2012 Election: Part One

I’ve kept quiet about this year’s U.S. presidential election for a number of reasons, not least of all because anything I could say will likely immediately polarize my readership, leaving some of you aggrieved and others triumphant. With that said, I do have two points that I think warrant making, so permit me to add my two cents to the endless internet chatter, with one quick thought now and one longer thought next week.

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Part One
Since this is an evangelical blog, permit me to begin by saying I’m completely embarrassed by the way myriad evangelicals have approached this election. I’m not personally a partisan, but there have been candidates about whom I felt very strongly (positively and negatively, depending on the case) over the years, and I can understand if some people feel the stakes are very high (I disagree about that; I’ll cover why next week). But since when is it OK to spread lies, rumors, and hatred because we’re too lazy to fact-check or see nuance in the motives of others?

I get that political discourse in this country degenerated into insults and fear-mongering long ago, and I’m not arguing evangelicals started this trend. But some of the things I see evangelicals posting or re-posting on social media are inexcusable. Supposedly, we are a people who have a hope, so why do evangelicals seem so hopeless and panicked every time there’s an election? This isn’t a minor matter. Our identity as Christians is supposed to be defined in part by the hope we have, and when that hope isn’t evident to others, we aren’t who we claim to be. Neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama is Jesus, so for the love of God, stop acting like either is the savior. Neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama is your own sin, so for the love of God, stop acting like you need to be saved from either. Our hope lies elsewhere, and too many of us have lost sight of that.

Election campaigns in this country are starting ever earlier and lasting longer and longer; we’re reaching the point where some politicians are literally always in campaign mode. Unless political campaigning is your explicit vocation, however, the opportunity cost of spending your time joining the endless campaign cannot be overstated. None of us will live forever, and you can only spread Jesus’ good news for so long. So why are so many of us spending so much time spreading fear and lies about Republicans and Democrats while people around us are suffering in an enduringly crappy economy and in desperate need of the hope we’re guilty of hiding? Not only are there better ways to use our time, but if you’re truly evangelical, remember that you already believe that one day you’ll have to answer for how you did use that time. Do you really want Jesus to ask why you spent 8 months spreading half-truths for (or about) Mitt Romney and alienating your neighbors?

I’m not saying that political activism is wrong; that would be crazy talk. My issue is with the tone and methodology of our political activism. Whichever candidate you support – and however convinced you may be that I should join you in that vote – a true servant of Jesus cannot allow her political convictions and exhortations to pollute Jesus’ church or name. If you’re like me, however, you only have to glance at Facebook to know immediately that some who claim to have our hope are doing exactly that. If that’s you, do us – do yourself – a favor and stop. For the love of God (literally), please stop.

2 thoughts on “2012 Election: Part One

  1. I actually think there’s some wisdom in what you are writing here — at least in terms of the presence I show to non-believers. This has led me to rethink the frequency and intensity of politically-related postings on facebook…

    At the same time, I do wonder what you will/would suggest for issues where I find one candidate’s practiced views morally reprehensible. And that for me is the dilemma, should I worry more about people thinking I am mean or should I worry more about people not realizing there are really moral issues at stake?

    • Andrew, I would never tell you not to stand up for your moral views, and I’m not opposed to political activity. The vital issue is one of tone. If we let our opinions about a candidate obscure the hope we represent, we’ve lost the plot, and far too many Evangelicals seem willing to treat their credibility as a witness as an acceptable loss in political disputes. I think that’s tragically misguided.

      In many cases, this means separating the issues from the individual. For example, many evangelicals dislike President Obama’s policies on abortion, but taking a stand on such policies by attacking him personally or by spreading 1/2 truths and rumors is flatly unworthy of those who would claim to be agents of Jesus’ reconciliation. In fact, such personal attacks are sin, and they make us the worst kind of hypocrites.

      As a final thought, when it comes to taking a political stand, we should also guard against starting from the assumption that other people need us to save them from their views or ignorance. Such initial arrogance more or less assures a haughty and offensive tone, and for what? In the age of the internet, someone else has probably already said anything we wish to say, and done so with more skill at that. Take it from a blogger: the odds that our comments are so insightful and informative that our friends can’t live without them are infinitesimal.

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