A Christian Voter’s Manifesto

While the 24-hour news outlets and political punditry started talking about the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election about ten minutes after President Obama defeated Mitt Romney in 2012, most of us are just beginning to start asking ourselves, “Who might I vote for one year from today?”

And while I have my own political opinions, I’m more concerned as a pastor and a follower of Jesus in this political season that promises, as always, to be ramped up with inflammatory rhetoric, feigned offenses, trash talking and generally unacceptable behavior to everyday, good people (but which has apparently become perfectly “normal” for those seeking the highest office in the land) that we behave as followers of Jesus over and above our political ideals.

So, I offer the following manifesto. What might it look like, if we, as followers of Jesus – Catholics, Protestants, non-denoms, all of us – committed ourselves to following five ideals?

 

No matter my political philosophy or affiliation, I commit to remembering that first and foremost my allegiance belongs to the kingdom of heaven.

I’ll quote Peter Enns’ fantastic post about evangelicals and politics, “All political regimes have a utopian agenda. Communist, socialist, fascist, monarchic, and yes, even our democratic system…They all make promises to be the ones who will deliver the goods. They all promise that, without them, you are lost. They all claim to have “arrived,” to represent the culmination of the human drama, to be the true light, a city on a hill, that which brings you and all humanity true peace and security.”

As those who claim to be followers of Jesus, we believe Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God/heaven must inform our vision of true peace and security. Therefore all conversations within the Christian community about politics should be conversations about what Jesus taught us, as well as cultural/political/socio-economic, context.

I commit to living by the ethics of Jesus in political discourse.

This simply means that I will love those who I perceive to be my political enemy. And as such, I will assume the best motives of those with whom I disagree. President Obama is not “out to destroy America.” Donald Trump is not “just an ego-driven maniac running to boost his own ego.” Loving our enemies means we don’t say something about someone on Facebook or in a blog post that we wouldn’t say to their face in polite conversation.

I commit to being an agent of redemption in this world.

This means I will not sit idly by and allow others to engage in slander. It’s funny that in Central Illinois, people just generally assume that because I’m a pastor I’m a card-carrying Republican. So, they feel free to say whatever they want to say about Democrats in my presence. I think that as an agent of redemption in this world, I have a duty to stand up to lies, half-truths and slander.

I commit to listening with as open a mind as I am capable.

May I quote James, the brother of Jesus here? “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Especially on social media, where things move so quickly, let’s commit to showing restraint, slowing down, and making sure we are always responding lovingly and gently, especially when we disagree.

I commit to the practice of humility.

We’re just going to be wrong. There’s no way to be human and not get things wrong sometimes. Just last week I posted a link on Facebook that, while I personally agreed with most of the content, was still rather inflammatory. I told a friend, “It flew right past my radar, I didn’t even realize that it was inflammatory until after I posted.” In retrospect, I probably should have given a bit of context before I posted, instead of trying to pepper the comment section with as much grace as I could after the fact.

I believe that humility is more than an attitude, it’s the willingness to own our missteps. It refusing to “double down” when we feel threatened or attacked, to remain open to the possibility that we didn’t see things clearly at first, or that our opinion is always changing.

I believe in America. There’s no other place in all of history that I’d rather live than in present day America. We have the opportunity like no other time before us to engage in political discourse and work to change our reality with our voices and votes. Aristotle taught that the well-being of a political community is dependent upon the virtue of the citizens. As followers of Jesus, let’s lead the way in not just talking about other people’s virtue, but rather, setting an example by practicing virtue in our political discourse.

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