I’m stunned at how many Christians think they’re electing Jesus on November 4. I’m getting pretty tired of being phoned, emailed, spammed, FaceBooked and in other ways accosted by well-meaning believers who have completely come to find their identity in a political candidate or proposition.
There are at least two major issues that Christians are divided on this time around: the presidential election and, in California, Proposition 8. It’s times like these that bring out the most irrational thinking and the sloppiest hermeneutics. It’s time for a reality check: all campaigns lie, make unfounded accusations and spread disinformation. Depending on who you talk to, McCain and Obama can each be viewed as the Antichrist (no such character found in scripture by the way) or the Savior. And I love the way each side paints their candidate as “the” Christian in the race. In addition, one candidate is “guilty by association,” another for having too many addresses and another for dressing sharp.
Prop 8 raises a whole other set of issues. This is the attempt to modify the California constitution to define marriage as limited to one man and one woman. The “yes” folks warn we will get “gay education” if it’s not passed, and the “no” population learns to hate the church with a new vigor. “This” church invokes biblical authority, "that" church opens their arms with Christ’s love.
As I said above, I see two primary flaws in the way many Christians approach elections. First, there’s a sense of irrationality. Say goodbye to any kind of an intelligent conversation; pick a side and call the other whackos and lunatics. “Oh, they’re well-meaning,” we say, “they just don’t have any brains (AND they’re ruining the country!). A recent psych study at Cornell University verifies the human propensity toward an “unshakeable self-confidence in one’s decisions” and the myth of “the feeling of being right.” The problem with convictions, gut feelings, and hunches is that we rely exclusively on these intuitions at the expense of logical conversation. Hence, a debate is an opportunity to bolster what one already believes (cyclical reasoning) rather than a chance to expand ones understanding and knowledge.
"Feelings of absolute certainty and utter conviction are not rational deliberate conclusions; they are involuntary mental sensations generated by the brain. Like other powerful mental states such as love, anger and fear, they are extraordinarily difficult to dislodge through rational arguments. Just as it's nearly impossible to reason with someone who's enraged and combative, refuting or diminishing one's sense of certainty is extraordinarily difficult. Certainty is neither created by nor dispelled by reason.”
A second flaw in our approach to elections is that of prooftexting. Christians taking ANY position, be it on a presidential candidate or a proposition, can find support for their position in scripture. James Dobson does this. The Reverend Jeremiah Wright does as well. Cult leaders do it best.
Prooftexting is the practice of selecting verses out of scripture that support what one already believes, regardless of the context they were originally written for. A classic example: we often hear the verse, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst” and apply it to the topic of prayer. If we read the whole chapter of Matthew 18 however, we don’t hear a word about prayer. The chapter is entirely about conflict and forgiveness. The implication: When two or three come together to reconcile and forgive, there am I in their midst. Go ahead, read it.
Because so many Christians are prone to irrationality and prooftexting, they vilify one candidate and praise another. Obama is a kills babies. McCain kills Iraqis. And there is very little ground in between for conversation. Families are divided, friendships are strained and congregations stand against one another, always in the “name of Jesus.”
Maybe that’s the gist of the problem – we keep claiming the name of Jesus in ways that are inappropriate. I’m lucky, my wife and I cancel two or three of each other’s votes on candidates and ballot propositions every election. We see issues differently; sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t. That doesn’t make either one of us less Christian. Just because she voted different than me doesn’t mean she’s dumb or unholy. (Although I often remind her that I am smarter than her – after all, when we got married look what she got and look what I got!)
So let’s find our identity in Christ, not in politicians or political causes. If the Jews and Gentiles could do it, Dems and Reps might just have a chance.
In the end, we’re not electing Jesus. If we did, I’m sure he’d just get crucified.
The NFC pastoral staff at our Halloween carnival:
Loren "Biden" Dubberke, Terron "Obama" Nolan, James "McCain" Bergen, Krystal "Palin" Klaassen