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How to Navigate the Election Season

After the primaries in the last presidential election, I wrote a political post and it still is the most-read piece I’ve ever written. I had to turn off comments because keyboard activists aren’t always guided by civility. You will notice I did not link to it here.

We’re gearing up for another heated presidential race. Tempers will rise; voices will follow. Already arguments are stirring and logos are circulating. There are passionate feelings on all sides of every single issue.

If you’re anything like me, you feel like you don’t actually belong anywhere. Neither major party in any way reflects my beliefs or how I feel like my beliefs should be lived out. It’s easy to sink into despair before the action even gets underway. And if I start there, where will I end up? How can I continue to respect and love well people with whom I disagree? How can I remain hopeful when there are constant announcements and ceaseless whispers that everything good is ending?

The last thing we need is for believers to join the masses of hysterical, desperate people who believe the world will fall apart if their candidate doesn’t get elected. And I’d certainly like to see us avoid the storm of believers backing a candidate who has little in common with Christian values. Here are some preemptive thoughts before the world starts going crazy and we follow.

Remember that first you belong to the kingdom.
Then America. American is not the kingdom, although I’m grateful to be American. “You are one in whom Christ delights and dwells. You live in the strong and unshakable kingdom of God.” Emily P. Freeman frequently references this Dallas Willard quote and I love it. America does not seem strong or unshakable; the kingdoms of the world never have been. But God’s kingdom will never fall. It doesn’t cringe in fear when evil shakes its fist. It will reign in victory long after all enemies have accepted defeat. We are ambassadors of that kingdom and I want to live in a way that reflects my true home.

Weigh all the issues.
If these issues were simple, they wouldn’t be issues. They are complex and nuanced. For example, we can’t actually be pro-life or pro-woman if all we want to do is outlaw abortion. We also need to have a plan to help care for the well-being of those mamas and babies. Jeremiah 22:15-16 says, “Are you a king because you excel in cedar? Didn’t your father eat and drink and administer justice and righteousness? Then it went well with him. He took up the case of the poor and needy; then it went well. Is this not what it means to know me?” (emphasis added.) The ways that believers use their strength and power should lead to the flourishing of all people, not just a select few. This should not just be about what benefits us most or leaves us feeling morally superior.

Use your vote.
You may have to choose between bad options. But let’s refrain from taking one bad option and pretending like it’s a good one. It might be enough to vote quietly, or at least with the disclaimer that you’re doing the best you can and not endorsing one person as the savior of America. Just remember that, one day, you’re going to have to tell your grandkids (or someone else’s grandkids) who you voted for. Leave yourself something worth saying.

Don’t use that as an excuse to not vote. Go vote. Every time I walk in and out of the polls, I walk in the footsteps of women who advocated for my right to vote. So I stand a little straighter and hold the weight of responsibility with the mixture of gratitude and sobriety that it deserves.

Get involved in real life.
Those things you want to see done by politicians? Get involved yourself. If you’re against abortion, foster. If you’re against family separation at the border, donate to programs who are helping those families or go yourself to help. If you’re incensed at the stirring and lingering racism, speak up when people and policies are racist. Call representatives. Volunteer. Have face to face conversations (see below first). Notice there is no call to argue on Facebook.

Dialogue with decency.
The Bible says we are supposed to make a defense of our hope with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). This is our guide for all of our conversations, even about the things most precious to us. If you can’t honor the person you’re talking to, you should be quiet until you can. Learn to listen with the goal of understanding, even if you don’t agree. Give up the responsibility to convince people. Learn to use language well.

Don’t place all your weight on politics.
The church is flourishing in countries where the government is blatantly against Christianity. What we really need are all the tiny pockets of believers actually living as part of the kingdom, lighting up the darkness. Step up to that challenge as a response to what not’s being done.

I cannot predict the outcome of any election. But I do know that God is not biting His fingernails, watching the drama and wondering what will happen. We can rest in that and walk forward on mission, regardless of who hold any office.

*picture credit: Megan Andzulis
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