercise it is this: To prove to myself and others that my calling as a Christian is not defined by which party or person I choose to vote – or not vote – for.
This is a chance the Pharisees to get some good PR.
Would you think about the Pharisees differently if you knew they thought they were the good guys? I see myself in the Pharisees, in no small part because it is so easy to cling to self righteousness when I see myself as the one who is the reformer, the one who is on the side of the people, and the one that God has blessed. Learning more about the Pharisees has allowed me to hold the mirror up to my own assumptions and beliefs, and those whitewashed tombs have challenged me in ways I never thought possible.
This is a call for humility in a world that honors the proud
I’m a person perpetually battling against a desire to build myself up into someone who is worth something. But this idol-making is antithetical to the Gospel and my call as a Christian. It’s only when I recognize the self-righteousness in my own heart (an exercise that I require daily, at minimum) that I can think clearly about pride and humility, and find the peace that comes through submission and surrender. I believe that C.S. Lewis was right when he called Pride the Great Sin, that afflicts all us.
This is an attempt to re-frame the enemy
As Christians, we don’t struggle against Democrats or Republicans or Libertarians, or against anything that is flesh and blood. Our struggle is against powers and principalities, against pride and greed and selfish ambition and slothfulness and racism and a misplaced desire for earthly power.
We have an Enemy who would love to see believers thrown into disunion over political striving, and who would recast faith as politics and politics as faith. He is an enemy who gains control through half-truths and fear, and desires to see a church made up of selfish, proud, and graceless Christians. I believe that reminding ourselves of this is one of the many ways that help to see the world in a new light.
This is a chance to hear from others who have voices that are worth hearing
C.S. Lewis, Tim Keller, Latasha Morrison, Fyodor Dostoevky, Jemar Tisby, Craig Denison. These are people who have contributed in a meaningful way to my own journey of learning. Any ideas that might seem original here are probably not so. I believe that learning from those who are wiser than ourselves is both a great exercise in humility and a practical way to learn more about God, ourselves, and the nature of the world around us. Resources from these authors and thinkers are scattered throughout, including this Tim Keller sermon on why politics is like sex. (?!)
This is a refusal to believe that racism is a “political” issue
The average black family in America has a net worth that is 10% that of the average white family in America. Is this because whites are simply 10 times better than blacks at building wealth? Have Americans with lighter skin, in aggregate, earned more from their hard work and ingenuity, while Americans with darker skin have simply failed to adequately pull themselves up by their bootstraps? Or, could this vast disparity be related to the legacy of slavery that was ingrained in our system of economics, politics (and yes, religion) since the founding of our country?
This is a link to a 9-minute economics podcast on the persistence of poverty in certain areas of Bolivia and Peru. The short version is this: in 1573 Spanish conquistadors instituted forced labor amongst the indigenous population in areas with rich silver deposits. One out of seven males were required to work in the mines. From then until forced labor was abolished in 1812, there were significantly fewer public investments in the mining communities than in other areas of Bolivia and Peru where the Spanish settlers lived. The majority of public works projects and educational investments were concentrated in wealthier areas in the region. Today, more than 450 years after forced labor was instituted and 200 years after forced labor was ended, there is still a wealth gap between the old mining communities compared to the rest of the country.
This is not a project designed to address racism. There are far more educated and important voices on the topic, and I’d encourage you to read them. But it is also not designed to ignore racism, because as Gospel-believing Christians I believe we are all called to deal with the ugliness in our own hearts and the ugliness of systems that have allowed this “Christian nation” to have such a vast gulf that exists between people who have different skin colors.
Racism should not be a political cause. And that’s good news for us Christians who believe that we are all lost without God’s grace and are therefore free to extend it to others.
This is a question and not an answer
How should Christians vote? I’ve wrestled with this question throughout the years. In the past, I searched for a simple answer. Should Christians vote for this party or that party? Should Christians vote exclusively in favor of this policy or that policy? What happens when when those policies don’t all seem to land on one end of the political spectrum? Where are the rules?
After many false starts, I’ve realized that the real question for me is not “who should Christians vote for?”, but rather the “how” one goes about the process. I have been learning from mature believers from all across the political spectrum, and believe that I’ve found commonalities rooted in themes like humility, empathy, a perspective not ultimately rooted in this world, and a willingness to admit mistakes and hear from different points of view.
But even still, this is a question without a single answer. I believe that simply by asking these questions about politics and religion, we can start to confront the idolatry of partisanship and prove to ourselves and others that our calling as Christians is not defined by the person or party we may choose to vote for, or against.
This is an invitation
For anyone who so desires, this an invitation to contribute a perspective. Topics might include…
Pride and humility:
What is something you are proud about? How has God been working on you in this area?
What is an idol that you have in your life? Has it remained consistent or changed over time? What do you think they are rooted in?
What is something that you struggle with? Do you believe God is teaching you anything during this time?
Challenging our own thinking:
What is something you believe you have learned / are learning that is challenging long held beliefs related to politics and religion (or otherwise)?
What is something positive or praiseworthy that you’ve learned about a person or party on the other side of the political spectrum from you?
Counting others as greater than ourselves:
What is a way that you have been learning to serve others.
How could you serve a person or group on the opposite side of the political spectrum from yourself? For the purposes of this exercise, assume that giving them a lecture on how they are wrong does not count as service. ; )
For anything else, guest authors are welcome to contribute something that might be a more “political” subject related to a bill, or a law, or a policy. Anything in this direct category of politics and religion will be reviewed by two guest editors, who are Christians with opposing political views. The content will only be published if approved by both.