by Travis Garner, The Village Church
Yesterday I was asked a question, and I think I gave an unhelpful answer. Or at least only a partially helpful answer. (As a general rule, at the most I’m only right half of the time. The problem is, I don’t know which half.)
The question was this: “Should we vote our faith? What does that even mean?”
Let me say first that I’m really bothered when candidates say things like, “My faith doesn’t impact my politics at all.” If your faith doesn’t impact your politics, then maybe your faith isn’t in the right place.
It reminds me of an old bumper sticker that said, “Jesus is my co-pilot.” Same thing – if Jesus is your co-pilot, you’re probably in the wrong seat.
For followers of Jesus, having faith take a backseat to politics isn’t really a solid, biblically-based option. The design of the system is that when someone makes a decision to become a follower of Jesus, Jesus becomes their orienting principle, the person or thing around which everything else in their life is built.
In other words, for a person of Christian faith, Jesus is like the glasses through which you see the rest of the world or the foundation on which you build everything else in your life.
So, to the question, “Should we vote our faith?” I say, “Absolutely! Yes!”
If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, then I believe Jesus should impact every decision you make in life, including how you vote.
The problem with that, contrary to popular belief, is that there’s rarely ever one clear “Christian candidate.” Now, I have very passionate friends and family members on both sides of this year’s presidential election who are adamant that if you’re a “real Christian,” there’s no way you could ever vote for the other candidate.
I think it’s probably important for everybody to push the pause button for just a minute on that line of thinking. Republicans do not have Christianity on lockdown, and neither do Democrats. Jim Collins wrote a book several years ago, and I think the title gets it right: God’s Politics: Why The Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It. (Full disclosure: I’ve never read the book, but I love the title!)
No one political party encapsulates all of Christian teaching. No one candidate captures the full spirit of Jesus while another is completely devoid of that.
Here’s one example of what I’m talking about.
Let’s take the issue of “life,” for instance. This is an issue that gets a lot of attention from people of Christian faith. Psalm 139 says these words:
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.”
My best understanding is that this psalm and so many other places in Scripture give us a firm foundation on which to say that followers of Jesus believe in the sacredness of human life. We believe in a God who holds all life as sacred, that all people are created in the image of God, that no one is beyond hope for redemption and transformation. It’s a pretty radical statement when you think about it, that from birth to death, every life is sacred and no one is beyond hope. God loves people. The end. This is a solid, almost universally agreed upon Christian principle.
Here’s where it gets interesting if you’ll just go with me for a minute on an example. As a general rule (I know there are always exceptions, but I’m speaking very generally here), Republicans are seen as “pro-life” when it comes to abortion, yet often also in favor of the death penalty. Democrats are typically seen as “pro-choice” when it comes to abortion, yet often also opposed to the death penalty. Again, on generalities, Republicans are typically seen as champions of the rights of the unborn, while Democrats are typically seen as champions of social programs that support the rights of those born into poverty, where the conditions of life are not ideal.
To be anti-abortion is labeled “pro-life,” but wouldn’t opposition to the death penalty also be “pro-life?” Wouldn’t supporting programs that offer assistance to struggling moms also be “pro-life?”
The problem on this particular issues is, when it comes to politics and politicians, there is often an inconsistent ethic of life. I believe that God is “pro-life” in the truest sense of the phrase, that God values life in all its stages. But to my knowledge, in our two-party system, there are very few leaders who would line up as “pro-life” across the whole spectrum of issues that relate to life. (In many ways this is the case because to take sides on issues that line up with one party on the one hand and another party on the other would render someone unelectable in a primary, but tacking the two-party system is probably another issue for another day.)
Run down just about any issue, and I think you’ll find the same kind of inconsistency within our political system in comparison to the values and ethics of Jesus. I think on some issues, Jesus would be conservative, but on some issues, Jesus would be liberal. On some issues, he would be liberally conservative, and on some he would be conservatively liberal.
Here’s the thing, and it’s good news: Jesus isn’t bound by our partisan politics.
I have said for a long time that it’s not possible to say that Jesus is your orienting principle AND to agree 100% with any one party’s political platform. Jesus simply doesn’t line up on one side or the other like that.
I wrote yesterday that this election doesn’t matter. I don’t actually believe that. I think this election is very important. I think voting is an amazing right that we have in this country, and it’s not one that should be taken for granted. And I do hope and pray that people will vote their faith to the best of their ability.
In the end, however, I know that really faithful and really intelligent people are going to disagree about what that means and they’re going to vote differently in this election based on what they think and feel is best. And in the end, I believe that LIVING your faith will have a much deeper and broader impact than VOTING your faith. Don’t get me wrong, I think that both are incredibly important, but at the end of the day, it’s not the president’s job to love my neighbor in the name of Jesus, that’s my responsibility no matter who’s sitting in the Oval Office.
Next Tuesday, vote for who you think is best, and if you’re a person of faith, I strongly encourage you to vote based on your faith first, not your political party. Work hard to be informed by reputable sources on the issues. Don’t be swayed by conspiracy theories. Don’t be swayed by fake news stories. Don’t vote for someone just because you’ve “always voted for that party.” I think the most faithful thing to do is to line the policies and the politics and the politicians next to the core values and beliefs and vision of the Kingdom of God, and vote for the candidate of whichever party, in your estimation, lines up with those things the most.
Next Wednesday morning, though, when you wake up, no matter who you vote for on Tuesday and no matter who’s announced as the President-Elect next Tuesday night, live like Jesus is King. I think that will, in the end, make a bigger impact in our communities than the outcome of any election.