A Christian Response to the 2016 Election
As you all know, this is an election year, and the campaigns for various offices are underway. Throughout my ministry I have tried to maintain clear boundaries between religion and politics. I do not think, for example, that it’s proper for me, as pastor of a congregation, to take the side of any particular candidate running for public office. I also think it is inappropriate for a congregation to endorse any politician or party. I am, however, a citizen and registered voter, and I have my personal opinions, which our faith informs. To that end, I want to offer some thoughts to consider for those of us who are committed Christians and eligible to vote in the upcoming elections.
There are a number of issues in contemporary politics for which there is no current consensus among Christians. Examples of these include the pro-life or pro-choice position on abortion, the support of same sex marriage and LGBT rights, the support of equal rights pertaining to women, the debate regarding the morality of the death penalty, the question of whether military force is ethical, the issue of whether or not the minimum wage should be raised, and the current discussions pertaining to gun control. While some denominations and congregations have taken stands on these matters one way or the other, there is NOT universal agreement on them within the worldwide Christian community. Beware, therefore, of anyone who would tell you otherwise. There are, however, certain standards of conduct about which I believe all Christians are of one mind. I would describe them as follows:
- Hating others is not who we are as followers of Christ. We may disagree with them or not understand them, but hating them (and, in extreme cases, wanting to kill them) is inconsistent with the Christian faith and life. That applies even to our enemies, those who wish us harm, and those we perceive as threatening. It feels strange for me to say something so obvious, but with the amount of hateful rhetoric going on today, I think a reminder is in order.
- Mocking, bullying, and belittling people is also not who we are. We may take issue with their viewpoints, but we are to treat others as we would want to be treated. Jesus was mocked by those who rejected and crucified him, but he did not do the same to them.
- Expressing and demonstrating hostility toward strangers or foreigners is contrary to the Old and New Testament mandates that we make a place for them and show them hospitality in our land.
- Categorizing specific persons or groups of people as inferior is not what Christ would do. The life that God has given to us is a gift to be used for God’s glory. It is not a competition to see who is number one. There are no winners and losers in the eyes of God. All are equally loved.
- Acknowledging one’s sin and need for forgiveness is an absolute. Jesus came into the world because humanity is in need of a Savior through whom our sins are forgiven and we are redeemed. Failure to apologize when one is clearly in the wrong is not an option.
- Affirming and helping the poor, the sick, the hungry, the disadvantaged, and those who are marginalized by society is an absolute. Jesus had a special place in his heart for such people, and those who would be his disciples must as well.
- All people are to be respected, which includes women. Even those who still might see males as dominant must acknowledge that women are fellow human beings who deserve to be treated as such. Verbal abuse of women, such as making degrading comments about their physical appearance or clothing, is inconsistent with the Christian faith and life.
- Children are to be loved and protected. Children were the least valued and most vulnerable of people at the time of Jesus, and he welcomed them, cared for them and blessed them.
- Those with abundance are urged to pray and discern how those gifts may build the Kingdom of God. The objective of a Christian is not to become wealthy, particularly if it comes at the expense of others. Rather, it is to care for and help those who have less.
- Fear is not to be our motivator. “Fear not” is a message found many times in the scriptures. As Christians, our inspiration is FAITH, not fear. Faith and fear are inversely correlated.
- Jesus said that those who want to think of themselves as great must take the position of the lowly. “Those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12). Our greatness comes from God, not our ambition to be better than others. What we perceive as great is not necessarily great in God’s eyes.
I could probably list more, but these are the ones that come to mind primarily. I understand that one of the principles this country was founded upon is the separation of church and state. At the same time, we who are Christians are Christians first, and our country is, foremost, the Kingdom of God. As you exercise your civic duty, please consider these universal Christian values and ways of living as they reflect on the candidates you support and on us as participants in the electoral process.
Note: This letter was originally written in the Summer of 2016. It was distributed to the congregation of All Saints’ Torresdale Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. It was also posted on the parish’s website and Facebook page.