It’s election season again and you know what that means right? It’s time for everyone to be as big of a jerk as possible to the candidate(s) that we oppose! But wait… didn’t Jesus instruct something different?
Growing up, going through public schools, we were always instructed that it was our civic duty, when we were old enough, to vote in elections. Maybe that is the case but no one ever bothered to teach us how to ethically behave prior to an election. Nobody mentioned the name-calling, slandering and flat out lies that we would be told in order to get us to believe in and vote for candidate R, D, or I. So instead, we learned from the people and the world that we saw around us. And – if you haven’t noticed – that world is in full-blown conflict mode.
This conflict is prevalent everywhere – in magazines, on TV, in our kid’s schools. Everyday now, I get on to Facebook and see many of my friends – some I know who profess to be followers of Jesus – bashing all of the potential candidates and parties that they disagree with. “Adulterer!” “Socialist!” and on and on.
Additionally, there has been an array of political propaganda being posted there as well. If you are on Facebook you’ve surely seen the “statistics” that are going viral. Mark Twain once wrote “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Twain was obviously trying to be witty, but there is also some truth in his remark. Statistics can easily be spun to show people what the person producing them wants their viewer to see.
Even so, it is hardly the case that the majority of us are blameless in our current political predicament. For most of us, we can’t plead innocence when it comes to such aforementioned behavior because we too have either willingly or unwillingly engaged in it. I certainly have been “that guy” in the past… I am very aware of that fact. I was, after-all, indirectly trained to act that way – many of us were.
But we do have the opportunity before us to change. We don’t have to act like this or even tolerate such behavior. We don’t have to buy into the name-calling, the accusations, the propaganda. We can be different. We can demand that our candidates behave differently also. Actually, Jesus calls us to be different, something better – a far harder task than these kind of derogatory actions. Christ calls us to love those we don’t like at all.
Matthew 5:43-45 says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
You see whether you like it or not – God loves your enemy.
And sure – it is easy to bash your opponent but try showing them respect. Try giving them the benefit of the doubt. Try praying for them, try loving them….
So how can we begin to do that? It sounds really difficult right? Well to start, what if we framed everything that we say about our candidates as a positive instead of a negative? What if we eliminated backhanded compliments and instead offered up genuine ones like: “Candidate X is actually a really great debater but I personally like candidate Y’s experience dealing with economic issues.” Or “Candidate A really seems to have a heart for our country but I think that Candidate B’s enthusiasm and energy would be a great for the United States in this season of America’s history.” Believe it or not, it really isn’t that hard to compliment any of the candidates running. They all have admirable qualities about them – we just have to try.
Currently though, we shred our candidates to pieces instead of supporting them and helping to encourage them to be the ethical and moral representatives that we hope for. In that process we destroy careers and ruin lives, providing no provision or opportunity for redemption when inevitable failure arises (nobody is perfect after all). We create persons who want to hide the truth so that they can survive because they know that anything that currently doesn’t meet public approval could be fatal to one’s career.
Instead, if we were to encourage our politicians and help to foster courteous and respectful behavior, debate, and action – then even the contenders that don’t win the race would have the opportunity to go on to serve us in more productive ways in the future. You see true accountability nurtures and loves the person in need through their problems; it doesn’t berate them for their failures.
Yes, it is obvious that in order to change the current negative political environment into a positive one we certainly have a long road ahead of us. But it can be changed, and if it is going to be improved we must start by committing to such change one person at a time. So I encourage you this political season, to follow the teachings of Jesus and show love toward all of the candidates running. Let’s provide the example for our children that they deserve and can aspire to. In so doing, we can be assured that will choose to make our country far better even before we ever step into the ballot box.