Jonah went out of the city and sat to the east of the city and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, till he should see what would become of the city. Jonah 4:5
I am saddened and disgusted by the state of our national political process…I know you are as well. We all are. I am certain that never in my lifetime has there been such a huge percentage of voters who have no intention of voting “for” anyone at all…only “against” someone. For many of us, that is our only option: to vote against someone, as there are no candidates left for whom many of us have any desire at all to vote. For many of us, what we really want to do is to vote against the entire broken system which brought us to this dilemma in the first place.
Is it just me and my little world, or are there much, much, much fewer yard signs and bumper stickers in this election than ever before? It seems that, with the exception of the radical few on either side of the spectrum, NOBODY wants anyone to know how they may vote, because nobody really wants to stand behind either of these political parties nor the candidates they have produced. I suspect the “secret ballot” has never been more appreciated than it will be in November. Thank you, founding fathers, for that idea.
Speaking of founding fathers, can you even imagine what most of them would say if they could see us now? We may have some academic disagreements about our founding fathers’ intentions when they created this system, but I’ll bet we can all agree they never intended to create a system which would bring us an entire slate of candidates whose character and values are so very much at odds with so many of us, and who leave any of us with a Biblical worldview scratching our heads and wondering what to do.
I’m still praying and still processing the question of what to do with my vote. But here are some conclusions I’ve found helpful so far. Maybe you will as well.
1. Sulking, whining, withdrawing, and running away are not helpful options. In the Gathering we studied the story of Jonah this past week. In his anger and disgust, Jonah withdrew from the city of Nineveh (the venue for his assignment) and sat down on a nearby hillside to sit and watch what would happen. As far as he was concerned, he was very much done with the whole situation. He dishonored God with his sulking and bad attitude. I was convicted by the sudden understanding that, when it comes to this election process and these candidates and the sad and broken society who produced them…I am Jonah. I have withdrawn. I have sulked and whined and complained and run away. I have found a place to sit and make myself reasonably comfortable, and just watch the carnage take place. I am Jonah. And I am getting up now and changing that posture. Mostly. It is not helpful. More importantly, it does not bring any honor or glory to God.
2. I won’t be manipulated by the “don’t waste your vote” argument. As a mediator, I have made an entire career out of not taking sides. Believe me when I tell you, I’ve heard some compelling, even inspiring, “speeches” about why I have to choose one side or the other and about why I am wasting everyone’s time if I do not make a choice. I’ve been pretty good at not being drawn in by that false dichotomy. So, I am not persuaded by the the various “don’t waste your vote” arguments from which I am supposed to infer that I have no choice but to vote for the lesser of two evils. If by “waste a vote” one means not playing by the rules of a clearly broken system, then so be it. I agree. I may well waste my vote. But if by “waste a vote” one means God is simply too small to be glorified by anything other than a GOP or DNC vote in November, I respectfully disagree. I suspect there were “don’t waste a vote” arguments made by a few of the people of Israel when they were deciding whether or not to march around Jericho 7 times and blow their horns. I suspect there were “don’t waste a vote” thoughts among Peter, James and John after fishing all night long to no avail and having Jesus suggest they throw their nets on the other side of the boat. Bottom line: a vote cast to honor the Lord and all that He stands for is never a wasted vote in His economy. He can do amazing things with that. [BTW: the contention that “a refusal to vote for THIS candidate is the same as a vote for THAT candidate” is the same sort of false binary and is silly for all the same reasons.]
3. The object of my worship and the reason for my existence will be unaffected by this election. I find it helpful to keep my eyes on God’s larger narrative, his “upper story” being written across all of time and across the rise and the fall of nations…all nations. I am proud to be an American. Truly. But in the end, this is not my home. As Peter indicated, I am a mere ambassador here for my true home…God’s kingdom. That perspective may not help me know how exactly to exercise my vote come November, but it provides an important perspective for me as I struggle with that question. In January, if God wills, somebody will be inaugurated as the new President of my country. God knows who that will be. Our current circumstances suggest strongly it will not be a person with whose values I agree. And God will still be on His throne and I will still be worshipping Him.
In His sovereignty and providence, God has given me a gift by causing me to be born in this country. He has given me a vote to cast. It is His vote, not mine. I am a steward of that vote. I know I am called to use it in a way that points to Him and to His purposes. That is my only responsibility in this process. The results, it seems, are up to Him. And, after much prayer (yet to be concluded), I intend to exercise my vote for His glory, and I want to encourage you to do the same…whatever that looks like. You may never know how God leads me specifically. And I’m not quite so egotistical to think you would want to know. But God will know. And that’s what matters most.
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