I’m pretty much over the drama with the current election cycle. Is it just me, or are the presidential elections getting to be more hateful and divisive? And it doesn’t stop with the presidential candidates. Rarely do you see campaign ads designed to educate people on the position of a political candidate. More often than not, their message tells you how bad the other person is.
I think of the words of Jesus, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9, NASB).
The issues from both sides as it relates to character, morality, and even possible criminal activity are important. But if we’re honest, if we view our lives under a similar microscope, few of us would come out looking like what we’d hope. Myself included.
Also, in the words of Jesus, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” (John 8:7, NLT).
While there may be deal-breakers in there for you, I’m going to set aside those kinds of character accusations for a moment. I’d like to focus more on how our votes can make a difference. And I believe that’s done by looking at the issues. Because in the end, I may or may not like who I’m voting for. Yet, I can elect someone who will work towards solutions to the social issues I feel are most important.
Voting Is a Personal Experience
First of all, I’m not going to tell you who you should vote for. Furthermore, I’m not going to tell you who I’m voting for. I base how I vote on my personal convictions, and how I believe they will deal with issues important to me. And those issues may be different than what’s important to you.
When Dillon Burroughs, Daniel Darling, and I wrote Activist Faith, we picked twelve issues to focus on in the book. It’s not an exhaustive list of issues we should be dealing with, but it does hit some major ones. And I’ll even say that I may or may not completely agree with my co-authors on every aspect of what we deal with in the book. And that’s okay! You and I aren’t always going to agree on everything, which is why this process is a personal one. I can’t tell you which candidate is the right one for you, because how you feel about the issues may be different than how I feel.
One thing I will tell you about my political position is that neither side accurately represents my Christian beliefs. I’m registered one way, yet have strong leanings the other way on some issues. Thus, I approach the election process more like an Independent. So getting the issues sorted out is a big deal for me.
Voting the Issues
Using just the issues from the book, I’ve put together a tool that you can use to weigh the scales for each of the candidates. The idea is to rank each side on each issue with how strongly you feel like they represent your beliefs. This will need a little bit of research on your part. First, check out the book for a biblical perspective on each of the issues. Then, do a Google News search on each candidate’s name along with the name of the issue. As you do this, ask yourself a few questions:
- What did you learn about their position on the topic?
- What are the differences compared to the other candidate’s position?
- How strongly do you feel about this issue?
- How much do you agree with one candidate’s position on the subject?
Then give each issue a rating on the scale for the candidates. For example, one candidate may have exactly the plan I would hope to see in place for poverty alleviation, and it may be one of the most important issues for me. So I’d circle the “3” on their side. And the other candidate may hold a position I agree with on a topic that isn’t quite as important to me, so they get the score, but maybe it’s only “1” or “2” instead. Once you’ve scored everything, add up your totals on each side. Count everything by the number ratings you gave them. That way your results will reflect the level of importance you put on the issues.
And please note that this tool may not represent a complete list of issues you want to use to test the candidates. Feel free to add other important issues to the ranking system. The important thing is that you’re intentional about evaluating each candidate on the issues they’ll be dealing with while in office.
There’s More Than Just the Presidential Elections
One thing that bothers me most about this election cycle is how focused everyone is on the presidential ticket. There are several other positions on the ballot that we’ll be voting for, yet most people couldn’t tell you anything about any of them! When I look at my sample ballot, there are THIRTY other seats that I need to vote on and four Constitutional amendments!
There are people on the ballot for positions like:
- U.S. Senators and Representatives – Our national-level lawmakers have long had approval ratings in the TEENS (below 20%). If we’re not happy with them, then why are so many winning re-election? Is it time to look at someone else?
- State Governor, Senators, and Representatives – Many of the laws that directly impact our daily lives are done at the state level. With issues like abortion, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, laws about this issue will go back to the states. If that’s an important issue for you, then who are you electing to determine what your state’s law on the topic will be?
- County Commissioners – Local government not only administers local taxes, but is often responsible for “prisons, courts, public health oversight, property registration, building code enforcement, and public works such as road maintenance” (Source: Wikipedia). And don’t forget about the impact local boards in your community… like the school board!
- Judges – Are you concerned about issues like how the lack of (racial) consistency in conviction and punishment for violent crimes? What’s the track record for the judges on your ballot?
Google each name on your ballot, and dig in a little bit to find the relevant information you need to make a decision. Maybe you’ll need to send an email and ask them. Whatever it takes, dig enough to find the information you need.
It’s also worth noting that some positions may not be best dealt with by voting along party lines. A County Commissioner’s position on abortion may not be relevant since they won’t deal with those kinds of decisions. So even if you rank it as an important issue, you may miss a better candidate for a certain job if you use that as a filter for all positions on your ballot.
What Really Matters After Election Day
Regardless of whether the people you vote for win, it’s critical to get back to what’s most important. First, we need to remember what unites us. The kind of division we see during the election process is ugly. We need to lay it down and move forward together. We also need to remember that the real power to make change is in our hands. From the introduction of Activist Faith:
In the book of James, we read the challenging words of a church leader to his congregation, reminding that a faith that fails to translate into action isn’t a worthy faith at all. This is why we believe that the greatest agent of change in our world isn’t in the power centers of Washington, D.C., or New York; it’s in the hearts of ordinary believers transformed by the power of Christ.
The power to make change is in our hands! Don’t go spewing your political views on social media, go vote, and then just wait for the government to create the world you want. As Christians, we have a call to make a difference in the world around us. There are things YOU can do, right now, today, to deal with every one of the issues we discuss in the book.
So go vote wisely. Then go grab coffee with a friend from church, and discuss what you can do in your community to make an impact.