As I scroll through my Facebook feed 4 days before the much anticipated American election, I am witnessing a blend of faith and nationalism is a most distressing way. I see this blend in people who express that the candidate they will vote for is the obvious and only “Christian option,” and in the hope for these candidates to make America what they think it should be.
It seems almost as if certain groups in the United States have bought into the idea that these politicians will save America. They have adopted their favourite candidate as the “Christian choice” and have subsequently worked hard to demonize the other. One is held up to be the saviour and the other is made out to be satan’s servant.
Although we Canadians may like to think of ourselves as unique and independent from our American brothers and sisters, I saw the same thing happen in every single election since I was allowed to vote. Christians pick their candidates, elevate them to saviour status, demonize any others, and claim that faith and loyalty to God is equivalent to voting for that candidate/party.
From a biblical standpoint, this is a huge problem.
When Jesus calls us to be His disciples, He also calls us to forsake all other things and give Him total allegiance (Matt. 19:29, Ex. 20:1-4, Matt.6:33). Jesus himself was subversive in questioning and challenging the established institutions of His day. Although we find verses in the Bible that speak to earthly authority as granted by God (Rom. 13:1), we find countless stories of people whose decision to be faithful to God went against political, empirical, and religious authority (Daniel, Shadrach Mishach and Abednego, Esther, Paul, Peter, etc.).
Our allegiance should only be given to Jesus. He is the only one who can save us. As He works through us and transforms us, we are made into a new creation, embodying and living into the kingdom of God. We should never expect our political powers to do that for us. It simply cannot be enforced from the top down. Politicians cannot save us and they cannot save our countries because true change comes when we change as individuals and work together to make our communities and countries better. If you expect your government to do it for you, you will always be disappointed.
Never once have I seen a politician who did all that they promised they would do. Never once have I been impressed or totally satisfied with our government. In a recent blog post, Ryan Dueck (pastor of Lethbridge Mennonite Church) explored the role and limitations of politicians. He said that “…we should never be in the business of pinning our hopes on governments to secure our ‘rights’ or implement our preferred policies or legislate our moral convictions.” Apart from leading a nation, politicians are also concerned with staying in power. The pursuit of power will most often supersede morality.
This is not to say that we don't have good politicians. Of course we do! But we should never expect them to be something they cannot be. Whenever we think of political leaders as saviours, we run the risk of turning a blind eye to the many ways in which our government can abuse its power. We need to hold our government accountable and not rely on them to always choose the moral path. Always remember, Hitler was a saviour to the German people.
What amazes me most about this current election in the U.S. is not that Christians have picked sides and have put their hopes in a candidate. Again, this happens every election. What amazes me is that this same phenomenon is happening with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton!
I haven’t talked to a single Canadian, Christian or otherwise, who has said that Trump or Clinton would make a good president. In fact, most of us are scratching our heads wondering how it came to this.
In the last while, the conversation has shifted from “who would make a good president,” to “who would make the least bad president.” This is sad, and I am sorry for my friends to the south about the uncertainty your future holds. My prayers are with you as you navigate this difficult time in your country’s history.
I offer 3 thoughts about faith in this election that I picked up from some wise folks along the way.
1. Vote for people, not for parties.
During Canada’s previous federal election, a candidate running for office spoke to a group of pastors and, although he represented a political party, told us that parties don’t matter. We need good people in office. People of integrity and good character. Those people are found in all parties. Don’t buy into the lie that in order to be a faithful Christian you must vote for a certain party. Get to know your candidates, do your homework, and choose who you believe is the right person.
2. Don’t settle for the lesser of two evils.
Our government claims to be for the people, by the people. We are blessed enough to live in countries where we have that right to choose our government. I see no reason why we should be satisfied with settling for a lesser of two evils. In the end, they are both evils. Why not strive for something better? There are other options. Settling for the lesser of two evils forces us to choose a candidate, even against our own conscience. Skye Jethani picks this up in a blog post about why he isn’t voting.
3. If you feel you can’t vote, don’t.
Contrary to what some people say, there is more than one way to exercise your right to vote. You don’t have to vote for either Trump or Clinton. It is not a biblical or Christian obligation. In fact, there are other candidate options as well as the option of exercising your right to vote by spoiling your ballot. That is not a “nothing vote”. Pray, study and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, even if it leads to voting for neither major party. Preston Sprinkle (podcast entitled Who's Preston Voting For) and John Piper are two theologians who break this down very well in more detail.
As we count down the days to a new leader in America, may we always remember to put our allegiance where it belongs and not look to politicians to save us. They can't.