A Mother’s Plea To Christians During This Election Season

It’s that season again.  The one where Target puts out Hallo-Thanks-Mas displays, and you start hearing comments like this around the house from your eight-year-old:

“Momma, I’m rootin’ for Mitt Romney.”

“You are? How come?”

“Cuz Zach says that Barack Obama has been out of the country too much lately.”

Not sure where this logic came from, but politics are in the air.

Four years ago, that same child asked, “John McCain is on Satan’s team, right Momma?”

“What?!!! Why would you say something like that?”

“Aren’t you voting for Barack Obama?”

“Yes, but honey…”

“Well, then John McCain is the bad guy, right?”

Oh my.  I had gone to pains to protect my children from hateful political speech, or anything that might give them the impression that the two men running were anything but honorable men participating in a noble (if imperfect) system.

I’d like to think that Ezra’s assessment that the entire world can easily be categorized into good guys and bad guys (where good guys don’t log too many frequent flyer miles and never disagree with you on matters of public policy) was a developmental blip, one he would soon outgrow.

But if I want our three children to be healthy citizens in a democracy, I get little support from our culture this time of year.  To be sure, I don’t get support from the secular circles in which I run; but it’s more upsetting to me when the vitriol I see comes from within my faith community.  This post, then, is my plea – as a mother – for civil, Christian political discourse.

Before you get yourselves all worked up, and tell me how much Jesus just hates everything you hate and loves everything you love, before you tell me about how Jesus threw tables over in the temple when people were getting ripped off and called the religious leaders a brood of vipers, I want to tell you that I know and I understand.  I feel righteous anger about many evils, and I support active responses to those evils.

So if you want to pick a fight, please go elsewhere. This is a simple plea that you would ask God to guard your words when you talk politics.  Because the church you create with those words is the church I pray my children will always call home.

And I think it might help our words if we remember two things: 1) As Christians, we are all exiles, and: 2) All people are made in the image of God.

Well, duh, right?  But just in case, here’s the refresher.

WE ARE ALL EXILES

New Testament writers tell us that, as Christians, we are exiles.  Read 1 Peter 2:11.  Or these:

“Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14).

Our towns, our states, and our country are not synonymous with the kingdom of God.  If you live as though they are, or talk as though they are, I fear that you lose sight of the ultimate kingdom and the true king.  (For more on this, you might read John Piper here.)

This is not to say that we don’t have an obligation to seek the shalom of the country in which we find ourselves.  We should, as Jeremiah writes, plant gardens, grow families, and seek the prosperity of the land.  Service on the school council, in the military, and in politics can be a manifestation of the shalom you extend.

But make no mistake, this is not our home.  No president will save us.  And, more to the point, no president can damn us.  We serve a God whose hesed will not be thwarted.

In practice, what this means is that:

  • You help your children love their country as the home God has given them for now, a home they are called to love and serve.
  • You teach your children to respect authority, knowing that there has never been perfectly just political ruler.
  • You teach your children about the role of civil disobedience without being uncivil. You can start by reading them MLK’s letter from a Birmingham jail.
  • You work hard to be salt and light, without thinking that the fate of the God’s kingdom turns on the outcome of an election.  It does not.  If we act like it does – by pouncing on our enemy’s sins while ignoring our side’s sins, for example – we put our own spiritual lives at risk.
  • We need to repent if we are happy about bad news in the world.  If our reaction to jobless numbers, or acts of brutality, or humiliating revelations, is a quick calculation of how it affects the chances that “our guy” will win, we are deep spiritual trouble.  I find myself here often, and good ol’ repentance is the start of the cure.

ALL PEOPLE ARE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD

What else needs to be said? So why has mockery and sarcasm and twisting the truth about a person’s decency become fashionable among Christians?

Enough already.

In practice, what this means is:

  • If you find yourself believing that many of your brothers and sisters in Christ are hateful, red-necked hicks, check your heart…
  • If you find yourself talking as though all of your African American, or Ivy-educated, or poor, or immigrant brothers and sisters are ignorant, or lazy, or less Christian than you, check your heart…
  • If you find yourself talking about gay couples, Navy seals, your Muslim neighbors, or members of the other political party as though each and every one of them is a dangerous, Godless, unpatriotic liar, check your heart…
  • If you find yourself talking about your mayor, governor, or president in ways that would lead your children to question your respect of them as people made in God’s image and as leaders you will humbly follow even as you work against their policies, check your heart…
  • …and then ask God to start the long process of restoration.

We are told that non-believers will know us by our love.  This is true of our children as well.  My simple plea as a mother is this: Whether you are a pacifist or a Neocon, a Keynsian or a Classical economist, whether you are “pro-life” or “whole-life,”  let your neighbors, your opponents, and your children know you by your love.

About Tara Edelschick

Right now, Tara is on sabbatical in Costa Rica. She is sleeping more, and exercising and flossing every day for the first time in her life. She is enjoying her husband, her boys, and Nafisa (the daughter she never had) more than she ever has. And she is learning to rest in the arms of the one who doesn't rank you based on how many things you can cross off your list at the end of the day. Follow her on Twitter@TaraWonders.

  • janis henning

    Tara – well said, well written, and exactly what needs to be taught to our children and our selves. I would love to share this with members of my family and Jay’s family.

    • Tara Edelschick

      Please do, Janis. My kids will thank you some day.

  • TiffanyLynette

    This is great.

  • http://beingtc.com T. C. Moore

    Excellent post Tara! The US church really needs to hear this message right now.

    The one place where I would offer some friendly push-back is in the area of military service. There is no doubt we US Christians are called to seek the shalom of the nation in which we find ourselves exiles. But I don’t find that calling at all entails killing this nation’s enemies. I’m afraid Tertullian and Origen would be appalled at the entirely uncritical view of military service many modern US Christians have adopted. The King of Kings and Lord of Lords (and President of Presidents) commands his disciples to love our enemies (i.e. not murder them with drones).

    Again, thanks for the post, and keep up the good writing!

  • Elaine Pierce

    Great post, Tara. I have never heard the phrase ‘whole life.’ What does that mean? I’m intrigued.

    • Tara Edelschick

      Hi Elaine,

      I’m no expert in these things, but the way I have heard it talked about is that whole life proponents advocate for the dignity of the human person from conception (and sometimes earlier) through death, regardless of ability, age, status, ethnicity or sex. They care about multiple issues as threats to human dignity, issues such as: human sex trafficking, political violence, famine, genital mutilation, pornography, and capital punishment.

      Hope that helps.

      • Ted Seeber

        Also known as a Consistent Ethic of Life (Cardinal Bernadin, Pope John Paul II) and officially covering the following threats to life from conception until natural death: Contraception, abortion, war, economics, hunger, the death penalty, and euthanasia.

        See the Catholic Encyclical Evangelium Vitae for a full in-depth discussion (but be prepared to fall in love with the theology of Blessed John Paul The Great!)

  • Ted Seeber

    I have never felt more of an exile in the land where some of my ancestors have been for 10,000 years, as I do this election season- and it’s because of my ancestors that have only been here 90 years or so (the Catholic ones) that seem to have been excluded from both the Democrats (HHS Mandate, abortion) and the Republicans (Ayn Rand instead of Aquinas).

    • Tara Edelschick

      Ted, Whew – that just made me stop and pray. Thanks for that.

      • Ted Seeber

        It’s hard having mixed blood and a few cultures in your ancestry that you know very little about- and one that shouts very loud and actually has a few rational solutions, but isn’t heard for all the roaring mice about.

  • Susanna

    I agree we must be civil, hard as that is when someone is voting to take away your child’s freedom. But we must not be afraid to speak truth, either. We can speak it in love. What would Dr. King have accomplished if he had simply respected authority and not stood up for what was right? How much better would the people in Germany have fared if more people had stood up to Hitler’s authority and spoken truth before war was necessary? When one studies history and sees evil about to consume, I would hope something is said to warn those preoccupied with daily living. Sometimes, one has to challenge authority. Sometimes, speaking out is better than waiting until speaking out is a crime. Sometimes tolerating the intolerable is not Christian. And while one person does not have the power to change the world, the thinking of a group of people who would vote such a person into power speaks volumes about the heart of a country. Large groups who turn away from God can damn a country. We all need to be in prayer for discernment and humbleness before God.
    Great reminder to keep checking our hearts to see if we are in alignment with God’s will, though, and to take care in the language we use around our children.

    • Garth

      Thankyou Susanna. In Revelation 2:2, Christ praises the church of Ephesus for _not_ tolerating wicked men. “Tolerance” is not a biblical concept. Love is, but that’s different. It may be tolerant, but it is not loving, to refuse to point out sin so that people can repent of it. Some people would condemn the Lord’s own prophets for being negative when they were preaching exactly what God told them to, that the people were in sin and terrible judgement was coming if they don’t repent. We must also train our children about right and wrong, and very clearly, even if the elephant in the room is that what certain people in authority are doing is wicked.

      • Tara Edelschick

        Garth and Susanna,
        Thanks for writing. and I agree with you both that we should not tolerate hateful, ignorant, or sinful attitudes and behaviors. As I said in the post, “I feel righteous anger about many evils, and I support active responses to those evils.”

        I didn’t use the word “tolerance.” I’m not advocating tolerance. I’m advocating love and respect of human beings. Did something I wrote indicate that I wanted to tolerate wrong?

        • Garth

          I got it from these:
          [quote] or anything that might give them the impression that the two men running were anything but honorable men [/quote]
          and
          [quote] and: 2) All people are made in the image of God. [/quote]
          but because of sin, John 8 and 1 John 3 make it clear that while some are children of God, the rest are children of the Devil, and still need to be transformed and adopted, and until then, they act like their father. Rom5:10 says they are enemies of God (not merely victims of the enemy). God loved us and saved us while we were still enemies, and we are to love our enemies, but we cannot be honoring wickedness.

          and
          [quote] If you find yourself talking about gay couples [...] as though each and every one of them is a dangerous, Godless, unpatriotic liar, check your heart…[/quote]
          1Cor6:10-11 says homosexuals won’t be in heaven; so yes, they are Godless, and they need salvation. We need to teach our kids this biblical truth. The next verse says, “and that is what some of you _were_; but you were washed…” IOW, the Bible confirms that someone can come out of homosexuality.

  • http://www.serenityinthecity.blogspot.com Lisa Schultz

    From someone who is a Christian, who has worked on Capitol Hill for 9 years now–Thank YOU! So many of us need to hear your message over and over again.

  • Thomas

    Ugh . . . I wish you had left off the “yes [I'm voting for Barack Obama], but . . .” detail, because I agree with almost everything you said, but–based on that detail and on a couple of other allusions, I would probably disagree with you about the importance of our vote as self-governing citizens, or rulers of ourselves and our neighbors in this constitutional republic. No, I alone can’t control or determine the public policy enacted in the U.S., but I am responsible to be a good steward of the role I DO have in determining the policy, which is to elect the best people, i.e., people who believe in rule of law, consent of the governed, liberty, and a world view which acknowledges that our rights come from our Creator. But otherwise, I appreciate the exhortation of this article. The wisdom of a public policy is vindicated in the fruit of said policy. I believe that President Obama’s policies have borne exactly the fruit we could expect, and I hope that you will choose not to support four more years of his policies.

    • Tara Edelschick

      Thanks for writing. And I agree with you that we need to be good stewards of the role we have as citizens in a democracy, part of which involves voting for the person we think will best carry out policies in line with our faith. I think the only think we would disagree on is which candidate will do that best.

      But see? You and I just did that in love. Thank you for your exhortation, and the manner in which you did it!

      • Tara Edelschick

        I also want to say that I see the ways in which your candidate is more closely aligned with my beliefs and values than the candidate for whom I will vote. That’s part of what makes these conversations so difficult.

        • Ted Seeber

          And it’s why I’m now damaged to the point where I can’t, in good conscience, vote for either of the two major candidates. I’m torn between writing in Tom Hoefling or voting for Virgil Goode, but I’ll be holding my nose with both of them too over the Latin American Refugee Issue (I am taking up Jose Vargas’s challenge not to refer to any person as “Illegal”- and this is the replacement language I choose for it).

        • Thomas

          Tara, I appreciate your gracious response. Can you articulate why Obama is your choice for president rather than Romney? What are the values and beliefs that you think should be put into law? . . . if you had only not tipped your hand about the presidential race . . .

          • Tara Edelschick

            Thomas, as much as I might like go there, I think this is not the place.

  • http://alyzabethan.blogspot.com/ Alyson

    Thank you so much! Here’s another article I reread along with yours. Excellent! http://um-insight.net/blogs/ben-gosden/ten-things-christians-need-to-remember-this-election

  • jerry lynch

    Thank you for the article. For a number of years now I have been writing and talking with fellow Christians on what, exactly, it means to be “a citizen of heaven.” These are very, er, entertaining now during this hotly contested election, on both sides. More and more I hear, “Don’t be so heavenly-minded that you are no earthly good.” And usually the conversation ends there. Or I am openly accused of being a “lefty” attempting to undermine the conviction of the righteous to fight the growing immorality of this nation. Or my mention of “worldliness” brings an instant charge of being a Gnostic. Few, again on both sides, want to listen. I could see that chaffing at the bridle from one of the commentors here; a magnificent show of restraint, I might add.

    I, like you, must confess that there are moments when a little bad news about the other guy does momentarily tittilate but it is usually followed by a queasiness from my gut. It just doesn’t feel right. Grace, I think. But I go a little further than you as to what it means to be or not to be a “citizen of heaven.” Yet I happily concede this is neither the time nor place to get into that discussion and your beautiful “heart-checklist” is of optimum value during these troubled time; if only more leaders of the church were offering advice like this our children would have a far better chance of becoming true ambassadors of the kingdom instead of political hacks.

  • jerry lynch

    “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world.” (1John2:15)

    “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4).

    Love of country is being of the world. We are to “submit” to the governing authorities out of love of God, not country. The one rule of our living in any nation is “Love of neighbor.” Can we side with the natural advantages of one group over another that comes with political partisanship AND love all our neighbors? We are not to be respecters of persons, meaning no one or no group has our favor due to their position is the world.

    Entanglements! This defines politics. We cannot even begin to guess at what out involvment in politics means in terms of its effect on others and what real interests it backs. We are lured by a return to prayer in schools and the end of abortion only to get, as with Ronald, Astrology from Nancy.

    The Way of Christ is radically different than conventional wisdom and contrary to worldly values. It is seemingly so foolish on the surface that few can accept or act on its deeper, eternal, implications.


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