It seems like everyone and their grandma is talking politics and who they’re going to vote for, or not.
You have church leaders, pastors, Xers, and millennials feverish about the presidential candidates. Everyday you see people you know on Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms spewing demeaning chatter from both sides of the aisle. And it’s ugly.
This is concerning because historically, and for good reason, Adventists have maintained a firm stance on the separation of church and politics (in its partisan sense). Failure in this regard has diminished, to some extent, our personal and corporate influence for spiritual good.
I’ll be honest. It hasn’t been easy staying quiet. Everyone has opinions, and I do believe being informed about our society is important. We shouldn’t live in a bubble, isolated from the concerns of thoughtful Americans.
I believe being informed about the world around us is the left arm of the gospel, the other “entering wedge” that initiates discussion on seemingly secular matters, which can transition to conversations about our biblical worldview.
But, back to the election. It’s imperative for us to examine a variety of factors when deciding who to vote for.
- Voting for a candidate on the basis of one moral issue gets tricky. Both presidential candidates stand for measures that are both pro and anti Scripture. Narrowing your decision down to one issue, say—gun or gay rights—to the neglect of other moral perspectives on war, freedom of conscience, xenophobia, nationalism, and the environment, to name a few, is downright arbitrary. This should lead one to conclude that others may see things differently than you do. That doesn’t mean they’re socialists or religious bigots. Also, bear in mind—and this is a critical point—who you vote for shouldn’t be determined by what will make America great, which takes me to my next point.
- Pro-American slogans aren’t necessarily biblical. Look, the notion of “Make America Great Again,” isn’t found in the Bible. Not even in the KJV. Neither is Hillary’s “Stronger Together.” It may sound closer to biblical lingo, but it shouldn’t be confused for the notion of Christian unity found in the New Testament. The American Dream or making America powerful in world affairs isn’t an endorsement we find in Scripture. Also, leave it to politicians to debate what it means to be truly American. Christians should be concerned with what’s really Christian (& being Christians).
- Make sure your news sources are credible. There’s a lot of negative discussion regarding the mainstream media, and I get why. But the alternative isn’t reading some blogger dude working out of a basement with a stash of guns and ammo, or the tree-hugger at Starbucks sipping his latte. There are many respected editorialists and news outlets that lean in both directions. I would suggest spending some time researching who they are, their broad reputation, and be intentional in reading material from individuals and entities who are informed, thoughtful, and reasonable. I personally avoid listening to people who aren’t professional and kind when they deal with others who have differing opinions. Finally, read broadly and widely. Don’t get your news solely from any one news source, whether that’s Fox News or MSNBC, and certainly not from Stephen Colbert or Rush Limbaugh.
- Don’t vote for a candidate because you’ll benefit. A candidate may enact policies that benefit you financially, or otherwise. But, that shouldn’t be the basis of your vote. When voting, leave self-interest and party lines out of the equation. Politics—defined by the notable political theorist, Harold Lasswell—concerns “who gets what, when, how.” But that isn’t what Christians should be about. It’s not about winning for yourself, or even God. I can assure you, He doesn’t need my help or yours. If we want to make America Christian “again,” it’s not going to be the result of the state’s right arm.
- Understand that politicians may have ulterior motives—that very rich companies, banks, and companies donate to politicians and expect something in return. Know that the financial benefits of various entities are affected by government policies. So, it makes sense that companies would donate to candidates that reflect their interests. Also, recognize that many wealthy entities in the aggregate invest billions of dollars to shape perceptions on guns, global warming, and other hot-button issues. So. . .
- Understand from the get-go you may be getting played. Politicians live in the matrix of spin. They understand that their success is contingent on shaping perceptions. So, it’s no wonder many politicians suddenly alter or emphasize their stances on same-sex marriage or abortion when it’s voting time. It’s important to be aware of this.
- Finally, as Seventh-day Adventists, let’s stay on point. We have the message of the three angels to proclaim. Our mission is to proclaim the everlasting gospel. Individually, we may be pro-gun, pro-Wall Street, pro-equality, pro-military, pro-Black Lives Matter, or pro-All Lives Matter. But social activism and increased legislation aren’t going to fix society’s problems. Furthermore, we need to avoid partisan politics like we would Ebola. Mudslinging is just not what Christians should do. Ever. That doesn’t mean we stand idly by. We may indeed be called to serve as public servants like Daniel. As Christians, it’s our duty to help the poor, the neglected, and the marginalized. That’s why the church exists. That’s why WE exist—to meet the needs of humanity, and then to point them to the ultimate remedy, found in the person of Jesus. Remember, in our passionate endeavors to win the nation for Christ we are also called to personify the methods and virtues of Jesus.
You know, the irony is I just said all that, and I’m not even voting. I’m not implying it’s wrong for you to vote, or that you shouldn’t. It’s not contrary to Scripture or the Spirit of Prophecy to cast your ballot, and it’s a personal matter.
I just can’t, for now.
I’ll leave you with this to chew on from The Desire of Ages, p. 509:
“Today in the religious world there are multitudes who. . . are working for the establishment of the kingdom of Christ as an earthly and temporal dominion. They desire to make our Lord the ruler of the kingdoms of this world, the ruler in its courts and camps, its legislative halls, its palaces and market places. They expect Him to rule through legal enactments, enforced by human authority. . . . The government under which Jesus lived was corrupt and oppressive; on every hand were crying abuses,–extortion, intolerance, and grinding cruelty. Yet the Saviour attempted no civil reforms. He attacked no national abuses, nor condemned the national enemies. He did not interfere with the authority or administration of those in power. He who was our example kept aloof from earthly governments. Not because He was indifferent to the woes of men, but because the remedy did not lie in merely human and external measures. . . . Not by the decisions of courts or councils or legislative assemblies, not by the patronage of worldly great men, is the kingdom of Christ established, but by the implanting of Christ’s nature in humanity through the work of the Holy Spirit.” (Desire of Ages, p. 509)
Andy Im is a pickleball enthusiast and cook who loves to travel. He’s a political science graduate from the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and also has a master’s degree in religion from Southern Adventist University. Currently he works for the Michigan Conference as Communications Director where he writes, edits, attends lots of meetings, and take pictures. He’s passionate about ministry to secular university campuses, teaching apologetics, and sharing the distinctive, Adventist message.