It’s a tough decision this election. A lot of the friends I’ve asked still haven’t decided. I’ve shared their frustration. I find my inclinations to be “gut feelings” instead of informed opinions. I wonder if gut feelings are typically the voter’s guide.
There is plenty of discussion about not voting too. Al Hsu reviews a book about it at The Suburban Christian. Dave Fitch is arguing for it at Reclaiming the Mission, but he’s been challenged on it. Stanley Hauerwas entertained the idea in a recent interview with The Other Journal. But others believe voting to be a God-given civic (even sacred) duty.
The Economist published a series of articles on the major election issues, and it seems even-handed and without an obvious bias (i.e., “fair and balanced”). The Economist is a British magazine, so it’s less entrenched in U.S. political biasism. Its conclusion is a good, brief summary. If you don’t read anything else, read that, but each of the articles in the series is also very readable and worthwhile. If you’re like me in the gut feelings predicament, I encourage you to feed your brain from The Economist’s menu.
The Economist neatly layed out for me the major issues of this election: economic plans for the economy, health care, energy and the environment, values, foreign policy (including Iraq and Afghanistan), regulation and trade, education, crime, immigration, and the candidates themselves.
These categories they had given me were, according to them, the most important election issues I should consider. But I realized that I should be receiving my priorities from elsewhere: What priorities does Jesus expect me to vote for, and would his priorities be achieved through these platforms?
Essentially, what I’m saying is, before I can form an opinion about any election issue or political platform, I need to understand what Jesus promotes.
As one example, someone asks Jesus what the most important command is from the Law of Moses. Jesus responds, “Love God. Love people.” Okay, so how does that priority inform my stances on, say, foreign policy or on immigration? Does it at all? Maybe Jesus’ priorities can’t be achieved by a governmental body at all. Can a governing body relate to God or to people and love them? If not, then what does it matter who I vote for or what the government does?
Well, I think most would agree that government action does affect the individual and how the individual relates to others and even to God (consider China). But the translation from “Love God. Love people.” to my stance on tax cuts for the rich versus the poor may not be so clear cut.
Loving God and people is something I can get my arms around and act on. Meanwhile, figuring out how to accomplish it with my vote seems much more complex, and less certain to succeed. Yet, having been bombarded by an election that has lasted nearly 2 years on the 24-hour news stations, it’s easy to misalign my priorities with the pundits and believe that when I exit that polling booth on November 4 I can go home and wait for the results.