Voting is a privilege, a responsibility … and it’s often quite hard to do.
While every political campaign positions itself as the “clear choice”, we voters often find that our choice is not quite so clear.
Voting is always difficult because political platforms and the candidates representing them rarely, if ever, represent all our values in all respects.
The headaches than ensue from mentally wrestling with each platform and how we align with the numerous issues at hand is a challenge shared by people of faith and non faith alike. Throw in a few ethical conundrums and all notions of having a “clear choice” evaporate.
As a person of faith, it’s probably also worth mentioning that there is no Political Team Jesus. If you happen to have the misfortune of knowing a Christian who insists that there is a Political Team Jesus, may I be so bold as to say that they are not the self-proclaimed spokesperson for the rest of us. Assertions that sound like “any self respecting Christian would vote for party x” are as misguided as they are divisive.
The centre of gravity of Christian unity is Christ alone. I fully expect that within our congregation at KW Redeemer, there will be Christians who have thoughtfully arrived at polar opposite political conclusions as they head to the polls. Our diverse political leanings are neither the basis for our gathering nor the premise for our unity.
Whether people of faith or non faith, if we are willing to check our biases at the door, it is quite possible that within each party, we can find certain points in their platforms that we could actually endorse in addition to the things that we knew we would find that we wholeheartedly reject.
Fundamentally, politics is our endeavour to create a community where justice protects us from injustice, and every citizen is given the opportunity to flourish. At least that’s how Plato positioned his quest for justice and the “just city” he sought after in his political treatise, the Republic.
In the Republic, Plato has his character Socrates famously guide the reader into the Socratic Method, “seek truth wherever the argument leads“.
Philosophy is, classically speaking, the love (phileo) of wisdom (sophia). The goal of political philosophy is to put wisdom on the ground in practical, civil ways so that those under the rule of government benefit from it’s rule – and each time we head to the polls, that sounds a bit like chasing a unicorn.
We hear you Socrates, but us voters find ourselves faced with a bit of a dilemma. Our dilemma makes grappling with very human candidates, complex platforms and ultimately, checking that box – a difficult process.
Our dilemma, from Plato’s point of view, is that the human heart is “fevered”. Not just the hearts of the politicians, the hearts of us humans. One of the grand-daddies of political philosophy went on to assert that fevered hearts are “ruled by the love of ruling.”
“The political reality of the perfect city is probably not possible: this argument may lead to a prayer.” ~ Plato, Republic 450 c-d
This is why in every campaign season, it’s no small task for us voters to sift through all the heightened hyperbole, mud-slinging, fear-mongering and straw-man fallacies that lobby for our attention in an effort to garner our support.
For instance, is it true that a vote for candidate “A” is our only certain salvation and a vote for candidate “B” will surely unleash the apocalypse on the unsuspecting province of Ontario? The tone of radio ads during campaigns always seem to suggest that’s precisely what’s at stake.
Well church, I have good news.
When God incarnated Himself in Jesus Christ, the disciples (being very much like us) had a political agenda for Jesus. As it turned out, Jesus had His own agenda.
The disciples agenda was national and political. Jesus agenda was global and eternal. The disciples wanted to be delivered from their political enemy – Rome. Jesus wanted to deliver humanity from our common enemy – death.
I am not mentioning this to downplay the importance of our elections or our civil duty to educate ourselves, make thoughtful choices and go to the polls. Our elections, the character of those chosen to lead, and the wisdom they will require to execute beneficial strategies that benefit our communities are all extremely important.
But they are not ultimate.
If we, church, elevate anything in our lives from important to ultimate, that mini messiah – whoever or whatever it is – is destined to disappoint us deeply.
Either we will crush them or they will crush us.
We will crush them with our messiah-sized expectations, looking to them to deliver us from our greatest needs, concerns and fears, or they will crush us with their inability to provide the assurance, peace and security for the future that every soul desperately craves.
Those who serve in government carry significant responsibilities, but bringing an ultimate sense of peace, security and rest to your restless heart is not among them.
I am not suggesting that our God is only transcendent and uninterested in our day-to-day lives. On the contrary. Our God is both transcendent over our lives and immanently connected to our lives.
He cares about you deeply and His care is not limited by political landscapes that are shifting, fragile and temporal, because His care is eternal. In 1923 writer Thomas Chisholm penned some familiar words to recalibrate the church out of the anxiety that nearsightedness always seems to bring: “strength for today and hope for tomorrow – great is Thy faithfulness.”
There’s a great passage in Joshua 5 when God appears to Joshua. Joshua asks, “are you for us or our adversaries?” God’s answer was “no“.
Not, “I’m with your group” or “I’m with that group” or “I’m with some future group” – just “no“.
This seems to be God’s way of telling Joshua that He won’t be shrunk down and limited by our small narratives. Instead, He graciously comes into our narratives offering saving grace and sweeps us up into His eternal narrative.
God’s sovereignty and our responsibility are not competing for space and the scriptures continually speak to both. Those two things coexist and are both mysteriously true. There is great rest there.
God has been on the other side of every election continuing His deep and profound work in our hearts in reformative ways so that we will increasingly love Him and our neighbours. He does this in ways that we can’t fully fathom because He is not limited to our way of doing things. God actually has a fantastic record of using utterly broken things. Devastated things. Dead things. Our lives are in the hands of the God who specializes in resurrection.
So, for that reason, the Christian is able to go to the polls with humble confidence.
Humility because there is rest to be enjoyed in reflecting on our smallness and God’s greatness. Confidence because as we fill out our ballots, we’re not placing all our hope on our candidates limited shoulders. The elected party is not our source of ultimate hope and ultimate peace – because the One who is, is already in office. Our ultimate peace and hope rests on His preeminent shoulders.
Church, let’s continue to pray for our government and continue to take active roles in our communities to serve their flourishing in practical ways.