Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Monday, November 3, 2008

Getting past Election Day:

Please note that I'm writing this before the winners of Tuesday's Elections are announced. Most of you will read this afterward. I'm writing it with that in mind.

Especially, on the presidential level, this has been a very emotional campaign. As I am doing a final edit of this piece there is a spot on TV about parents with adult children who are voting the opposite of their parents. One dad said he could hardly talk to his daughter. Find a way to get over it! Unless we deal with the emotion properly, it could get in the way of our moving on to the business at hand. And it is clear there is business at hand.

It is clear that this election will make history. We will have elected either the first African-American President, or the first female Vice-President. This has been the most expensive Presidential race in history, and some commentators are predicting a record vote. It seems that the campaign has lasted so long that some of babies the candidates kissed at the beginning of their run were old enough to vote for them by the end. By Tuesday evening nearly half the nation will be disappointed--some bitter. With all there is do before us, we had better get over it.

  • For those of us who know the Lord, the bond that we share in Christ is more important than the political divisions that come between us. If our political enthusiasm led us to actions that offended others, we ought to make that right.

  • We need to understand that not all Republicans are cold-hearted war-mongers, nor are all Democrats devoid of concern for the life of the unborn. Politics are complicated. Some of my friends make decisions that I don't understand. It is appropriate for us to have spirited discussions about the issues (in the right context), but it is not acceptable for me to "demonize" others or to assign motives to them that may not be theirs. Political campaigns lend themselves to caricatures--one dimensional cartoons--real life is populated by very complex individuals.

  • No doubt in the months to come a new version of an old bumper sticker will proliferate, "Don't Blame Me, I Didn't Vote for ________." It's amusing the first 10 times you see it--a little--OK, very little--but the attitude it expresses is pretty non-productive.

  • Don't gloat, either--that is if your side won. That is perhaps even less productive than the whining about losing. Sooner or later, politically or otherwise, you are going to need their help.

  • We must be committed to get along with those we ought to get along with. I imagine that Simon the Zealot and Matthew the former tax collector had some interesting discussions.

God is still on the throne. This will get too long if I explore God's sovereignty, so you work on it on your own. Bottom line: If my guy won it won't bring in the Kingdom of God. If the other guy won that doesn't mark the beginning of the Great Tribulation.

Who ever our new President-elect is, and the other newly elected candidates, we need to pray for them, and those who continue in office. 1 Timothy 2
Transitions are critical times. Pray.

From my perspective as a pastor, having heard the discussion that led up to the election, it is clear to me that there is a great need for the people of God to clarify our thinking. What really matters?
Gene Veith, writing on his blog, included part of an article by an Australian journalist that included this quote, "This election marks the triumph of celebrity as the essential organising principle of US politics." (You can find more on Veith's blog, You'll need to scroll down a ways.
This is not a criticism of just the other side. This campaign has impressed me with how thin the thinking has been. Some of the ads and speeches have contained outright lies. The implication is, "Go ahead and lie to them. If it is what they want to hear, they'll like it, and many who don't like it won't be smart enough to figure it out." The majority of the campaign was based on half-truths and stuff that doesn't matter. From Grecian columns to expensive wardrobes to appearances on Saturday Night Live everything was about looking good.
People who don't know what they believe can be easily led astray. Lot's of Christians don't have a clue.
  • Are there wars worth fighting, even if people die in them?
  • When does human life begin? Is all human life worthy of protection?
  • What is the purpose of government? What do we have a right to expect from our government? Concerning what do we have a right to expect government to leave us alone?
  • What does the Bible tell us about human nature that needs to be considered when setting up an effective government?
We have been asked to make decisions related to secondary issues, without having a clear idea of what we think/believe about more fundamental issues. How, for instance can you make policy decisions related to abortion and euthanasia if you have not answered the basic questions about human life: Is it special? To whom does it belong? When does it begin? When does it end? What one believes about the basic goodness or badness of humanity has impact on decisions related to war, education, and more. People are making world-changing choices about the latter without a clue--or worse, the wrong conclusion--about the former. The same can be said about many of the other issues before us. Many of God's people don't have a Biblical worldview. Rather their view of reality is primarily formed by the forces in the world itself. In such a climate decisions tend to be made on the basis of popularity, emotion, trendiness, special interest--as in mine--or based on labels that are largely meaningless.
A while back I asked one of our elected officials to tell me where the line is that he would not step over in relation to one of the moral issues of our day. In essence he said he didn't know. Yet that didn't stop him from making decisions on that issue. My friend-the-politician could get the answers if he wanted to. I have to assume that he prefers to be ignorant--or to profess ignorance--because it gives him/her greater flexibility. Some of us are doing the same in relation to our vote. One of our Presidential candidates said when asked when human life begins that to answer that question is above his pay-grade. The person who is going to lead the nation in protecting life ought to have an answer to that question. The other candidate professes to believe that life begins at conception, yet is not willing to follow through with the consistent, though hard, conclusion that therefore all human life is worthy of protection. (Or make a cogent argument as to why those particular humans should not be protected) Why is that we laughed at the candidates on Saturday Night Live, but we did not ridicule such inadequate answers? Could it be that we don't know either, that we are more comfortable being ignorant, that we are not willing to follow through on what we do know?
Before the personality and emotion of the next election kicks in dig in and get some answers.
I figure that some of you have some thoughts on this matter. If your comments show promise of leading to reconciliation, I'll be glad to post them for others to read.

To my friends whose candidates won, congratulations.
To the rest--well, there is next time.

PS. As I was preparing this post, I heard that Barak Obama's grandmother just died. Pray for the family. It kind of puts things in perspective on a number of levels.

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