Voting Within The Gray

When it comes to politics, I’m about as cynical as you can get. My thoughts on politics are best summarized by a writer who cleverly dissected the word as: poli, meaning "many," and tics meaning "bloodsuckers." I do not mean to belittle the sacrifices men and women have made over the past two centuries to gain the freedom we now exercise. But between our philandering former president, and the reports of increased patronage to Gentlemen Clubs whenever the political convention is in town, I have become a bit jaded.

However, with the coming presidential election, I have decided to put my pessimism aside and start examining the issues. In the past I have always considered myself conservative, and I tend to vote along the traditionally conservative lines. Yet the more I contemplate the parties, the candidates and the issues; the more I question why I have so consistently taken one side. It is not that I believe the conservative or liberal agenda as inherently wrong, but no man and no cause is ever 100 percent correct all the time. We are only human. Yet it seems that a growing number of Christians are aligning themselves with a particular party, and I am starting to wonder if we are doing so because it has become, simply put, "the Christian thing to do."

I attended a Southern Baptist Church this past year, and it was almost blasphemous to even question our current president. I am living in the Bible Belt, and nearly every Christian I know is a Republican. I tend to avoid discussions involving politics because of the high emotion involved. However, in the few instances that I publicly doubted a presidential decision, my patriotism was immediately called into question and one woman deemed me to be ignorant. What startled me were not the political positions that Christians are taking, but the lack of humble open-mindedness oftentimes displayed. No political party is above reproach, yet we as Christians often paint the issues as black and white.

Many of my friends are "one issue voters." Their decision is based on but one, sole issue, and that tends to be the issue of abortion. I heard a pastor once declare from the pulpit, "I won’t tell you who to vote for, but candidate X (a Democrat) supports the senseless killings of unborn children. Candidate Y (a Republican) does not." I was pretty stunned to hear the pastor make such a remark, but to be honest, the abortion issue has been my main reason for voting conservatively. It always seemed cut and dry.

Yet, what is the difference between a politician who allows the killing of unborn children and a politician who sentences men to death, only to later learn they are innocent? And is the Republican emphasis on family values more important than the Democratic emphasis on helping the poor and disenfranchised? Most of my conservative Christian friends essentially believe the Democratic Party to be un-Christian, but is not helping the poor the very thing Jesus urged us to do?

Both the Republican and Democratic parties have their vices, and as much as I tend to ignore it, they have their good points too. We could spend hours and hours arguing over which party represents Christ the most, but it may be an issue we aren’t able to resolve. However, the way in which we as Christians approach this upcoming election will reveal a great deal about our spiritual lives.

The dichotomy of "liberal" and "conservative" form a tension similar to a tension within the Christian faith. This tension results from the careful balance between holiness and grace. The Christian faith rests upon the crux of these two elements, and we err in focusing on one without the other. Holiness without grace will result in a faith that is judgmental and legalistic. Grace without holiness leads to a faith that only cheapens the gift of grace, and distorts it beyond recognition as we become universally tolerant of all things. In the same way, I believe that the liberal and conservative agendas oftentimes fall on the far ends of this spectrum. Conservatives tend to err towards holiness, or a strict righteousness; liberals tend to focus on grace without the holiness. In their most extreme form it is freedomless legalism versus a country void of standards.

But that is why our government works so beautifully. It takes the strengths and faults of sinful men and holds them in check with one another. The conservatives maintain the standards while the liberals allow room for the tolerance of the heart. And it is much the same in the Christian walk. On this earth we will forever struggle to maintain the balance between holiness and grace. Our flesh wants to pursue one or the other, but that is not God’s intention or desire. And forever aligning ourselves with one political party is just as dangerous as opting for holiness without the grace, thereby setting a standard we could never reach, and making us the greatest of hypocrites.

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So how do I think Jesus would vote in the upcoming election? I honestly have no idea. Jesus was never too concerned with the affairs of His ruling government. But while it is important for each one of us to vote, it is more important that we remember where our allegiances lie. Our unity is not found in George W. Bush or John F. Kerry, it is found in Christ, and if we ever find ourselves unilaterally aligning with something that is not Christ, then we must immediately pause for question, because that is not patriotism, that is idolatry. Fortunately, no matter who the president is, God has promised that all rulers are bound by His sovereignty. After we have humbly and openly considered both candidates, we need only seek the leading of His Holy Spirit.

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