voting-is-patriotic

This is an embarrassing story, but I will tell it anyway. . .

 In my younger years, I was completely uninterested in politics and therefore fairly uninformed about such things. My aversion was probably because I clearly saw politics, party platforms, and elections as instruments of division between human beings, and even between friends and family members. However, in November 1980, I voted in my first presidential election. I was living with my grandpa at the time, and before heading to the polling booth, I asked Gramps who I should vote for. “You need to vote for Ronald Reagan.” I complied, and essentially gave Gramps two votes that year.

 A couple months later, it was January 20, 1981. With a group of friends in Peoria, Illinois, we huddled around a fuzzy color television set. Many of these friends were very interested in and knowledgeable about politics. The television screen showed the airplane holding fifty-two Americans who had been held as hostages in Iran. They were on the tarmac awaiting departure to West Germany – but there were “delays.” At the time, I was studying mechanical engineering at Bradley University, and I was mentally reviewing a list of issues that could be delaying the flight. I knew it wasn’t a weather delay or icing on the wings. Was it an issue with one of the jet engines or a leak in the hydraulic system? Was it an electrical problem or an issue with the on-board instrumentation? Then my perspective broadened. This event was the culmination of months of international negotiations followed by threats of war from the new “kick-ass” president-elect. This was also inauguration day when the presidency would be passed from Jimmy Carter to Ronald Reagan who was standing by ready to take his oath. The minutes counted down, and the newspaper journalists and history book writers were probably anxiously wondering under whose presidency the hostages would be released. Both Carter and Reagan were probably each hoping to add this historical event to their resume. Beyond these trite American political maneuverings, this whole ordeal was soaked in international politics. Amid the suspense, I announced my epiphany that I thought the delay had “something to do with politics.”

 My friends looked at me with disbelief then cracked up laughing. One of them still reminds me of that day recalling my enlightened comment.

 My knowledge about politics has progressed since then, but I am far from fluent in the subject. What I do know with certainty is that the American political system is implemented in such a way that it drives a wedge between people. The polarization is extreme, and the left and right continue to be driven further apart. Our country’s motto should actually be: “E. Pluribus Duo.” This has been extremely evident during the current presidential election. It makes me sick.

 What also troubles me is the single-minded willingness of the predominant Christian community to rally behind one of the political parties. This has been going on for decades and it still baffles me. It is as if Jesus is just a front-man used to garner votes from those who feel that one or two “Christian issues” are all that matter. This seemed to gain ground sometime during the Reagan-Bush-Bush eras when the Republican candidates latched onto the Pro-Life hook embedded deep in the mouth of this huge and loyal voting bloc.

 Though I am a committed Christian in the biblical, spiritual sense, for years I have felt a strong desire to distance myself from what I call the “American Christian Political Machine” (the ACPM). What baffles me more during this current election is the endorsement of a candidate that stands for everything contrary to biblical Christian doctrine (except, perhaps, for his lip service to appoint “Pro-Life” Supreme Court judges). This is making my desire to publicly separate myself from the ACPM seem even more urgent.

 And what are the issues that American Christians rally around? Many Christians seem solely concerned with abortion and traditional marriage, and some seem very protective of their gun rights (where did THAT come from?). But many Christians assume that caring for those who are unfortunate or disadvantaged is not their problem, and that being good stewards of the earth gets in the way of making money (and who can argue that “more money” is the ultimate goal?). Voting for or against a particular economic system has nothing to do with Christianity; neither does national security or open/closed borders (FYI, in case you haven’t read your bible lately, the USA is NOT God’s chosen nation). Even the preservation of “religious freedom” (in the political sense) is unbiblical, although the idea is comforting and convenient for us. Ironically, the ACPM priorities are centered on preserving this comfortable American lifestyle that reduces or eliminates the need for true faith in God. The platforms of both major parties each reflect an incredibly weird combination of beliefs that one must ignore many things to sign up with either Democrats or Republicans.

 With the outrageous nominee selected for the Republican Party’s presidential race this year, I have seen a growing list of Christians separate themselves from any endorsement of this particular candidate. Please understand that I am in no way endorsing the Democratic candidate. I mainly want to maintain my public identity as a biblical Christian while differentiating myself from this massive and ill-directed “American Christian Political Machine.” The two-party mentality dictates that if someone criticizes a Republican, people assume they support the Democrat counterpart, and vice versa. If the ACPM were behind the Democratic candidate, I would probably be equally troubled.

 Philip Yancey commented that Christianity functions best when it is a minority and acts as a subversive force to combat injustice, greed, and other forms of evil. When Christianity becomes a major political entity, it becomes counter-productive. Moreover, I am sometimes able to recognize that The United States of America is just a temporary earthly kingdom and it is not God’s chosen nation, but I battle against the influences of our national culture to keep this perspective in mind. I agree with Leo Tolstoy who observed that “Everyone wants to change the world, but no one wants to change themselves.” The world is full of injustices that should be changed, but political activism is not the only method. I know the world would be a better place if I would only focus on changing a few things about myself.

 I don’t want “more than one vote” this year, so I will not try to convince anyone to vote for any particular candidate. Besides, like many of us, I am not willing to endorse either of the two “major” candidates, although I will still cast my vote based on my conscience. We have been told that voting is patriotic. However, I once read that the most patriotic thing we can do is to love our neighbor.[1] (And if you want to do something supernatural, love your enemy.) I vote for the second course of action, and I am pretty sure that has nothing to do with politics. Yes, “loving other people” is what I suggest for the next four years regardless who those other people voted for, and regardless of who is elected to be the next president of the United States.


[1] “The Gospel According to America,” by David Dark

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