Return to Sermon Archive
Christianity and Election Year Politics
I now invite you to turn in your Bibles to the letter to Titus, Chapter 3, and follow along as I read verses 1-3. Hear what the Spirit says to us.
1 Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,
2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.
3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another.
4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,
5 he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.
6 This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,
7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Amen. The word of God. Thanks be to God.
The Blessed Nation
Many years ago Richard DeVos, co-founder of the Amway Corporation, made a comparison of America and what was then the Soviet Union. He told what America would have to do to equal the Soviets.
We would have to rip up 13 of every 14 miles of our paved highways. We would have to scrap 19 of every 20 cars and trucks and destroy over 2000 colleges. We would have to destroy 7 out of every 10 single family houses and cut our living standard by two thirds. No wonder the old Soviet Union lost the cold war. I suppose the wonder was that they lasted as long as they did.
America is richly blessed and seems to become ever more blessed. When my wife and I got married in 1970, we were living in Easley South Carolina, and there were maybe three restaurants in town. We would eat out perhaps once a week, and we wound up going to the same restaurants over and over, because there were no other choices. This summer, because of family illness, I spent some time in Easley, and noticed that there are now more restaurants and fast food places than you can count.
Now I know that with the American obesity epidemic that we have been hearing about in the media, you might say that is not a good thing. We eat too much and we eat the wrong stuff, and probably so, but the only point I am making is: American is a land of plenty. And it is not just food. It is anything and everything. Why do you think people in other countries are so envious of Americans? We have got it all.
We are blessed to live in America. We are blessed to live in this land of freedom. We have the freedom to worship, or not to worship.
On this labor day, we thank God that we have the freedom to work, to use our brains, energies and persistence to produce wealth, jobs and security. America is freedom to be ourselves, to let others be themselves.
We have the freedom to speak our minds without fear of reprisal, to express our thoughts as readily to our legislatures as to our families; as confidentially to our Congress as to our closest friends.
And we have the freedom to exercise our power at the polls, to vote for candidates of our choice, to remind our officials that they are elected to serve and lead, not to rule and oppress.
This week the Republican National Convention is meeting in New York City, reminding us, if we needed to be reminded, that this is an election year. Already we are seeing a river of political advertisements on TV. Soon the river will become a flood. Each candidate will tell us that their program will “save America.” Each political party will bash the candidates of the other party. We will be told over and over that Kerry is unfit to lead. We will be told that Bush is a blundering fool. All of this is just election year politics and is not intended to be taken too seriously.
Now I know that we all get tired of the political ads in an election year, but I would defend such advertisements, and the whole political process, in one sense. We should remember that elections in which people freely choose their leaders by secret ballot, are the cornerstone of western democracy, and are a blessing from God. At the end of this process, we will go to the polls, cast our ballots, and the outcome will decide who will lead the worlds greatest economic and military power for the next four years.
Now often the process is not pretty, and it could do with some minor changes. , For example, perhaps it is time we did away with the electoral college, and elected presidents by direct popular vote. But overall, I still maintain that this is one of the greatest blessings of God that we enjoy in this country. Think about it this way. What is the alternative?
We could have a hereditary monarchy, but we already decided that we did not want that back in 1776. We could have some kind of military dictatorship, but the only way you get that is by shooting lots of people. All things considered then, I will take an election.
The Uncertainty of our Knowledge
But the question is how should a Christian act in an election year. First of all, we emphasize the uncertainty of our knowledge. As the Apostle Paul says in ICR13, now we see “through a glass darkly.” We are aware that we may be mistaken, and that we should take account of this possibility in all our dealings with people who hold opinions different from our own.
More evil has been done in this world by people who were absolutely sure they were right than by all the scoundrels and crooks put together. The people who flew planes into the world trade center were absolutely sure they were right. The people who seized a Russian school this week and are holding little children as hostages, are absolutely sure they are right. The Nazis who packed millions of people into concentration camps were absolutely sure that they ere right. The Communists who systematically exterminated, purged, and murdered millions of folks were absolutely sure that they were right. Perhaps our prayer should be God deliver us from such assurance.
In this election year, we realize that the people on the other side are not different from you and me, and they may be right. Now this does not mean that you should not have an opinion. This does not mean that you should not work for your party and vote for the candidate you believe to be the most qualified. Tolerance of another person’s opinion does not mean that you give up your opinion. You may still be convinced that you are right, but you recognize their right to be wrong.
Political analysts tell us that only a moderate can be elected president of the United States today. The last several presidents have all portrayed themselves as moderates, and their opponents portrayed themselves as moderates. If that is true then, if they are all moderates, it does not make significant difference whom we elect. As George Wallace, former governor of Alabama, used to say, it is only a matter of tweedledum and tweedledee. To put it more positively, It is only a matter of emphasis. Each candidate will have certain issues that they are more apt to emphasize than the other, and we may be more interested in some issues than in others, and it is also a matter of personality. We may prefer one candidate simply because of their personality. But when we pick our candidate, we recognize that the other candidate might also do an acceptable job, that the world is not going to end, democracy is not going to fail, if the other guy gets elected.
This then is a Christian attitude for an election year. We might put it this way, a Christian outlook, with regard to politics, does not consist in what opinions you hold, but in how you hold those opinions. All our opinions are moderated by love for other people, which includes people who totally disagree with us.
Now I realize that the attitude I am suggesting for a Christian will not be liked much by any political party. Party leaders want loyalty. They want you to believe that their side is the side of the angels and that people on the other side consort with the devil. But we all recognize that is mostly party propaganda.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans can claim to be the party of Christians. There are Christians in both parties.. And these Christians, both democrat and republican, believe that they are supporting the right man for the presidency. And so do we, but we need to realize that those Christians over there may be right.
This means then that I do not deride the candidates of the other party as a pack of incompetent fools. The kind of political advertisement that I dislike very much is the “attack ad,” the ad that ridicules the other candidate. I suspect that people who run attack ads do not have much to talk about in terms of ideas or accomplishments and so they spend their time and money putting down the other guy; hence I am not likely to vote for people who consistently run attack ads.
I do not believe in mocking and putting down people. Titus 3:2 says that we are “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.”
Now that is just common sense. There will be enough people in this world who do not like you without you deliberately adding to their number. In the comic strip, “The Wizard of Id,” one day, Rodney, one of the warriors, came in from battle. He was bruised and battered, and his horse was crippled. The king said to him, “Where have you been?” Rodney said, “Out fighting your enemies on the west. I’ve pillaged, and I’ve burned, and I’ve killed your enemies on the west.” The king replied, “But I don’t have any enemies on the west.” Rodney said, “You do now!” And I promise you that if you live in ugliness, constantly belittling people and putting them down and mistreating them, then you will have plenty of enemies. And one day you wll wake up and wonder why is it that no one likes me. There may be a reason.
Two women were riding on a train together and began to argue over the window. They called the conductor and one of them said, “If this window is open I will catch a cold and die.” The other woman said, “If this window is closed, I will suffocate and die.” And the two women glared at each other.
The conductor did not know what to do so he asked the advice of a man who was sitting nearby. The man said, “First, open the window and that will kill one of them. Then close the window and that will kill the other and then we will all have some peace around here.”
Christians are a people of peace. Rom. 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Heb. 12:14 “Make every effort to live in peace with all men...”
A Yale University president gave this advice to a former president of Ohio State: “Always be kind to your A and B students. Someday one of them will return to your campus as a good professor. And also be kind to your C students. Someday one of them will return and build you a two-million dollar science laboratory.”
But of course that is not the reason that Christians are to avoid quarreling and to avoid put downs. We are to be friendly to others not because we expect to get some benefit from them but simply because as the people of Christ we are a people of love..
John Wesley had this for his rule of life:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as you can.
That is great advice for a Christian even in an election year.
So, I will choose my candidate, just like you, and I will vote come November, and I will abide by the decision of the ballot box even if it is not my decision.
Thus, I accept Titus 3:1, I am “subject to rulers and authorities.” The authority in this country lies not with individuals and personalities, the authority is the Constitution of the United States.
Perhaps that is why in this country we have a tradition of making fun of our elected leaders.
Have you heard the story of a wealthy man who was critically ill. “There’s only one thing that will save you,” his doctor said. “A brain transplant. It’s experimental and expensive.” “Money is no object,” the man said. “Can you get a brain?” “There are three available,” said the Doctor. “The first was from a university professor, but it costs $10,000.” “Don’t worry, I can pay. What about the second?” “It was from a rocket scientist. It’ll cost you $100,000.” “I have the money. And I’d be a lot smarter too. But what about the third?” “The third was from politician. It will set you back half a million dollars.” “Why so much for the politician’s brain?” the patient asked. “Because” the Doctor said, “It has never been used.”
No one gets insulted, by such jokes, not even the politicians themselves. Historically, every president has been called a lot of ugly things. “Brainless idiot” would probably be the least insult that most of them received.
But this tradition of making fun of our leaders does not mean that we do not respect and obey our government. You might say that government is sort of like family. In families brothers and sisters quarrel and call each other all sorts of ugly names, but if anyone outside the family says something against one of those brothers and sisters, then the whole family unites against them
Even so in the USA, we reserve the right to criticize our government. That is almost a patriotic duty, but no one outside the country has that right.
To put another way, we may not respect every politician or every government official, but we respect the office they hold. Above all, we respect the Constitution. When you join the military, you take an oath, not to a person, but to uphold the constitution. Every American citizen is bound to uphold the Constitution.
Moreover, to say that you uphold the constitution means that you support all our governmental authorities, all the way from the President of the United States down to the cop on the beat or the teacher in the classroom.
If you get stopped by a policeman, you are supposed to show him or her just as much love and courtesy as you would anyone else. I heard a story about a policeman who was writing a ticket for an illegally parked car, and the woman who owned the car came up and began to argue with him. He continued to write. Finally, she snapped to the cop, “And just what you do you do when you catch a real criminal?” As he handed her the ticket, the officer replied, “I don’t know, maam. All I ever catch are the innocent ones.”
Now she would have been much better off if she had been polite and courteous and offered to move the car immediately. Perhaps he would have let her off with a warning.
Because of Jesus
Christians should be respectful, kind, loving, even in an election year. Now we need to say Why we should be that way. Titus tells us beginning in v3:”For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another.” We were ugly people. We were sinners who spread hate and turmoil wherever we could. Titus says, we should not ridicule even those who deserve to be ridiculed, because we were once just like them. We cannot look down our long noses at them, because we were just like them.
But then something happened. Jesus happened. Titus describes him as “the goodness and loving kindness of God.” Jesus “saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy.” He poured out his spirit upon us and justified us by his grace, so that “we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Jesus loved us. That is why we are supposed to be a people of love. Amen.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
Copyright 2003 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last modified 12/06.04