When Christians Get Involved
Many media pundits the world over have spent at least part of the last week analyzing the result of the U.S. presidential election.
Some have expressed surprise at the result – not just that the incumbent won a second term in the midst of a drawn out foreign conflict, but that the election seemed to have turned on matters relating to moral and ethical values.
Many experts and observers had predicted that the defining issue would be Iraq. The presidency, they believed, would be won by whichever candidate best took advantage of the problems in Iraq and the war on terror generally.
As it turned out, a great many voters were more interested in matters closer to home – issues relating to the nation's soul.
In the end, a nation is first defined not by what it does outside its borders, but by what it allows within.
Many US voters were not ready, for example, to jettison the concept of marriage being exclusively a union between a man and a woman, or to launch willy nilly into the morally clouded waters of stem cell research. Likewise, they were eager to place some heavier restrictions on the practice of abortion.
The marriage and abortion questions proved decisive, as they were included on the ballot in some pivotal regions.
Overall, America's election result serves to remind us of several things.
First, that when a democratic nation goes to the polls, it is not doing so simply to vote a person into power. It is, in the process, deciding what it wants to become, or to remain.
If this election was more divisive than many in recent times, it was not simply because there is a war in progress, or because the advertising became at times quite personal, or because the previous election result had been viewed with such suspicion by so many.
The process seemed divisive largely because some of the most important issues were so black and white, and so decisively staked out.
Second, this election demonstrates that a national vote can hang as much on moral and ethical issues as on material matters like the strength of the job market or the value of the currency.
Thirdly, the result and its aftermath should stir in Christians of every democratic nation a sense of their own responsibility to participate fully in political matters, with careful thought and prayer.
Some sections of the liberal press have labelled the Bush victory a win for 'right-wing Christian fundamentalists'. To do so suggests that Christians are the only people who will opt for moral clarity; that Christians vote in a block, without thinking about their choice, and that Christian faith can be reduced to a partisan political argument or cause.
There's no doubt that the middle class, white, church-going vote made a big difference, mainly to President Bush. But many of the people who voted out of concerns over ethics and morality were not Christians, or even particularly religious.
In the U.S. poll, I think most Christian people like others in the community would have tried to vote according to the dictates of their consciences rather than partisan interests.
They will have voted for the candidate whom they felt would best deliver a national direction that is favourable to Christian principles. In the process, many would have voted for Senator Kerry.
Christians are concerned with issues of right and wrong, good and evil, based on divine absolutes. There will be issues on which men and women of good conscience will disagree, but no one political party has cornered the market on doing right.
Politics will always be the art of compromise. At best, democratic politics can deliver an environment that supports and encodes positive, godly values. Politics and politicians should never be seen as the great hope and deliverance of a nation – God alone is that.
© Mal Fletcher 2004
Want to keep in touch with what Next Wave is doing each month? Enter your email address below.
Passion: I think it flew out the window the moment political correctnes reared its ugly head! So much in the world today is bland and lacking in intensity but I don't want to calm down!
It was great to hear Mal teach at our church last night, he really made me think outside the box. His message was challenging and educational. A big thank you to everyone at Next Wave for all you do.
Darran, United Kingdom
Hi Mal. I heard you last week on the radio when I was at work here in Amsterdam! Fun to hear your voice.
Send us your feedback