Well last night was the final US presidential debate (no I didn’t watch it I’m out of the country voting absentee). And roughly 2% of the US population is still undecided. During this election time, I think it would be helpful for us to keep some things in mind about the role our faith plays. I’ve indicated before that I believe a separation of church in state is admirable, perhaps even biblically and philosophically necessary in a republic like the US, but is not genuinely possible in the most absolute sense (i.e. you can’t exclude someone’s personal religious beliefs from every decision they make, even if you limit it). As people begin to “unfriend” or “hide” “friends” on facebook over politics, as vitriol begins to be poured out on both sides, as others simply refuse to vote for one of the major candidates because they vehemently disagree with both, and as everyone gets called an idiot by everyone else, remember this: you are a Christian first and eternally, you are a US citizen second and temporarily.
That means several things
- The US is not the kingdom of God (and if you think otherwise we’ve got some serious issues).
- Your duty is first to your brothers and sisters in Christ. This encompasses the universal church, regardless of whether you share all the same theology. You are to care for and love other Christians as brothers and sisters regardless of who they do or do not vote for.
- Your duty is next to those marginalized by society. The poor, the immigrant (alien), the lonely (widowed), those who have no voice or only their own voice. This duty is not primarily political, but personal. You don’t get out of it by voting a certain way.
- Your duty is also to the unity of the church before it is to any political party or nation. You have a stricter allegiance to Christians of another denomination on another continent than you do to a secular political party.
- You should not assume ill of people unless you have very good reason to do so. If you do have good reason to assume ill of them, you should pray for them, serve them and demonstrate overflowing love to them. It was Christ who did the same for you while been murdered in the most horrific fashion possible because of your ill actions.
- If you are genuinely trying to fulfill all of these duties, you cannot vilify those of a different political orientation. People don’t tend to vote a particular way or run for office because they are out to destroy a country. Such a position would be ridiculous. People tend to believe they are doing what is best for a country by their political actions (I acknowledge some people may vote for purely selfish reasons, but people don’t tend to run for office for entirely selfish reasons). We should be able to see things from the perspective of someone else. A Christian who votes for a Republican does not automatically support disregard for the environment or militaristic intervention. Likewise a Christian who votes for a Democrat does not automatically support the carrying out of abortions. Remember, these are your eternal brothers and sisters, not your enemies.
It may be good, even necessary, for Christians to engage with politics from time to time. However, when we do so, we need to be careful not to be dragged under by political rhetoric. Both sides will seek to do so, all of it should be resisted. You are a Christian first, and secular citizen second. God is ultimately sovereign, not you or me, and He knows what He’s doing, even when we don’t. Let’s keep our focus on Christ and his Church, not on the US and its flag. In doing so, let’s remember the words of that hymn “they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”