Friday, November 4, 2016

Friday's Essay - Being Faithful on Tuesday and Beyond

Below is an essay that I sent to those on the Cove Presbyterian Church e-mailing list. You can hear a podcast of this message by going to the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page. You might also want to visit the congregational website (covepresbyterian.org) for more church information.


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Image result for election dayWell, it’s almost over, Praise the Lord. The two-year presidential marathon is almost over. And other than some paid political analysts and unpaid sadists, I think we’re all glad. Of course, in some ways, this has been both a challenge and a relief for Christians. I mean, in the last thirty years, candidates have jockeyed with one another over their religious dedication and asserted that morality matters. Of course, that hasn’t happened this year. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump has worn their religion on their sleeves. And I think only the most dedicated apologist would say either has the moral high ground. As a matter of fact, now that the campaign is grinding to a halt, we have solid reasons for rejecting them both, that is, if morality actually does matter to us. And although it may be a relief not to have to figure out the sincerity of all the religious jargon, I think it’s a challenge for a multi-issue Christian to figure out how to vote.

Image result for election day
But of course, we’ve had plenty of time to make that decision, and frankly, I think most of us have. I mean, like most Americans, I think we’ve either decided which person will receive our vote or come to the conclusion that we can’t, in good conscience, vote for any of them. In other words, we’ve pretty much made up our minds. And because I believe that’s the case, I’m not going to suggest things that we might want to consider as we approach the polls. Instead, I think there is some stuff we can do leading up to November 8 and then beyond, things that can reflect the faith we claim.

You see, in the time we have left, I’d suggest we do three things that won’t change who we support but might better show others who we are and what we believe. For example, first, we can decide that for the next five days we’re not going to call either candidate a nasty name nor will we use any broad generalizations that deep down we know is just too simplistic. Like my mother taught me, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. And so if we can’t describe either Secretary Clinton or Mr. Trump without using words like “idiot,” “sleaze” or “crook,” maybe we should consider staying quiet. It may be like Lincoln said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.” Sadly, both candidates probably should have applied his advice, but it’s too late now. That’s one thing we can do. And second, let’s agree to not stretch our Christian faith so that it excuses or justifies immoral and insensitive behavior. Although I hope we agree that we’re all sinners saved by God’s free and irresistible grace, that doesn’t mean we should Christianize or spiritualize words and actions for which a person should feel guilty. The fact that he or she is flawed may not disqualify either to be president, but let’s be honest about why we’ve made the decision we’ve made. And in this particular election, it’s probably not about who has displayed Christian virtue. For me, that’s the second thing we can do. And third, please, let’s not try to guilt folks who sincerely believe that neither has earned their trust much less their vote. Now if you feel passionately for one candidate and yet don’t vote, then you may get what you deserve. But if you don’t feel comfortable holding your nose and voting for one or the other, then don’t do it. One of the wonderful things in our democracy is that no one can force us to vote. Now these are a few things we can do between now and Tuesday.

And after the election, here’s when our faith in God can be displayed as well. I mean, regardless of who wins, we can decide to pray for our next president, asking God to guide them so that they might be instruments of his will. You see, I think we should probably reject those who’ve already decided that they will do whatever they can to make the next presidency a failure. And second, I think it’s important for us to accept those who supported the other person, especially brothers and sisters who may not have shared our views. I mean, even though we might never understand what led them to do what they did, we’re still one in Christ, and secular politics should never fracture his body. And third, as American Christians, we might want to start a conversation that’s deeper than a bumper sticker slogan and that goes beyond “what’s wrong with the other side.” And if this conversation starts within the church, we’re bearing witness that what has drawn us together is strong than what pulls us apart. These are some things we can do later.

Now, I’ve decided what I’m going to do on Tuesday, and I doubt that I’m going to change my mind. And that probably applies to you as well. But even though that’s the case, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things we can before and after our votes are cast or withheld. And I’ll tell you, I think that’s important, if we want to bear witness to our faith on Tuesday and beyond.

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