Politics — electoral, congregational or denominational — is a very strange game.
are in the midst of the political season, and to paraphrase the
Scripture, "Where two or three are gathered, there will be a political
dad used to tell me, "If you want to keep your friends, don’t talk
about politics or religion." I already blew the religion part; now here I
go on politics!
has been a political force since the Roman Emperor Constantine was
converted in the 4th century. In the New Testament, there are
admonitions to honor those who are in positions of authority (Romans
13:1-7). Jesus said, "Give to the emperor the things that are the
emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s" (Mark 12:17).
the early Christians were mostly apolitical, the seeds of many major
socio-political movements are grounded in Scripture and the tradition of
the church. Can you imagine the abolition of slavery, the suffrage of
women, or civil rights without the Christian witnesses who populated
those efforts? Today there are many Christian organizations that are
pushing a political agenda. Isn’t it fascinating?
me relieve any anxiety or confusion on your part by telling you how to
vote. Now, I am not self-destructive enough to endorse any particular
candidate, but I will give you my guidelines on how to make intelligent
choices at the polling booth. These should work for any Christian,
conservative, liberal, moderate or muddled.
the single-issue candidate. People with an ax to grind seldom make good
representatives of the whole people. Every issue is clouded by their
cause, which is always more complicated than it first appears. So the
single-issue candidate is often forced to change course, thus angering
his or her constituents, or stays on track for a train wreck.
the right questions. The right question is not "What’s in it for me?"
Yet, that is the way most of us approach politics: Which candidate is
going to make me more secure, wealthier, happier, etc.? More appropriate
questions should be asked about a candidate’s stand on moral issues,
the environment, war and peace, education, or the economy. Admittedly,
this is harder than deciding who sounds or looks better. But in asking
the right questions, we might just find some intriguing answers.
for people who have a positive vision of the future. Nostalgia isn’t
what it used to be. Politicians who promise a return to an idyllic past
are counting on fuzzy memories to forget what the past was really like. A
good leader will take timeless values and combine them with the current
reality to produce a vision of a transformed future. Unfortunately,
much of American politics, even down to the local level, has degenerated
into negative rhetoric that leaves voters disgusted with the whole
process. If you find a leader with a positive vision, give him or her
people of faith. Almost any political office, from the city council to
the White House, is too big a job for a human being to do alone. I look
for candidates that honestly (since before their campaign) seem to
depend on God for guidance and strength. They do not necessarily have to
be similar in denomination or theology. But I believe that a public
servant who has a strong relationship with God will more likely be just
that — a servant.
for guidance. When all your research is done, when you have studied the
positions of the candidates and assessed the possibilities, then pray
about it. Ask God to direct your hand in the voting booth. These are
important decisions; they need to be undergirded with prayer.
your privilege. Above all else, do make the effort to go out and vote.
Having a voice in our government is a sacred responsibility enjoyed by
few people to the extent we do in America. Democracy is a trust that was
given by God and ensured by the founders of our nation. I know it’s
flawed, as every human system is, but it’s the best option I’ve seen.
Exercise is healthy — get out and vote!
*Reeves is senior minister of First United Methodist Church in Bryant, Ark. The commentary first appeared in the Arkansas United Methodist, the newspaper of the Arkansas Annual Conference.
News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.