By Maggie and Derek Reimherr
Today, we voted. They were prayerful votes, cast based on issues God has placed most heavily on our heart over the past year. This election season has led us to do a lot more reading and research than normal. Does that make us #woke? Whatever. Here's what we've learned throughout 2016:
1. Christians have to stop believing that God affiliates with a political party. There is no "Christian party." In fact, if you're a Christian who finds your ideology aligning perfectly with party politics, you should probably dive into the Gospel and ponder the words of Jesus. We're not "of the world," (John 17:16) so devotion to worldly institutions like political parties should give pause. There's been so much angst about the election because where does a Christian's vote fall? "Why isn’t there a party that agrees with everything I believe?" Because this earth is not our home, that’s why.
2. In fact, we don't live in a theocracy. This is something the both of us have wanted to say for a while. If you haven't noticed, the United States is a representative democracy with a president, not a pastor or Pope. Congress isn't made up of deacons. The Supreme Court isn't comprised of church elders. What does this mean? Christians cannot reasonably expect our beliefs to be forced onto millions and millions of people who do not accept or agree with our belief system. You can disagree with a practice, but that doesn't mean it should be illegal. Freedom of religion is a right everyone in America has, not just Christians. As Jesus followers, we're not called to force Christianity and Christian morality on a diverse nation. Acting like the morality police makes Christians seem a lot like Pharisees, don't you think?
3. We are so very privileged. We are white, straight, college-educated, middle class Christians. Policy changes from either side of the aisle probably won't affect our everyday life. Sure, we might pay a little more or a little less in taxes and insurance premiums, but the social issues will have little effect our day to day. This was a jarring realization. If you're in similar shoes, your privilege should make you pause. Think about the people in this country who aren't like you and listen to their voices and their concerns. If you're a Christian, you should genuinely care about the concerns of marginalized and underrepresented groups. That's what Paul and Timothy tell us to do in Philippians 2:4 - “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
4. Social justice should matter to Christians. Christians are called to care for orphans and widows (James 1:27). This doesn't just mean white, American orphans and widows. We should care about refugees and immigrants and American citizens living in poverty. We should stand with Black Lives Matter (and learn why All Lives Matter isn't helping). We should seek to understand that which we don't experience. Many Christians have wild fervor for the lives of the unborn but lack compassion for the already living and the ones taking care of those children. Does that truly represent who Jesus is?
5. A certain candidate's rhetoric has empowered vile words and actions. We're millennials and spend a lot of time on Twitter. We've both seen thread after thread where people have spewed racist and dangerous tweets, citing conspiracy theories as fact, threatening revolts, undermining the electoral process, and making us question whether or not a peaceful transfer of power will take place. This isn't a refreshing change from the corrupt political system. This is scary. Christians have to consider the implications of the candidate’s speech, which has often brought out the worst in people. Do we really want to communicate that an aspiring politician can say whatever they want and still have a shot at becoming president of the United States?
6. As Christians, our love for people should not change based on their vote. As Twitter famous RUF pastor Sammy Rhodes tweeted the other day, “You can love someone & totally disagree with them. If that wasn't true then Jesus couldn't love us at all.”
7. A lot of votes are misinformed. Consider the source of your news. Just because someone posted it on Facebook does not make it true. Partisan news sources are profiting from your deepest fears and base desires. Your clicks = money in their pockets. A lot of polarized news sources this year aren't even run by American citizens. They have no stake in our election except their own wallets. One of the candidates has attempted to delegitimize the media throughout the campaign, but reputable sources report on facts. Disreputable sources sensationalize.
8. Do you believe God's Word when it says that every person is created in His image? If you do, racism, bigotry, and misogyny should concern you (these issues should concern you even if you aren't a Christian). There’s a lot of that going around these days. What have you done to stop it?
9. Everyone believes their opinion is the correct opinion. The truth is, we all have different belief systems that are built by our family backgrounds, where we're from and where we live, the people around us, and our religious convictions. It seems like human nature for us all to believe we’re right and in some ways, morally superior. If you’re a Christian, every political opinion that enters your head should be filtered through the Jesus lens. Does the Bible say anything about this? If not, what does the Bible tell us about God’s heart that will help us discern this opinion?
10. Similarly, your words should be filtered through the Jesus lens. A common battle cry in this election season has been, “I’m not politically correct! Save us from living in a politically correct nation!” Most often, political correctness means, “It’s not okay to be prejudiced.” Yes, sometimes our quest to be inoffensive discourages discourse. But is it so wrong to think before we speak? If we love Jesus, we should consider these questions before speaking: "Do my words tear down or build up? Am I speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)? Does my speech invoke the fruit of the Spirit - love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)?" Jesus says, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” (Matthew 12:36) Loving people well often requires speaking in a way that wouldn't offend them.
11. Tomorrow, the church and the nation need to heal. Damage has been done to our witness as Christ followers during this election. There is division within the church, and church leaders have spoken out in favor of politics that don’t reflect who Jesus is. Where do we go from here? As we await the results of a contentious election today and wake up tomorrow with a newly elected president, let’s be the hands and feet of Jesus. Let’s speak out against injustice. Let’s put our faith not in politics but in God. Pray for healing, pray for a nonviolent transfer of power, and pray for our new president’s leadership.
“He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars.” - Daniel 2:21