By Daniel Darling
Once again we find ourselves in the midst of another election season, one that will last from now until this time next year. We’ve already had candidates enter the race and drop out. We’ve watched a few debates. We’ve laughed at SNL spoofs.
All of us, in one way or the other, are invested in this election. Some, like me, are election junkies and greet this process with gusto. Others try to ignore the campaigns completely. Most people are somewhere in between—watching a few minutes of a debate, chatting about it occasionally, and perhaps becoming involved at some level through volunteering, working, or helping a candidate.
If you’re a follower of Jesus, now’s a good time to take a step back and ask yourself how Christians ought to behave during the election season. Whether you’re a pundit or a passive observer, here are five things all Christians should consider as this election cycle rolls on:
1. Remember your first allegiance.
Christians should be engaged, at some level, in this election. If you love your neighbor, if you care about human flourishing, if you’re seeking the welfare of your city, you can’t ignore the leaders and the policies that affect real human lives. Our citizenship is a stewardship given to us by God. We should use it wisely.
However, we must first remember before we are Americans, we are citizens of Christ’s kingdom. This means our engagement should be shaped by the gospel. Political parties will rise and fall. Movements will wax and wane. Leaders will come and go. But Christ’s kingdom will endure, and He is gathering history to Himself.
So engage, but engage knowing that no election is ultimate, no candidate is the Savior, and no party has all the answers.
2. Be thankful for this election.
Yes, you heard me right. Those terrible signs that litter the public walkways. The robocalls at dinnertime. The ominous, 30-second ads that dominate the airwaves. These are features of a free and raucous representative republic.
Politics can be annoying and lame and sometimes corrupt. But consider this: nobody in Cuba, North Korea, or Syria is complaining about partisanship. Our system of government is far from perfect, but it allows us to choose our leaders and even voice our dissent. This is not happening in totalitarian regimes.
So let’s thank the Lord for allowing us to live in a free, however imperfect, United States of America. Yes, that means we should even thank Him for this fractious and rowdy election season.
3. Be kind to those who disagree with you.
Passions run high during election season. For some reason, politics and social media are a lethal cocktail that brings out the worst in us. It’s easy for us to get so emotionally attached to our candidates we forget we are Christians.
We begin to see candidates with whom we disagree, not as humans created in the image of God, but as avatars to be destroyed. We often forget politicians and candidates are not cartoon characters, but real people with spouses and children and real human emotions.
The world is full of vitriol. Social media, comment sections, and blogs can be a cesspool. But God’s people are called to show a more excellent way. Our “speech should always be gracious,” Paul reminds us (Colossians 4:6). And Peter reminds us that in our arguments we must employ “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
This doesn’t mean we should shy away from speaking truth into the public square. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t employ satire and comedy and rhetoric to help shape public opinion. But we can do this with compassion and respect.
4. Don’t pass on half-truths or untruths, even if they help your candidate.
The emotionalism of the election often blinds us both to the faults of our favorite politicians and the good things about those with whom we disagree. It’s easy to believe every rumor about the other side. It’s even easier to post, email, text, and tweet things we haven’t verified as true.
So when you read a salacious story about the president on Facebook, don’t immediately like it or share it. Either do some research on the information or don’t pass it along at all.
Let’s remember Christians are people of truth. How can we effectively champion the gospel of Christ if we’re also passing along half-truths, untruths, or unsubstantiated rumors as fact? We destroy our credibility and hurt our gospel witness.
5. Enjoy this election.
We should take the issues seriously, but we shouldn’t take ourselves seriously. Elections have consequences, sure. But that doesn’t mean we have to be so uptight we come off as boorish and out of touch. We should be joyful because we’re already the victors as we confidently await the coming of Christ.
This means we can laugh at ourselves and laugh at the funny things that happen during elections. So enjoy the SNL spoofs of candidates, even if they sometimes skewer your favorite candidate. Retweet those funny GIFS during the debate. It’s OK to use humor and wit to make it through election season.
Sure, we should respect those who serve in government office (1 Peter 2:17), but we can have fun while we’re doing it.
DANIEL DARLING (@DanDarling) is the vice president of communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. He is also a speaker and author of several books, including his latest, The Original Jesus: Trading the Myths We Create for the Savior Who Is.