In case you haven’t heard, the United States is having a presidential election in November. If you really haven’t heard, you must either have spent the last year at the International Space Station or been shipwrecked on a deserted island. It’s impossible to live in North America and not be inundated with a deluge of political advertisements, newscasts, interviews, and opinion polls.
Many Christians are bewildered by what their response should be to an election so critical to the nation’s future. Some have enthusiastically embraced a candidate they believe will lead the country to prosperity and safety. Now they inundate their friends with Facebook posts expressing their views. Others have become cable news junkies, consuming countless hours of repetitive programming as one panel of “experts” after the next speculate and pontificate on everything that is said or done or might be done. Others are sickened by the process and opt out of the election proceedings altogether. What should a Christian do in such times?
First, Christians should pray. Oh, they should vote too, but they should pray first. Prayer helps you know who to vote for. It guides you to understand what the key issues are and what they are not. Don’t assume you know who to vote for. Ask God! Prayer also works in ways you cannot. You may not have access to a presidential candidate, but your prayers do. It is still true today that “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). My father has often said that a nation will get the leaders it prays for. Perhaps today’s leaders are a telling reflection of our prayer life.
Second, we should become informed. America desperately needs an informed electorate, not merely opinionated voters. Everyone has an opinion. Social Media allows people to shout their views throughout cyberspace. While I respect peoples’ right to have their own view, I don’t believe every opinion is respectable. Numerous falsehoods are being broadcast with little regard to their veracity. People shout slogans and clichés that are filled with inconsistencies and false logic. At times people will ruthlessly attack the slightest nuance of error in one candidate yet overlook massive shortcomings in their own preferred politician. It is comical, if not tragic, to watch interviews with people who, when asked why they support a particular candidate, reveal that they are oblivious to the facts, as well as the most rudimentary history. Christians of all people should refuse to settle for slogans. They ought to educate themselves on the key facts and then prayerfully make an informed decision.
Third, Christians ought not to obsess over the election. I certainly want to know what is going on in my country, but I refuse to waste dozens of hours each week watching the same news being reported on television by one newscaster after the next. It really doesn’t take 25 hours of newscasts each week to stay informed! There are several ways I stay educated on current events. When I am on the treadmill I’ll turn on the news. That way watching the news is not a complete waste of time! I find that reading Online summaries are much more to the point and succinct than keeping the TV on all evening. Certainly there is some value in attending political rallies so you hear for yourself what candidates are saying. Just be careful. People hold such rallies for one reason, to gain your support. They will present you with an extremely biased presentation of themselves as well as their rivals. Try to refer to the least biased news sources possible for your information. Don’t let newscasters think for you. Get the facts. Listen to various points of view. Then draw your own conclusion.
Fourth, don’t be a spectator. Many people assume that if the right candidate is elected, the nation’s problems will be solved. Any student of history knows the likelihood of that happening. We cannot place our hope in people. Even the finest political candidates cannot solve every problem. So, instead of sitting in front of your television night after night listening to newscasters predict outcomes and candidates rehashing attacks and slander of their rivals, turn off your TV, get up, and do something to make the world better yourself. Don’t just argue with friends about which candidate can best address poverty, go volunteer at a food kitchen or tutor an adult who is trying to earn his high school diploma so he can qualify for college or a better job. I refuse to invest hundreds of hours listening to candidates explain how they will make the nation a better place while I do nothing but watch TV.
Fifth, keep God in the picture. It says much about your view of God if you spend more time watching the news than you spend reading your Bible and praying. Always view political candidates and processes in light of the fact that God is still on His throne! He is still working out His purposes across the nation and world. He is more concerned with candidates’ salvation than in their election. Know that politicians do not know the future. They cannot forecast prosperity any more than they can foresee calamity. Only God can do that. So keep your Bible in one hand while you have the TV remote in the other. Regardless of the bluster and pronouncements and promises made by candidates, it is God who determines the course of human affairs. It is best that we not forget that.
“Why do the nations rage, and plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, ‘Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens shall laugh, The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in wrath. . . Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are those who put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:1-5, 12).