Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Vote for Jesus?

Vote for Jesus!  Cute slogan – not possible. Not even Jesus would endorse that option.  In the flesh he refused to be crowned by a crowd eager for his early rule, and shared with Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this earth” (Jn.18.36). In fact, Jesus warned his disciples not to engage in political games the way the “gentiles” do, seeking to be in a position to “lord” their authority over others, but rather to become “servants of all” (Mtw.20.25). Jesus and His disciples through the ages have a globally redemptive view that transcends nationalism, party divides and political power plays.  Nonetheless, Christians are called to engage their world, often engaging in healthy ways with political movements.

Many Evangelical Christians will sense some ambivalence in casting their presidential vote this year. President Obama self-identifies as a Christian, being converted to faith and baptized as an adult.  Many conservative Christians question how his faith has been evidenced through some of the issues he has embraced.  Mitt Romney self-identifies as a Mormon, very committed to his faith.  Most Evangelical Christians, including Free Methodists, view Mormonism as a non-Christian cult.  I don’t know the religious views of Gary Johnson (Libertarian candidate) or Jill Stein (Green candidate).  Regardless, this election is not a time in which Christians vote for their next ecclesial leader, but for a person of sound character and healthy mind with the ability to lead the United States through very troubled times.

Perhaps Christ-followers should vote for the candidates or parties that seem to align best with Jesus or Kingdom or Christian values. This also creates a dilemma. There is no single “biblical world-view” and fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ have drawn quite different conclusions on many core matters (for example just war versus pacifism). 

It will likely prove a very dangerous stance to claim any particular candidate or party is the godly one, and to judge as unspiritual (or unpatriotic … these are not the same) those who disagree.  Some may believe that surely all true Biblical Christians would endorse the same set of core values or issues as being closest to the heart of God.  This is simply not true. 

Around the same era, speaking to the larger context of the Jewish people of faith, three prophets of God, led by the Spirit of God, preaching the Word of God proclaimed three very different agendas. Malachi proclaimed a deep concern for marriage, crying out that “God hates divorce!” and pointing to the disintegrating family as a core cause of national and spiritual distress (Malachi 2). Zechariah had a different emphasis, “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other (Zech.7:8-9).”  Haggai had a different emphasis, blaming economic woes on neglect of the temple of God (Haggai 1). 

If we were prone to label and divide, pick sides and play party politics, we might be tempted to say a conservative “values party” leader like Malachi is dead-on but that a liberal social justice guy like Zechariah is bad for the country. Or visa-versa. Or point to Haggai's religious solution of getting back to prayer, worship and building up the temple as the truly godly approach and wonder about how faith-compromised the more socially involved Malachi or Zechariah might be. Knowing that each of these “agendas” originate from the Spirit of God, we are not left with the option of playing the labels game and claiming one is closest to the “Kingdom agenda.”

What if God’s best desire for a nation is an agenda too big for one party to contain?  What if the “mind of Christ” is too big for one person to have the whole picture?  What if every nation needs the values of personal morality and responsibility and social justice and care for those who cannot care for themselves in order to be closer to healthy?  What if portions of “Kingdom agenda” issues are reflected by Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Independents and Green or Tea Partiers alike? And what if aspects of each agenda may in fact embrace issues that oppose the heart of God?

What if Zechariah had the best words for voting Americans of faith during this contentious time? “In your hearts do not think evil of each other!”  It is my prayer that nowhere in any church in the North Central Conference will someone utter something as uninformed or unspiritual as, “No true Christian can vote for (fill in the blank).”  Engage what God has called you to engage with all your heart, contribute to the betterment of the nation in which you live, while holding onto enough gracious humility to bless those engaged in issues that you do not feel are as important, or who take a different point of view than you do.  

Let us endeavor to prayerfully work together as the people of God to make the best decisions we can, and to work as fruitfully as possible across every political divide.  Jesus as Lord (rather than any political party) makes this possible. Jesus as Lord, I believe, makes this necessary.

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