|It’s election season again. Some might greet this reality with enthusiasm while others will groan and long for Nov. 7, the day after the election—the day when the TV ads, radio spots, newspaper articles and social media campaigns come to a grinding halt.
Most Americans probably reside somewhere in the middle: not waiting for every “Breaking News” sounder ushering in the latest gaffe or revelation about the candidates or on the other hand, not counting the days until the airwaves blessedly stop wall-to-wall coverage of this election.
I was thinking about this the other day when I was driving through my neighborhood, which I’m sure is no different from most. Lawn signs are starting to pop up, announcing the homeowner’s support for a particular candidate or issue that’s on the ballot this November. Most houses have one or two lawn signs, while some are littered with five, seven or more plastic announcements of where their political support resides.
This drive through my neighborhood reminded me of just how important—and influential—voting can be. But only when that vote is thoroughly researched, thought about and even prayed over.
While most Christians believe strongly in exercising our right as Americans to vote, some believers—most notably Anabaptists and Mennonites—refrain from voting, believing to some degree that they are participating in something that isn’t kingdom minded. While most evangelicals and other Christians might not necessarily agree with this assessment, it should give us pause as we approach the polls this November—and every election season.
For many decades in the past century, conservative Christians did not widely participate in the political process. The Scopes trial of the 1920s ushered in a several decades-long era when believers stayed away from politics and cultural activities, believing more time should be spent developing a parallel subculture. This new existence would include everything mainstream life offered but would do so without the fallenness of the unbelieving world.
That began to change in the early 1970s when several cultural issues—Supreme Court decisions, among others—began to unite political operatives to motivate conservative Christians to once again participate in the political and cultural worlds. And they did so with a vengeance, some arguing that born-again voters swayed the election in Jimmy Carter’s favor in 1976 and in Ronald Reagan’s direction in 1980.
Whether or not that was the case, the age of faith and politics was launched. Through the ups and downs of the past 40 years, evangelicals have, hopefully, learned several things.
One, politics is one manner in which cultural change can take place. It’s sometimes slow, messy and oftentimes extremely frustrating. And not to mention filled with processes and maneuvers many find distasteful.
Second, the easiest way to change a culture is to change a person’s heart. While focusing on political and legislative efforts is important, it’s much more important to continue to preach the gospel, feed the poor, offer a hand-up to someone, minister to those in prison and to operate from a kingdom-minded perspective.
Finally, the gospel cannot be contained by a political party or movement. Following Christ means offering our support to Him first and foremost.
Over the years, too many political operatives have tried to hijack conservative believers to support their legislative agendas. While those initiatives may be things evangelicals support, we must make sure that our support resides solely with Christ and not with a movement, no matter how politically or legislatively important it may seem.
So when we enter the voting booth this fall—if we are not believers who refrain from voting—make sure we have thought about, researched and prayed over our decisions. Christ would ask nothing less from us.
Scott Noble is the editor of the Minnesota Christian Examiner.