As we hurtle through the election season, what thoughts go through your mind when you think about the person you are voting against?
If our Facebook walls, Twitter feeds and private conversations are any indication, many of us feel a sense of rage. Just hearing their name causes us to seeth. Why is that?
For some of us, it is because we have been so busy fighting against the culture in so many other ways that we have allowed ourselves to be captured in another. We have become defined by our vote.
Many Christians, without even realizing it, began finding their identity apart from Christ and within their political party. That is why you find believers from all political persuasions questioning the faithfulness of others who have come to a different conclusion this election.
It is one thing to doubt the wisdom or perspective of someone for their political decisions. It is quite another to assert they are denying their faith because of their vote—particularly in a complicated, convoluted election such as this.
This idea that we can only be saved if we trust Jesus and vote the right way sounds similar to the false gospel spreading among the Galatian believers that Paul confronted in his letter to the church there.
They were being led astray by teachers who told them they had to accept Jesus and circumcision. Paul reminded the Christians there that they had trusted in Christ—He was all they needed. Don’t accept any other message.
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than what we have preached to you, a curse be on him! As we have said before, I now say again: If anyone preaches to you a gospel contrary to what you received, a curse be on him! (Gal. 1:8-9)
A different gospel is one that includes voting a certain way as part of our salvation.
Obviously, our faith must influence every aspect of our life including the way we vote, but it also must includes the way in which we treat those who vote differently than us.
In Exclusion & Embrace, theologian Miroslav Volf says, “Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners.”
In other words, we stop being a forgiving and understanding person when we regard our enemies as subhuman and fail to see ourselves as subdivine.
This election season seems to push Volf’s point even further. As we have found our identity in a false gospel, we have extended our false view of ourselves and others to our prefered political candidate.
It is no longer enough to merely support a candidate. Elections are cast in terms of an apocalyptic struggle between good and evil.
We must see them as a messianic figure, who alone can save us. And we must believe their opponent is the embodiment of evil. One is the savior, the other is a satan.
Take these two recent examples that perfectly illustrate this reality.
This is an actual headline: “Jimmy Fallon under fire for ‘humanizing’ Donald Trump.” How exactly can you “humanize” a human? Trump for all his foibles and failures is a human being.
A soft interview on a late night talk show did not make Trump a human. God did. The Republican nominee for president is a human being with all that comes with being both fallen and created in the image of God.
The same is true for his opponent, Hillary Clinton. Despite what conspiracy theorist websites may say, neither she nor President Obama are literal demons who smell of sulfur.
Our problem is not the humanization of any candidate. It is the simultaneous deification of one and the demonization of the other. We want a morality play and we will force these fallen image bearers into the caricatures we need.
Politicians often recognize this and stoke the fire, but this cannot be the stance of the Christian. Our theology rings with the truth that we are unique beings created in the image of God, but every one of us is fallen and in need of the God-given Savior.
No election is a choice between a savior and a sinner. It’s between two sinners in need of the Savior and will be decided by more Savior-needing sinners.
This should color every conversation we have, including the political ones.
In his new book, Making Sense of God, Tim Keller writes about the human tendency to divide into groups that naturally shun the other.
This happens because those in a group begin to define themselves and find their identity in their membership of that group. But Christians cannot operate this way.
We can share and develop commonality with other human beings around shared interests and other connections without shunning and rejecting those who are different.
The Christian who makes Christ and his love the core of his or her identity, then, discovers that we need not completely reject other identity factors. Our race and national identity, our work and profession, our family and politics and community ties can all remain intact. They are no longer the ultimate basis for our significance and security, but that does not mean they are flattened or eliminated. Rather we are free to enjoy them as God’s gift to us, but we are no longer enslaved to them as our saviors.
You are not defined by your political choices and neither is your neighbor. Your political party and presidential choice cannot be your savior or your identity.
Neither Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, nor any third party candidate can be the Savior for whom we are all longing. And neither are they the Satan who wars against our soul.
They and their supporters are human beings. And, as Aslan told Prince Caspian, “You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve. And that is both honor enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor on earth. Be content.”