With the state primaries now under way, the 2016 U.S. presidential race is officially in full swing. The candidates have been raising money, traveling the country, explaining their positions on the key issues, and trying to garner as much support as they can. Now, it’s time for the voters to respond.
Here in Indiana, our turn doesn’t arrive until May. Still, I imagine most of us are already beginning to feel pretty invested. (It’s hard not to if you read the newspaper, watch television, or log into Facebook!) So before we get too much further in this election process, I thought it might be beneficial to address some of the popular myths many Christians seem to buy into at a time like this. There are plenty we could talk about, but for now I’ll just identify three.
Myth #1: All Christians should vote the same.
As a kid I remember being uncomfortable around friends who claimed to be Christians and Indiana Hoosier basketball fans. It sounds silly, but I saw it as a genuine sign of spiritual blindness to support the (Bob) Knight of Darkness and his cream-and-crimson minions. Only later did I realize that it’s okay to be diametrically opposed to someone’s choice of favorite college basketball team while still maintaining deep and meaningful Christian unity with that person.
Now I’ll readily grant that political convictions are weightier and more substantial than sports preferences, so the analogy has its weaknesses. But in many ways, our differences in the voting booth should be viewed with the same attitude. You may lean toward one candidate, and someone in your care group may prefer a different one. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that one of you is on the straight-and-narrow, and the other has completely renounced the faith. A mature Christian recognizes this and gives his brothers and sisters freedom to vote differently than he does.
Myth #2: Party allegiance trumps biblical conviction.
From my vantage point, it’s not wrong to identify with a certain political party. But when that party’s platform begins to carry more weight in your political decision-making than the teaching of Scripture, there’s a problem.
The fact of the matter is that neither of the major political parties in our nation is inerrant. Yet too often, Christians are too blinded by political allegiance to notice this. Don’t assume that just because a candidate has your preferred letter after his or her name that he or she must be the best choice. Do your homework, assess all the issues, and don’t be afraid to step across the aisle from time to time.
Myth #3: The best Christian is the best candidate.
It’s a wonderful thing to live in a country where many of the candidates for the highest offices of our land profess to be followers of Jesus. That is a blessing, especially when contrasted with many other countries where government leaders are hostile toward our faith.
Nevertheless, it is dangerous to fall into the trap of voting for a candidate just because he or she shares our love for Jesus Christ. One’s commitment to the gospel is not a measure of one’s capacity for national leadership. There are plenty of godly people who would be very bad presidents, just like there are plenty of godly people who would be bad mechanics or doctors or engineers. As Christians, we should vote for the person who will govern with wisdom, skill, and prudence, even if that’s not the person we’d want to have as a Sunday school teacher.
As you buckle in for the coming months of political discussions and decisions, keep these things in mind. But even more importantly, don’t lose sight of that which is emphatically not a myth: the fact that as Christians we’re called to pray for our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2), honor them (1 Pet. 2:17), and submit to their leadership (Rom. 13:1)—regardless of whether or not we voted for them.