I’m going to be honest here. It’s less than two months until the election and I’m a political junkie. I love all the hype and the debate and I could argue almost any side of any issue almost all day long. (I was a debater in college, y’all. We never outgrow the willingness to participate in a good “discussion,” no matter how heated it can become.)
I’m expecting a lot of heated dialog this year, probably more so than in the past election—which had more than its fair share of crazy dialog. But I’m already tired of hearing the trite admonition, “Just vote Christian.”
Not because I don’t consider a person’s faith a significant factor in understanding how they will lead. It does!
Not because I think separation of Church and State renders faith conversations irrelevant to governing. It doesn’t!
Here are three (of the many!) reasons why I struggle with the idea that as long as we vote for the Christian, we’re being obedient to God:
- Not all Christians view major (or minor) issues the same way I do. For example, I’m pro-life. For me that means, I believe life begins at conception, the death penalty is wrong, euthanasia is unacceptable, and we must take action to help those who need basic food, clothing, shelter, and medical care. I have amazing friends who are just as passionate about their Christian faith who view each of these issues differently from me.
- I have a narrow interpretation of what it means to be a Christian. It isn’t “Jesus plus” anything. While within the Christian faith we have many practical and even theological differences, the one area I cannot “agree to disagree” about is this: For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
- Christianity is not a necessary prerequisite for good governing skills. While I am not arguing that a Christ-follower can not be an excellent leader, I am certainly unwilling to say that simply being a Christian qualifies one for elected government positions. One’s religious background and beliefs can and do impact their values, priorities, and actions. However, it is no less ridiculous to vote for someone simply because he or she is a Christian than it is NOT to vote for someone for that reason.
When I consider my responsibility to vote, the privilege it is to be a part of the political and governing process, I evaluate each candidate through the faith that has shaped me in numerous ways. I consider what each candidate says and how their plans (and their past!) lines up with Scriptural truths. I investigate where they stand on issues that directly affect my family and my community. And I realize that for some candidates their faith is marginal, just a church they attended as they grew up. For others, their faith is an integral part of their lives and shapes every decision they make.
Regarding the former, I don’t place as much emphasis on the tenets of the faith they claim. Why? Because they don’t! But for the latter group, I carefully consider how their faith lines up with my own and what the differences are and how that could impact decisions they make as a leader.
Perhaps, we need to evaluate leadership not so much through the lens of Republican or Democrat but by the example of Nehemiah:
He worked beside the people he was trying to help. (Nehemiah 5:16)
He didn’t demand what he did not need. (Nehemiah 5:14, 18)
He refused to quit the necessary work to deal with unproductive arguing—He focused on the true task at hand. (Nehemiah 6:3)
For me, that means a true citizen-leader, has the following characteristics:
1. Integrity—An effective leader puts time and energy into the priorities he or she claims.
2. Generous—An effective leader does what benefits others over what benefits himself or herself.
3. Focus—An effective leader is unwilling to quit the needed work to argue or debate with those who simply want the fight.
What characteristics do you believe make an effective leader, in government or otherwise?
Please note that I am neither endorsing nor rejecting either of the two major candidates for the office of President in this year’s election. While comments and discussion are not only welcome but encouraged, I ask that we be mindful not to attack or disparage others.