By Hannah Bemis
I have a confession to make: For most of my adult life, I have been an apathetic, even lazy voter. Using the excuses that I’m not smart enough to understand the issues, that only one or two issues matter anyway, and that my vote doesn’t really count, I’ve too-often voted quickly and thoughtlessly. I, like many conservative Christians, have assumed that there is really only one political party that aligns with Kingdom values, and more often than not I have looked up how that party is voting and have ticked off those boxes on my ballot without so much as a thought or prayer.
I’m not proud of this, but my embarrassment is tempered by the suspicion that I’m not alone in these habits. Here’s something that will come as a shock to no one: this election year is a bit different. The year 2020 has been more complicated, nuanced, and uncomfortable than most of us prefer. We’ve had to flex and adapt our habits in the ways we do church, school, and relationships, so why would we expect that our voting habits would remain untouched? Today more than ever we need to be biblical, critical thinkers. Our vote should not be a flippant decision. Hopefully you’ve already been doing the work and voting responsibly for some time, but if you’re like me and you’re late to the game, here are some things you can start doing even now, in the month leading up to the election.
- Ask the hard questions. As an example, let’s use the glaring issue of supporting life. Some hard questions surrounding this issue are: What does it really mean to be pro-life? Does life at one stage matter more than another? Which lives are most vulnerable and most in need of my advocacy (for example, an unborn life or a black life or a life in poverty or a refugee life)? In what ways does each political party support life? In what ways did God support and honor life at every stage in the Bible, and which presidential candidate emulates this biblical model best? These questions are uncomfortable, and they may not have easy answers. Dig deep. Press into the discomfort and discuss with people you trust. Above all, bring these questions before God and trust that He will speak.
- Do the research. Don’t just believe what your favorite news network or your friends tell you about the candidates and the issues; investigate them for yourself. What does each candidate (and his running mate) really believe? Look into their current platform, but also research where they have put their action, their votes, and their money in the past. What values play out in their lives? As you research each candidate’s platform, consider any potential negative consequences (not just for you, but for others outside your circle). As an example, let’s look at how specific platforms affect the Christian value of life, both in the womb and beyond. Many Democrats might not realize that there is a huge disparity in the number of black to white lives lost to abortion [Read “Less Than Human?”] or that abortion clinics were originally and deliberately planted by eugenicists in poor and black neighborhoods (americamagazine.org). On the other hand, many Republicans might not realize that five to eight thousand refugees’ lives are lost each year when they flee their home countries, and countless more suffer or die as they wait for years in refugee camps (missingmigrants.iom.int). Recent restrictions and bans on refugee admission to the U.S. have been devastating for many families. The issues are often more complex than we realize. Wading through the news and discerning truth from bias is a huge challenge; don’t be afraid to ask wise and informed Christians you trust to help you as you research.
- While you’re talking with other Christians, interview or talk with a Christian who votes differently from you. Hear their heart and thoughts. Don’t enter the conversation hoping to “win” but rather to learn. Let the Holy Spirit teach you to see the image of God in the person who might look or think differently from you.
- Remember that your responsibility doesn’t end with voting. Regardless of who wins this election, there will be Kingdom issues to advocate and pray for moving forward. We can continue to stay informed about the issues close to God’s heart, we can call our senators and representatives, and we can use our voices to help bring the culture of heaven to earth. Don’t be afraid to stand for what is biblical, even if not supported by your favored party. God’s Word should be our primary guide.
- PRAY. This is our first and last responsibility as voters. Instead of praying for your will to be done, pray for God to supernaturally reveal His will. Pray for peace in an increasingly divided political world. Repent of previous ignorance or for malice toward people of a certain group or party. Ask for a heart transplant, for yourself and for the Church as a whole.
Let’s brave our discomfort and seek God intently this year. Whether or not you believe your vote can make a difference, I guarantee God will use every ounce of prayer, thought, and “heart” work you put into this election. You may doubt He can use your vote, but there is no doubt He will use you.