I never thought I’d write a political blog. But things lately have bothered me so much that I feel compelled to go to a topic I really don’t want to. What do you do if the choices for the general election are so poor you cannot even pick?
The phrase “lesser of two evils” has characterized how people around me always talked about politics. But this may be the first time, depending on who rises to the top by the end, that I cannot even choose who would be slightly better. Granted, the candidates would be wildly different–but what if each in their own way represents things I believe make them deplorable examples/leaders and would take our country in a decidedly wrong/scary direction.? Of course, I am holding out hope that the worst of each party (in my opinion) does not clinch the nomination. I may not be forced to vote in that least desirable pairing–but if I am, what do I do?
Usually, as one might imagine, I pick a candidate based on who most agrees with me on issues. But that has been problematic as over the years I find myself not well-represented by either of the two main parties. I find myself agreeing with one candidate on a few issues here and there, but no one represents my views well. More than half of what any candidate stands for are things I do not agree with.
So when I cannot vote by issues, I next tend to look at world-view. I may disagree on different specific issues, but I prioritize the candidate sharing a worldview with me–in the hopes that he/she could possibly change his/her mind on some issues in a favorable way. (Part, but not all, of what I’m talking about here is faith; if the person shares my religion, then I hope that God’s spirit is an influence in their lives. It’s also about what things the candidate values and prioritizes.)
Last, if I cannot find a candidate to support by either of these ways, I’m left with the last criterion: character. Despite disagreement on policy and worldview, who has integrity, a good reputation, and treats all people with respect and dignity. A good leader would be all the above–so that he/she would be able to unite people, push back the fear-mongering going on our nation. But what do I do if all three increasingly narrowing ways of choosing whom to support leave me with no one who can meet any of my criterion? What if there is no one on the ballot who even has integrity, no one I think our nation can trust to not lead the nation further into destruction?
I can share the conclusion I’ve come to this point. (But I will continue praying and seeking until voting day.) What I’ve determined to date is that if the Republican and Democratic parties each offer someone I think is unworthy of the office and destructive, I will not, cannot, vote for either. Yes, I am a registered member of a party, and others in the party hate to hear such a stance; they see my not voting the party line as helping guarantee the other side wins. Quite frankly, I’ve learned my allegiance is not to a party. Party allegiance does not trump (no pun intended) conscience or dictates of my faith and moral code of right and wrong. I will not vote for a bad candidate. My voice may be small, but it is my voice and my integrity. And I do believe I am answerable for all my actions and choices; it’s a moral decision.
I am being purposely ambiguous in this post. I do not intend to talk about particular candidates. My point is more general: about how I apply my personal values to my duty to be part of the political process. Supporting corruption and values against core tenants of my ethics–and making a choice to promote corruption or actions against my values–is not something that jives with me.
I hear a lot of people say they are supporting someone they wouldn’t have thought they would–but that frustration with the system compels them to it. I am watching myself very closely for signs of that. I don’t want frustration with humans or systems to change what I believe about right and wrong. I do not want to let others’ failures dictate the extent to which I live my values. I don’t want others’ failures to dictate how far I will trust God or obey what he has taught me about valuing people the way He does. I do not want to allow my human emotions, dictated by partially understood phenomenon, misunderstandings, jealousies, etc., to direct my voice (vote) to instate merely a different kind of corruption.
Now I’m going to get really personal about my beliefs; my Christian faith informs how I handle politics. Tough times push us to find out who we really are and what we really believe. Believing Christ looks like something. Trusting him looks like something. Will I bend with the whims and fears and paranoia and back someone who demonstrates the opposite of nearly everything Jesus lists as valuable in His kingdom? What we really believe becomes evident in how we handle the choices before us. I want to take the challenge, not find out that politics undoes my faith, revealing I don’t really believe what I say I do.
Because I think my morality matters. More than my vote matters enough to make a difference in election results, who I vote for matters to my life very personally. It reflects something about me, reveals a path I am on, and puts me closer to or further from relationship with God.
On the subject of God, I’ve been picking up on the sentiment that whatever happens is what God wants to happen. I hear this from people who vehemently dislike candidates up for election, and they say things that reveal a resignation that these must be the people God has picked–simply because they exist. I hear others say it as a positive; liking a given candidate, they see God as the mover behind his/her success–even when others in the same faith circles are appalled by this very same success. In both sentiments I hear, “whoever gets the nomination is who God wants to get the nomination.” Perhaps there was a time I believed that, but I do not now.
I think people and a nation can certainly miss God’s will, and have in the past. It was not God’s will for people to choose to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and ever after, people keep doing things outside his wishes for us. I believe God’s will for our country, as far as leadership–well, we the people may already have not supported that person enough to be in the race any longer. Or the person God would want us to back might still be in the race. The answer to those questions I cannot claim to know. But I guess that is the burden that I, the voter, have to discern. And I have to vote according to what God reveals to me.
But I am not comfortable with the idea that the way things are going are meant to be–unless God tells me as such. I have a hard time believing it at the moment because of commands in the Bible about qualities we should pick in a leader.
I’ve seen many people point to Bible stories in political banter, comparing a candidate to a character (and not all used correctly), using the comparison to prove that even though unlikely, such people have been chosen by God before. I have seen many people debate with the argument that if certain candidates rise to the top, people of faith should support them because fallible and corrupt people in the Bible have been used before to accomplish ends and therefore the current front-running candidates have God’s blessing. I disagree with the therefore part. People not honoring God or doing his will do rise to power but it isn’t the same as God’s blessing or that he favors them or the people they lead. The Old Testament is indeed full of stories of people not following God who experienced great success in conquering Israel (in periods when Israel turned away from God and His supernatural help to keep them protected from stronger conquering nations). Someone’s rise to power alone is not a mark of God’s blessing Yes, God may allow that person to rise, but that is not the same as God’s blessing or God’s favor.
Lately I’ve heard a lot of people bringing up notorious Bible characters–like a David and Saul–people who had great sins in their lives, including murder and deplorable selfishness that destroyed others’ lives. I love those characters. I think people are trying to find examples of people who were used by God to do great things despite their pasts and despite great faults. I can respect the sentiment–but it fails utterly when speaking of candidates in question. Let’s consider Saul/Paul, pre-conversion. he was very passionate–about getting rid of what he saw as threats to the power structure he lived in in the Jewish religion. Did Jesus instruct the early Christians to support Saul’s movement? Was Saul doing God’s work? Can I really think that Saul’s systematic persecution and execution of Christians was part of God’s will–something God wanted him to do? (I’m pretty sure most people of faith would see the source of Saul’s work as coming from somewhere/someone else than God.) I doubt any early Christian would have done anything to bolster Saul’s rise to power and influence, or that they would have been encouraged to–because he was working against God’s will. (In fact, when he encounters Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus’ words are very direct about that. “Who do you persecute me?”) Now, after his conversion–well, that’s a different story entirely. Same with David. Both characters share something none of the morally/ethically controversial candidates today share: a story of repentance and change.
I believe anyone can be redeemed, and God could grab the heart of any man or woman put into power–and they would have the choice to respond or not. And change dramatically. Like a St. Paul.
But in the meantime, I cannot pretend to think a political candidate is a Biblical hero/heroine chosen “fro such a time as this.” A friend said of this recently that Jesus lived in a politically desperate time, but he didn’t even address that–though the people pressed him to do so. He was concerned primarily with the hearts of individual people. Good food for thought. Also, I wonder too what Jesus sees as the terrible evils of our country. There are certain things many people who describe themselves as the faith-based vote feel threatened by that might not even register to Jesus as something to be concerned about–let alone worth contradicting their faith in order to avoid.
To sum up, I believe what I choose matters–for me and to God–even more than it matters to the voting process of our country. It all comes back to my job to be close to the heart of God so I can best discern how to leverage my small voice in this process. It is a sure and real responsibility and much bigger than the game of politics. Sobering. And I cannot let anyone else tell me or allow anything to be a substitute for God’s voice speaking to me about what is the right thing to do. Because I believe it really matters. Because we can get it wrong. I also believe we could end up with 2 names on the ticket for whom God would not want us to support. And then I have to figure out what God wants me to do in that instance. It may be writing in a name. And there are other parties. (Check out the Green party, the Libertarian party…)
And in the end, no matter who is chosen as the next president, I believe God still works. I’m pretty sure He still moves and works through people, be it with plan B, plan Z, or even plan ZZZ (to infinity).
My voice is small, but if I can stand for something, I’d want to let the party I am registered in know I will not vote for just whomever is put forward. What if people were allegiant to their conscience and that changed parties? The people demanding that better candidates rise up–or a huge chunk of politically active american population will not vote the proposed candidates.
I wonder what would happen if this sizable chunk of the American population calling themselves the faith-based voters (realizing there is more than one camp, including Catholics, Evangelicals, Progressive Christians) unhappy with the choices would truly stop playing the game of politics and get close to the heart of God. What if Christians voiced their consciences and refused to support candidates antithetical to Christian ideas of good leadership? The chunk of people would be large enough to get notice. Playing the game of politics thwarts such opportunities for change. And playing the game of “the lesser of to evils” supports evil, puts evil in charge.
But here I will end the only political blog I’ve ever written. I hope it’s the last.