Who I’m Voting For, and Why

Posted on October 23, 2012

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I love democracy in action. It’s messy and frustrating and gets ugly, but it is also transcendent. I know that politicians are self-serving or corporation-serving or servants of some unseen conspiracy. I know they often don’t have the influence which we ascribe them, but they do have influence in ways we don’t always see. There are things I don’t like about either candidate, but there are things I like about each as well.

What is almost as interesting to me about which candidate people vote for, is how they make their decision. Do you identify with a particular party and vote a straight ticket? Do you vote on a single issue? Voting for that candidate who agrees with your position on abortion, war, or economic policy? Do you vote based on a candidate’s appearance or personality, their likeability. Or do you try and balance all the issues, choices, and external factors to make the best decision you know how? The only option that requires demonizing the person you’re not voting for is when you cast a vote, not in favor of a candidate, but in opposition to his or her competition.

With that in mind, I thought it would be valuable to force myself to articulate for whom I will be voting and my reasons for doing so. I don’t think our voting choices need to be rallying points but neither do I think they need to be hidden and private.

Four years ago, I had the privilege of baptizing my first two children. It was a month before the 2008 election and the pastor gave a sermon that stuck with me. (He doesn’t remember this message, I asked him about it recently.) He challenged us to think about who we cast our vote for, but not like you might think. Both candidates, all candidates appeal to our self-interest in order to get us to vote for them. They promise a brighter tomorrow, full of better jobs, a stable economy, and more money in your bank account.

The tripping point for Christians is that we are not called to serve our own interests, but to serve the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 16:18) and seek the interests of others. When we ask ourselves “Who will I cast my vote for?” It would be better to see this questions as, “Whose interests am I looking toward when I vote? My own or those of my neighbor?”

When I ask myself which candidate will do I better job caring for the people who most need their lives transformed by Jesus: druggies, convicts, deadbeat dads, dropouts, killers, abusers, prostitutes, single moms, cancer victims, drinkers, gamblers, racists, and brokenhearted people of all stripes and kinds, then the choice becomes clear enough to make a decision: I believe in Jesus Christ, but I will be voting for Barack Obama.

In this choice I will not demonize Mitt Romney. In fact, I don’t need to say anything at all about him. If you are a Christian reading this and decide that he would do a better job caring for all the people I’ve listed above, then cast your vote with confidence. But however you decide to vote, vote for the right reasons, not so that you will get more for yourself, but because Christ calls us to see those who are overlooked, speak to those who are forgotten, and stop and listen to those we would otherwise turn away from.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27).

Like the good Samaritan, we have a choice on November 6: will we cast our vote for our own self-interest and walk on? Or will we stop and vote for our neighbor who lies beaten on the side of the road?

Photo: hjl

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Posted in: Ethical Choices