EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part 3 of a series on faith and politics leading up to Election Day 2020, coming Nov. 3.
From now through Nov. 3, all registered adults have the opportunity to vote for political leaders. People of faith, with a primary allegiance to God and a second fealty to our political institutions, must decide how to vote. For whom should you vote? How does your religious belief affect your vote?
Voting makes a difference
Mark Twain once wrote: “If voting made any difference, they would not let us vote.” I fundamentally disagree with Twain. Voting does make a difference.
I hurt for our community as we face so many crises: a pandemic, recession, civil discord and more.
Even more so, I am in deep angst about many of our nation’s leaders, especially on the national level. Too many of our politicians respond to these crises seemingly in their own self-interests and desire to win the next election instead of the good of all people.
I hope that we, together, might find a way out of our political quagmire. Voting by people of faith with allegiances to a higher power is one key.
People of faith must think, act and vote based first and foremost not on our political party or our personal self-interest, but on what we perceive to be God’s vision for our society on Earth.
I do not tell anyone how to vote. But all of us must vote.
Each person of faith will each vote differently. We do not all share the same passions and perspectives, but we all must vote.
If you are eligible to vote, vote. Do not be silent. Do not be passive.
The American Revolution was fundamentally about democratic representation. The Civil Rights movement in the 1960s and today focused on voting rights. Our right to vote has been secured through war and protest by many faithful people. How dare we not honor that gift?
In our democratic republic, the final authority rests with the people. We elect representatives to make decisions for the good of all of us. We must delegate our power wisely.
Jesus is not on the ballot
For Christians, Jesus of Nazareth is not on the ballot. We, therefore, must choose between imperfect people.
Every candidate on the ballot this fall has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. They are human. Yet, they are all offering themselves to serve our community.
Christians, in particular, must be careful not to ascribe to Jesus Christ our own political agendas or perspectives. Jesus was neither a capitalist, nor a socialist, nor a communist. Jesus was neither a Democrat, nor a Republican, nor a Libertarian. We should never imagine that Jesus agrees with us on all things and then declare that we are voting like Jesus.
Jesus did not address either abortion or the right to bear arms. Neither did Jesus speak about the minimum wage, global warming or universal health care. Jesus did not have a position on school funding or building of roads.
Some advocates use the Bible and other sacred Scriptures to prove their own previously held beliefs. All of us must be careful when someone tells us that one political agenda is more righteous than another political agenda.
For Christians, however, Jesus did have an agenda with political implications: to remind people of God’s vision for this earth and call us to align ourselves with God’s work.
Jesus promoted specific values. Love your enemies. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Welcome the outsider. Blessed are the peacemakers.
Jesus spoke frequently on behalf of the poor and marginalized members of our community. He condemned the rich. He honored people who gave generously. Jesus cared for children, healed the sick, offered freedom to the mentally ill and forgave convicted criminals.
All of Jesus’ perspectives had and have political implications. All faiths also have core values that impact public issues.
Governments at local, state and national levels can do good, promote justice, provide for human welfare and protect children and people at the margins. Governments can also do evil and protect the rich and powerful. When any government is unjust or abusive, people of faith must say “No.”
Do all people of faith agree?
There is no one perspective that all faithful people will agree on. Christians, Jews, Muslims and others are not all agreed on what position to take on any political issue. When Bob Dole ran for president against Bill Clinton, both were active United Methodists and agreed on almost nothing.
How to vote?
Each one of us has to use our understanding of God, God’s priorities, our own good judgement and our flawed perspectives to decide how to vote.
We each should cast our votes based on our faith emphases for the candidates who in our best judgment are most qualified for particular offices to reflect those emphases.
John Danforth and modesty
Republican Sen. John Danforth, also an Episcopal priest, once warned us, "If we believe our political positions are absolute implementations of God's will, then our political causes become religious crusades, and reasonable accommodation becomes impossible. If our faith brings modesty about ourselves and our politics, our effectiveness is more likely. I believe that such modesty is, or at least should be, Christianity's gift to American politics."
Identify faithful and modest candidates
Our nation at all levels of governance is not yet perfect. None of our politicians are without fault.
Yet, people of faith must use our votes to identify political leaders who will help further the values that we share with our God.
Someday, our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and our God will ask, “How did you vote in 2020?” What will you say?
The Rev. Andy Langford is an elected member of the Concord City Council. He is a former pastor at Central United Methodist Church and has been visiting many local congregations to discover the richness of Cabarrus County’s places of faith.
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