Being a Christian in a Tumultuous Election
This is a hard post to write, and one I partly wish I never had to publish and partly wish I’d published months ago. This time is divisive anyway; add it to the pressure-cooker of the COVID-19 pandemic, and man, 2020 begins to feel more and more like a dumpster fire.
But I digress, and if you’ve yet to cast your vote, I hope you’ll think objectively. This conversation isn’t an easy one, as both Republicans and Democrats have some deeply held convictions, and I think it’s important to recognize how hard it can be to break from tradition.
This began as a conversation way back in 2016 when someone I love asked me “how can you call yourself a Christian and not vote for Trump?” I began then to parse through my convictions, the policies I heard from candidates, what was toted as most important in church, my family upbringing, my husband and my friends’ convictions, and ultimately had to grapple with all of it.
Here we are, 4 years later, and I again did not vote for Trump, except this time I feel way less shy about sharing why—especially here. We know his leadership style, we know his personality, and we know his track record. The words below ultimately came about after sharing some things on Instagram and getting into a discussion with loved ones about their personal offense at my posts. I meant no harm to them personally, but by sharing (in particular, this post), good and productive discussions have come about as a result. For the first time, some of my loved ones and I have been able to have meaningful, non-judgmental conversations and healthy debates around the topic of politics. Something that, honestly, had felt lost and gone forever.
That said, let’s dive into the hot-button issues that people who, like myself, have spent a long time being lumped into a “conservative / evangelical” label.
There is so much to say, but for the time being this post addresses:
I don’t think any one politician can make changes to restore our country or establish everlasting peace and unity. Unity is not the same as uniformity, and equality is not the same as equity. Who we vote for and what they stand behind is a reflection of what is inside of our hearts (and where our priorities are). Supporting any one candidate on a single issue and turning a blind eye to their character and all of the other issues is deeply flawed. Let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and truth.
God gave us the earth, and everything in it. It was created beautiful and perfect. The Bible commands us to “fill it and subdue it.” This means care for, guard, and protect. (Dominion, not destruction.) Science, also, is a gift from God. Science is not the antithesis of the gospel. Science proves, as if we need more evidence, that things are not as they should be. Yes, when Jesus returns He will fully restore and redeem our broken world, but that doesn’t mean that we have no responsibility to care for what we’ve been given. (We’ll be given new bodies, too, but that doesn’t mean we go about cutting ours to pieces until then, right?) I want a leader who cares about protecting the earth and resources where we live. I want my children to grow up and experience the beauty of God’s creation. Our trees, land, waters, air—they’re all important. God wants us to do our part in that. It transcends just our personal shopping habits and how much we recycle, and spills over into being a good steward of all that He gave us. And, as the Bible says, to whom much is given, much is expected. We have a responsibility to take care of the gifts God has entrusted to us.
Many self-professing Christians are not familiar with the Old Testament, and I’ll admit I wasn’t until recently, either. But if what Jesus modeled for us is what He meant for us, then we cannot ignore the Old Testament because He didn’t ignore it. In Exodus 23:9, Leviticus 19:34 , Deuteronomy 10:19, and countless others, we hear time and time again how we are to treat foreigners as though they are native born, just as the Israelites were once foreigners freed from enslavement and welcomed into their new homeland. These passages encourage and remind the Israelites to have empathy as refugees. They should understand what it was like to be in a strange place, to not have a home, to be in trouble, persecuted etc. This same logic applies to us. How can we be okay with discriminating against and oppressing so many people who are trying to escape and find refuge in America? Making it very difficult to enter legally, putting their families at risk, turning people away, separating mothers and children (please, for the love, taking children from their mothers is the most inhumane), those who are hungry for food and shelter. Aren’t we incredibly blessed that the Lord has ordained our circumstances that allow us to live in America? We could have just as easily been born somewhere with serious oppression, violence, poverty, etc. This place is not ours to hoard for ourselves.
What’s more, America is not the Promised Land, and we are not the chosen people. God does not owe us this land, and He is the God who keeps His promises. So when people say that all we have to do is humble ourselves and pray and God will restore our land, I believe they’re taking this verse out of context. Yes, we need to be humble and pray, but our land is not ours to be restored to us. It’s God’s, and at the very least, we are to share it. We are sojourners here who should, by all counts, be welcoming.
I pray that God will give us eyes to see our shared value and worth as image-bearers alongside the immigrant, the refugee, the undocumented; help us to love the stranger among us knowing that the fathers of faith were strangers as well. I truly believe this is the only pro-life way to approach immigration.
Check out more from We Welcome Refugees here.
Can you imagine what it must be like to be in a situation where you cannot afford health insurance for you and your family? To be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition? Most people I have spoken to over the last 12 years who are against affordable healthcare for all are people who have never been denied coverage or will always have the ability to pay out of pocket for it. I am not a doctor, but I worked for several years as the manager of eligibility services for a free clinic that served low-income uninsured residents of our county. The ACA was a monumental breakthrough for patients at this clinic, and I saw it with my own eyes. Patients who no longer had to choose between their health and their housing expenses. Their medications and their child’s schooling or field trips. Was ACA the perfect solution to all the USA’s healthcare woes? No, but it was a huge step in the right direction toward doing our duty to care for the less fortunate among us. Trump’s health care plan is not really a plan. It is a vague loophole for insurance companies to limit coverage and charge more. It’s been 4 years, and we have no more information. I am for a plan that helps the largest amount of Americans get health coverage, regardless of income, and regardless of health status. This goes hand in hand with taking care of people! The weak, the sick, the vulnerable, the poor. Whenever we care for the least among us, we show the love of God.
Racial inequality and injustice has been going on for a very long time, and it is still happening. I believe that God cares about this, and the fact that in America we have normalized whiteness as the standard is a problem. God shows no favoritism. The multitudes will stand before heaven. (See Acts 10:34-35 and Revelation 7, among others. I just don’t think this can be ignored or up for debate.) Simply put, we are created, all of humankind, in God’s image. To reflect His image means we ALL look like Him. How, then, can there be partiality? Chances are, if you don’t see it, you’re white. When we oppress others, or allow others to be oppressed by not defending their full humanity, we mock our Maker. While it can be easy for us as whites to ignore, we need to open our eyes to the systemic problem of racial inequality in this country. It is very real and very prevalent. Racism isn’t just in overt white supremacy. It is in your home. It is in my home. It is in how we quantify whether a school is “diverse” or “ethnic,” it is how we categorize a “good” or “bad” neighborhood. We are socialized into racism, and we need a leader who sees that. Your parents working hard for everything they had doesn’t mean they didn’t have a hard life, it just means their skin color wasn’t a factor in their struggle. Racism doesn’t undo your own personal hurdles. If we feel like racial reconciliation is oppression on us, then we need to rethink our own privilege. (Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it is not a problem to you personally.)
In the first debate, when given a clear and simple opportunity from a Fox News host, Trump did not denounce White Supremacy, and he even went so far as to tell a white pride group to stand by. Later, he spent a few moments describing how he terminated a governmental racial sensitivity training, stating the reason was because “it made people uncomfortable.” That statement is the very definition of white fragility (and if that makes you uncomfortable or you want to know more, you can check out some books here—those are affiliate links to some books on racial reconciliation).
If this topic makes you uncomfortable, good—it’s part of the unlearning process, and while it is deeply unsettling to admit that I have implicit bias, the reality is that I have benefitted from a system that is set up to favor me. Did I set it up? No. Do I benefit from it unfairly compared to someone who is darker skinned than I? Yes. That’s the truth. Anti-racism means fighting racism whenever and wherever you see it, even in yourself. Examining prejudice and bias is a lifelong exercise. By ignoring it, we are showing our own privilege and by refusing to act on it, we are showing complacency and disregard for other image-bearers of Christ. That, dear readers, is sin.
President Trump’s actions regarding this pandemic illustrate where his priorities lie, which is his own political agenda, his wealth with regard to the economy, and not the lives of Americans (or others). As I said above, science is a very useful tool at our disposal. I’ve heard a number of Christians lately saying that one reason they don’t believe the coronavirus pandemic is real is because initially medical experts said masks were ineffective. However, part of the scientific method is hypothesizing, testing, and reevaluating. So, while we did once think masks may not be helpful, study after study has shown that masks (both homemade cloth face coverings and disposable medical masks) when worn properly over the nose and mouth are extremely effective at source control (in layman’s terms that’s “keeping your germs to yourself.” Ever heard anyone tell you to cover your mouth when you cough?) We know this has been true all along: when is the last time you went in for surgery or a dental cleaning and your caretaker was unmasked? Yes, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus disease is a rapidly evolving pandemic and there is still so much we don’t know about the disease and after effects of COVID-19, but what we do know is that masks and social distancing are effective.
But let’s say for the sake of argument that masks don’t work. Who are we harming by wearing them? So we’ve been inconvenienced for 6-18 months, right? Is that such a huge sacrifice to our comforts? And, let’s say that maybe we aren’t sure about masks, we’re not necessarily anti-mask or pro-mask ourselves, are we such callous beings that we can’t just cover our germs for the sake of others? There are a large number of us out here walking around with unknown or hidden comorbidities that could be a death sentence if we came down with COVID-19. And, since I’m not a doctor OR God, and I can’t possibly know, isn’t it the most decent thing to do to wear a mask? Because if we’re right, and masks do help, then it will always be worth it for the potential to save someone’s life. You better believe if a simple mask could have saved the lives of the loved ones I’ve lost in this life (pre-Covid), I would do it.
Here’s the thing, our current administration turned this into a divisive political dividing point, when it could have been a shining opportunity for him to display an act of human decency and care for fellow humankind. And yet, here we are, debating whether or not covering your germs for others is, in fact, an act of loving kindness. No one is still arguing that seatbelts or pants in public are divisive or polarizing. Yes, there was a time when seatbelt laws were something to gripe about (no one likes to be told what to do; I mean this is a Mommy blog for heaven’s sake, I could write about that struggle all.day.), but there is no denying that seatbelts save lives. Are they always comfortable? No. Do my kids enjoy being buckled nice and tight? Nope. Do we wear them anyway, without discussion and without exception? You bet. So where are my Bible verses on the coronavirus pandemic? Well, since I believe wearing masks and social distancing is a simple way to care for others, I’ll point you here, where Jesus instructs us to love our neighbors.
In 2016 when Trump was elected, many Christians who reluctantly voted for him or voted third party boasted “well, I guess God wanted him to win after all.” I fear this logic is deeply flawed for several reasons. An arrogant, pompous, philandering, racist, liar is not appointed by God to uphold God’s law. Can God redeem all sinners and use them for His glory, yes, but He does not go against His precepts and commandments. It is not in His character. In the books of Kings and Chronicles in the Old Testament, you’ll see bad king after bad king rules over Israel. It gets so bad that the kingdom is actually divided, and eventually shrinks to just a small remnant, and they end up in exile under the rule of another nation altogether. A king was not God’s plan for the Promised Land, and the Israelites demanded one out of their sinful desire to be more like the other nations. God appointed the first king, and then the second, and in King David He promised deliverance. Each time these kings boasted of their own accomplishments apart from the Lord, they were punished. Many many many bad (and a few good!) kings came after David in his line, through which Jesus came (God’s deliverance), but those bad kings were not “chosen by God.” They were consequences of the Hebrews’ sinful disobedience and straying from God’s plan. God is good and He always provides deliverance, but He is also just and there is a consequence for sin. Much of the OT poetic books are warnings from God through His prophets on the consequences of His people not humbling themselves and turning back to God. The bad kings were ultimately a reflection on the hearts of the people, and of their time and culture.
That’s a roundabout way of saying I think that God displays His feelings on pompous leaders many times over. There are a great many other character flaws that Trump has that make him less than an ideal candidate for my election (to put it gently), and his arrogance is only one. Misogyny, racism, bigotry, vitriol are not qualities God seeks in His leaders. At this point, regardless of your beliefs, I think anyone can agree that our President thrives on hate speech and raising a ruckus. These are not qualities that any democratic nation should seek in a leader, but they are for sure not things I can respect when I consider myself a follower of Jesus.
I believe that by calling myself “pro-life” I’m referring to a term that covers all life from womb to tomb. Thus I am for affordable healthcare (see above), free access to birth control and family planning, welfare, paid family leave, public assistance, Medicaid, and other services. I’m making this one section that encompasses two main issues that I think Christian voters get hung up on: abortion and gay rights. I’ll go in alphabetical order and provide you with a list of further reading linked in each section.
Abortion. I unashamedly consider myself to be personally pro-life. That means I would likely not choose an abortion for myself. However, I will also never find myself in a situation where I am faced with a truly unwanted pregnancy. I love babies, and I am financially in a position that I would be able to care for the baby, myself, and my other children. I am married to a healthy and supportive husband whose job allows me to stay home and care for our children. Some Christians may disagree with Biden’s stance on abortion rights or have a hard time admitting that abortion is just so much more than simply terminating an unwanted pregnancy. But based on the extreme controversy surrounding the subject, some think Biden would have a difficult time codifying Roe v. Wade or even repealing the Hyde Amendment. The concept of an abortion is extremely sensitive, and very nuanced. There are a plethora of factors to consider, and it is not as simple as “oh crap I’m pregnant, I can’t tell mom, I better end this.” Many a mother has prayed over the news that her growing baby will not make it, and by delivering a certain way in a certain time, some states are considering her to be having an abortion. I’ve not had to make the choice to end any of my pregnancies before their due time, but I have lost pregnancies, and that is a trauma I know that NO woman would willingly undergo.
Aside from stories like this one, I also chose to consider a bigger approach with my stance on abortion. First and foremost, I believe abortion should be safe, legal, and rare. Each of those things will protect the most amount of women, and supporting women and mothers falls under the umbrella of pro-life. I know from reading the Bible that we cannot legislate the heart. Just having a set of laws was not enough, humankind still sinned. Adam and Eve were given one rule, and they still broke it. The rest of the Bible from Genesis 3 on tells of our constant struggle with sin and God’s continual rescue and eventual redemption in delivering us from our sin by the blood of Jesus. Am I calling abortion a sin? The Christian stance on this has changed over the years. Personally, I think it depends on the heart behind it. We know that just making something a law or a punishment doesn’t change the hearts of humankind. Criminalizing abortions will not make them happen less (let alone the death penalty for having one—is that not the most antithetical to a pro-life stance ever?) The more digging I did, the more I realized abortion rates were lower when access to healthcare and public assistance were prevalent. How do you actually stop an ”unwanted” pregnancy? Preventing the pregnancy in most cases, no? Not criminalizing the pregnancy. I could go on all day about this, but I’ll add in one more note here: a personal frustration of mine, and something that makes me very wary of pro-life politicians, is that many of the people toting the heinousness of abortion are the same people shaming an unwed pregnant woman. The dichotomy doesn’t scream “pro-life” to me, it screams “judgmental.”
A truly pro-life stance is so much more than just anti-abortion. For further reading: Penny in the Air, You Aren’t Pro-Life Anymore Are You?, Truly Pro-Life Politically Pro-Choice, ANDcampaign 2020 Statement, Morally Pro-Life but Politically Pro-Choice, The Necessity of Life.
Gay Rights. The simplest way I can put this is under the umbrella of being pro-life, for me. There is a lot of really good information out there, and I’ll be completely honest, I don’t have all of the theology worked out yet for myself. But I’ll tell you what I do know so far: 1) God created everyone in His image, which means we all reflect Him, and our humanity matters. 2) Whatever my Biblical convictions are on the matter, the government’s job is not to decide who we should marry: whether that’s race, country of birth, religion, or orientation. 3) People are people. I am wholeheartedly pro-life, and that includes basic protections required by human decency, regardless of their orientation. Our administration’s dehumanizing disrespect of a person because of their sexual orientation is abhorrent and appalling. I will not stand for a leader who disdains the rights of another human being so unapologetically.
(By the way, the same goes for religion. While I don’t get into it here, because frankly there’s only so much you have time to read, if we believe that America was founded upon the ideal of religious freedom, then we owe that to non-Christians. Extraditing and ostracizing and deporting other religions is fear-mongering xenophobia.)
It’s sad to see so many strained relationships and lost friendships due to this year and all of the issues on politics, COVID-19, race, healthcare, economic fallout, and so much more. This has been such a trying year for so many of us. I hope that we can remember that it’s okay to have different views, as long as we remain united as believers and respectful of each other’s humanity. We have a race much more important than the 2020 US Election, and there will be many more trials ahead than we can see right now. Let us not lose sight of what believers are all truly fighting for.