7 Things To Keep In Mind When Entering The Voting Booth
One of the easiest, and most important, ways we can be good citizens is by exercising our right to vote, something that far too few of us in the Church actually do. But if we are going to truly be faithful with our political engagement we must do more than just vote, we must vote in and informed and rational manner, and if at all possible, in a way that reflects the new nature we have been given in Christ. As simple as this may sound, the actual implementation of such a practice is growing increasingly difficult. The effectiveness of negative advertising and enticement of hyper-partisanship can leave us manipulated and unable to think clearly. The following are several things to keep in mind when deciding whom to vote for that just may keep us from becoming a pawn of the political class.
1. The Myth of the Most Important Election
One of the key themes that has been bantered about this election cycle is that this is the most important election of our lifetime, that if “we” miss this opportunity it may very well spell the doom of our nation. But stop and think for just a moment, what did they say about the 2008 election? And how about 2006? 2004? I think you get the point. If you believed the pundits every election is the most important of our lifetimes. The truth is that there are no unimportant elections, and at the same time, neither is there an all-important election upon which our nation hangs in the balance.
2. The Enemy in Washington
The most popular way for someone to run for Washington is to run against Washington. Whether someone is campaigning for the first time, or for the twentieth time, they all promise to “go fix Washington.” The implication being that, as the savior of society, he or she can go fend off the rest of the crooks that are trying to ruin our country. Remember, if you hear a politician bashing Washington, keep in mind that they are Washington.
3. The Appeal of the Middle-Class
One of the most common phrases you will hear from any campaign is an assortment of references to the middle-class. “I promise to cut taxes for the middle-class. My opponent is trying to hurt the middle-class. The middle-class is the backbone of our country.” Sound familiar? The reason every politician spends so much time talking about the middle-class is that they figured out a long time ago that many more Americans think they are middle-class than actually are. Everyone has a different income range for what they would consider middle-class, and chances are, they fit within that range. By targeting the “middle-class” campaigns are able to make you think they are talking to you, whether or not the facts say so is a different story.
4. Combating Special Interests
A favorite target for Republican attacks is how the Democrats are letting special interest groups run Washington, while the Democrats warn that the voters need to keep the Republicans from allowing special interests to control our government. The truth is that both political parties have special interest groups that they are beholden too. The Democrats have long been in bed with labor unions, environmental activists, feminists, and minority advocates, all of which are special interests. The Republicans have also had special interest groups they align with: gun activists, abortion advocates, and some insurance and pharmaceutical groups. However, don’t let anyone convince you that any one party is the party of “big-business.” If you look at campaign contributions, large corporations donate to both political parties fairly equally. Both parties are going to have special interest groups they represent, when deciding who to vote for we must determine which coalition better represents our Christian values.
5. Misleading Advertising
This rule should be simple enough to follow: never base your vote off a TV or radio commercial, never. One of the sleaziest and most deceptive part of our current political process is the types of ads that campaigns and their supporters will air. A grain of truth is taken out of context and magnified into a deception so great someone should be prosecuted for slander and libel (if that is even possible). If you want to find out what the truth is look at the campaigns own website, and then cross check it with a reliable news source or fact-checking organization. Unfortunately, even these last two resources are typically biased one way or the other, so proceed with caution.
6. Understanding Your Politician
There are three classes of politicians: good people who are genuinely trying to do a good thing for their country; bad people who, though sleazy and power hungry, still want to promote the common good; and the incessant slime-ball who is only in it for power and whose only concern for his or her constituents is that they re-elect him or her. There aren’t as many in the first group as we would like, and the opposing political party doesn’t have as many of the latter as we would think. The truth is that most politicians do genuinely want to do a good service, but the personality types that are attracted to politics aren’t usually the ones you would want to have over for dinner.
It is also important to recognize that the Messiah isn’t running for office, and while we may be tempted to idolize a politician we agree with, he or she will never be able to “change Washington.” Everyone who runs for office is still a fallible human being, just like you and me. At the same time, we will never find a candidate we agree with on everything. When deciding whom to cast your vote for, take a realistic view of the candidates, and then vote for the one that you agree with on the most issues.
7. Think Biblically
The most important thing to keep in mind, and, tragically, the aspect that seems to be losing its popularity, is the necessity of thinking about politics from a biblical perspective. Power brokers, both within and outside the Christian community, have grown increasingly adept at manipulating Believers’ passions to simply follow a partisan agenda rather than seeing what the Scripture has to say on a particular topic. As we determine which candidates are going to earn our votes, we must seek to find the person whose positions most closely reflect a holistically biblical worldview. It’s true that no candidate will perfectly reflect Scripture—or our interpretation of Scripture—but we must nonetheless make an honest attempt at doing so.
Deciding whom to vote for can indeed be a daunting task, and admittedly, a list such as this can seem to drift towards an engrossing cynicism. The Christian life, however, was never billed as an easy route. Submitting your life to Christ is an all-encompassing duty, one that includes our political positions. Voting can be a way in which we serve our Creator, but only if we are willing to engage the electoral process in a way that is not manipulated by those who merely desire more power for them and their associates. My prayer for all of us in the Christian community is that this election season we would move closer to a political engagement that glorifies God and encourages others to do the same.