The tabloids are great about giving us the latest prophetic updates such as “Ten ancient prophecies agree that the End Times began January 1, 2008.” Not to be outdone, I want to issue my own prophetic predictions for the coming presidential elections and presidency:
1) Between now and the November election, I will hear some Christian leaders assure me that a given candidate and that candidate alone is the only responsible choice for fellow Christians.
2) Various Christian leaders will give this unqualified support to more than one candidate.
This is one of the more vexing political issues for people of faith. We can read the same Bible, believe fervently in the same Jesus, say our prayers and decide to vote for different candidates. If all Christians readily agreed, then perhaps there would be a clear Christian choice. But all the people in the same church won’t even agree come the general election and this is an even more vexing issue during the primary season.
Perhaps this problem of even people of the same faith not agreeing with one another is why the framers of our Constitution steered well clear of the problem in enshrining the notion that no particular set of religious beliefs would be required of office holders.
The third paragraph of article six of the U.S. Constitution notes that members of each branch of the government, “shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
Those holding office are bound to support the Constitution, but not any given faith. Despite this prohibition of a religious test for those elected to office, I am going to go out on a limb and predict:
3) The religious beliefs and moral convictions of the candidates will receive increasing scrutiny between now and November.
This is perfectly appropriate as while no religious test may be given by the government, each voter is free to make his or her choice based on whether criteria is most meaningful to him or her. It’s the government that can’t use religious beliefs to determine who is in office and who is out. I may and will have my religious convictions inform my choice of candidate.
My beliefs make me who I am and inform all the decisions I make. Of course, my faith will be a factor in deciding for whom I will vote. I can’t do otherwise than to see political issues through my own biblical world view. And while I am a professional reader of scripture, I am not alone in that every one of us votes based on the issues that matter most to us.
Jesus taught his followers to take care of widows and orphans, to defend the poor and the outcast, and to live out the love we have for God in loving our neighbors as ourselves. Of course we will see these ideals as having implications for how we cast our votes. Yet despite this agreement that issues dearest to our heart will determine how we vote, I predict:
4) No matter who is elected as the next President of the United States of America, some Christians will be elated thinking that this is God’s will, while some others will wonder how it happened that God didn’t get God’s way with the electorate.
This is where we need to be in love and charity with our neighbor, extending the greatest possible charity. Politics has become increasingly divisive and talk of red state and blue state has come to sound so black and white when any given red state is usually only fifty-something percent for a republican, while a blue state is only fifty-something percent for a democrat. Yet they are presented as if a given state is in agreement about something.
Take our own state for example. The only thing most Georgians can agree on is that anyone who still wants to live in a state that measures its snowfall in feet rather than inches can’t be completely right in the head.
Clearly we are a mixed bag. This is fine as Jesus Christ is neither Republican nor Democrat as he is not even American in any exclusive sense. Perhaps the ultimate independent, Jesus stands beyond all political parties and systems as each party and system is human and therefore far from perfect. Political systems offer great benefits yet will always fall short of the Kingdom of God.
Each of us can get a little heated when discussing political issues dear to our heart. This is when it will help to remember Jesus’ admonition not to judge. For when you see someone else as being unchristian for supporting a given candidate, you are judging someone’s relationship with God based on some outward stand and not on the content of the person’s heart.
Paul wrote in the second chapter of his letter to the Romans, “Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself.”
Give the person with whom you disagree the benefit of the doubt, knowing that we can read the same Bible, pray to the same God and yet hold different views on government regulation, taxes and when and how to use military might.
My final prediction is the most problematic, but I believe it fervently and can’t let it go without saying:
5) God can use whoever is elected and that person will need the prayerful support of all people of religious convictions.
I want to name this early, before the campaign rhetoric gets too heated. In the second chapter of Paul’s first letter to Timothy, we are told, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.”
These prayers were being offered for some decidedly immoral Roman Emperors. How much more should we pray for our own government which makes room for and protects our religious beliefs. Despite how divided we get during elections, we remain one nation under God.
(The essay above is my Tribune & Georgian
religion column for today.)
Labels: religion column