(This essay was original published November 4, 2014 in another medium. It hasn’t been touched since, We came across it by accident today and still found virtually every word as relevant as four years ago. Though the atmosphere of the last two years may make some points less accurate, like anticipated voter turnout, only two updates have been made: one, to indicate that November 11 is on a different day of the week; two, to reflect that the United States has a different President. Otherwise, the state of the union is pretty much the same. So are these sentiments.)
I am truly excited this is Election Day.
True, it’s a mid-term, so it’s not as sexy and evocative as the Presidential elections. True, there’s a general malaise about the candidates, and no one ever knows anything about the judges. There are bond issues at stake, depending on the community, thus there may be some enthusiasm. In general, there’s not a lot of enthusiasm about this election. Voter turnout is expected to be low.
So, why am I SO looking forward to this election?
Because tomorrow I get my mailbox back. And I can answer my phone. Or, if I don’t answer my phone, I won’t still hear a prerecorded voice talking into my prerecorded voice asking my prerecorded voice to answer a prerecorded poll by pressing a number that I can’t reach because I’m across the room…and if I were closer to the prerecorded voice, it would not be a NUMBER I would punch.
I am looking forward to this Election Day because tomorrow, the bloody thing will be over. And when I say bloody, I don’t necessarily mean it in the British lexicon. I mean “bloody” as in that’s what our candidates pursue. I am struck by the timing of this election coming so close to Halloween.
I am looking forward to this Election Day because, difficult as it will be, I will vote. Not, however, because I am thrilled by the roster of candidates or have hope and enthusiasm about their policies. I don’t. As much as I try being informed via the countless postcards cluttering my table, op-ed pieces I read, voter registration guides I peruse, editorial endorsements I check, I have little comfort in any people running for offices. BECAUSE of what I’ve seen, I don’t WANT to vote for any of these people because I don’t WANT any of them leading me. Because they have not proven themselves leaders. LOUDERS, but not leaders.
Why We Vote
- I will vote because next week our nation will honor men and women who for centuries have served and died in order that I have the right to enter a polling booth without a gun to my head, or a gun to greet me afterward.
- I will vote because of the men and women, ancestors, who suffered through the poll tax, literacy tests, voter ID cards; who marched, sat-in, picketed; who were shot, lynched or burned so that I could walk into a polling booth and even vote for a jerk.
- I will vote because I have friends and acquaintances in other countries who do not have the rights – the freedoms – we have in this nation that we so cavalierly take for granted.
A non-vote is not a protest. A non-vote is lazy. A non-vote is…un-American. I will vote because it’s my God-commanded responsibility. (Be wary of your reaction just now. “God-commanded” in an essay about voting has the potential of sending thoughts someplace else. So, just follow what I’m saying, not what you think I’m saying. It’s a quirk of our electoral process.)
It’s an odd paradox that we talk a lot about the separation of church and state when, in our nation, it’s hard to have one without the other. Despite fears and pontifications of whatever cable news commentators you absorb, we are not in the midst of a religious coup de grace. If the House or Senate has more of one party than the other, and if that party is in opposition to the man in the White House, it’s not because one or the other party has a better pipeline to God…no matter what the candidates may imply. The proof they don’t have the better pipeline is in the style of campaigns run. For if the candidates were as God-fearing as many claim, and no doubt are in many cases, we – the public – would not have to endure the unsolicited political pornography that comes into our mailboxes and televisions. We would learn how each man or woman plans to LEAD us…even if they have opposing policies. Test every spirit, John tells us.
Responsibility of Voting Christians
When I say “God-commanded responsibility,” here are a couple of my reference points, both by the apostle Paul.
To the Roman church, Paul wrote,
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. “ (My italics; explaining shortly.) (Romans 13:1)
To his protégé Timothy, Paul later explained,
“…I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. “ (1 Timothy 2:1)
The point of these verses is clear that an individual who claims to be a Christ-follower (or a ‘cultural’ Christian) has a responsibility to pray for, encourage and give thanks to people in positions of authority – appointed or elected – because for whatever His reasons, God has allowed those individuals to be in positions of authority. The individuals in the position of authority – elected officials, candidates for office – have an equal, God-commanded responsibility to “lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
(If you’re not a Believer in God, or Christ, please just understand the principle here.)
So, when a postcard of distorted images, or commercials with inflammatory, denigrating statements enters my home – whether approved by the candidate or the candidates “supporters” – I must ask, “Is this dignified?” And, do I want an undignified person “representing” me in Congress? No, I want someone in Congress – on the Hill — and at 1600 whom I believe has a modicum of civility. I don’t need to totally agree, and I don’t need to have all MY needs met. I DO want someone who is aware of people before party.
A President by Any Other Name
When I earlier italicized Scripture passages, I was reflecting on the last six years of our nation. Again, for those who claim the Christian perspective (in and out of government), it’s necessary to accept that God allowed Mr. Obama to be elected. (Editor’s Update 2018: Substitute “Mr. Trump.”) Perhaps to reveal something to us as a nation, or to each person individually. What has this Presidency revealed to you about yourself? If Paul reminds Timothy, and us, to pray, intercede and give thanksgiving for those “in high places,” you must ask, “Do I pray for the President…the Governor…the alderperson? Do I pray, or do I complain?”
I guess that’s the bottom line of the rant here, and the frustration of SO many people waiting for this blood-letting to end. The people in office JUST DON’T GET IT, and it’s frustrating that there seems to be no way to get it through their thick skulls. The filth and negativity may get you elected, but it doesn’t make me trust you, like you or WANT ME TO VOTE FOR YOU! Worse, I do not respect you.
I’m no neophyte politically. I know the impact of negative campaigning. I DON’T know that the candidates do, as evidenced one afternoon when a 20-something canvasser came to the door and surreptitiously tried swaying me to his position, without saying, “Hi, I’m from the ______ campaign.”
In the course of the conversation, his goal was to convince me to NOT vote for the other candidate. “Did you know that….?” So, here is my Reader’s Digest outline that I pray comes through to someone by our next election:
- When you send me mail with photos and big headlines about the other person, I remember the OTHER PERSON not YOU! Guess for whom I’m more likely to vote?
- When you spend thousands of dollars on postage, video editing, buying TV and radio spots – most of which belittle someone else – I see WASTED MONEY. Does this encourage me to trust your fiscal plans for the state budget? (Imagine how many social needs could be met if the same candidates used the funds to, say, buy some medication for seniors…goodness knows the costs are about the same.)
- When the debates and interviews lapse into insincere fawning, you are one step above the teen drama, “Pretty Little Liars,” and not as attractive.
- When the election is over and the votes counted, when you give your concession speech and let say how much you respect the other candidate and anticipate strong representation in government, how am I to trust your assessment?
An Elder Way of Voting
What our nation wants – and NEEDS – more than ever now is a sense of hope and guidance. This is NOT an opinion about our President. (The problem with the President’s “popularity,” as it was with his predecessors and will be with his successors, is that as a nation we put too much hope and faith in an individual. We then are disappointed to discover our hope and faith is in a mere human.) This is about our LEADERSHIP regardless of the office, regardless of the community.
Earlier this year, our congregation conducted a study about changing our church organization to an elder form of leadership. As we reviewed the Scriptural qualifications to be an elder – a church leader – I thought deeply about how our government may be truly effective if our political process took these qualifications into account – and the people held the leaders accountable. Here are qualifications Paul outlined to another protégé, Titus (substitute your favorite political officer for ‘elder,’ you’ll catch my drift):
“An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined.” (Titus 1: 6-8)
So, where does this leave us?
Well, I’m going to go vote. In some cases, I know for whom I will vote. Others…well, I’m going to sort the postcards that I’ve been collecting, count the negative messages, and whoever sent the fewer nasty notes I’m likely to punch. That’s part of the fun. Then tomorrow, when the tallies are counted, I’m going to resume praying for those who have been elected – including our President — whether I like them, or agree with them or not. God says do so. I am thankful I live in a nation where I can. It is one of His blessings on America.
— Featured photo by Photo by Mirah Curzer on Unsplash