We are quickly approaching that season where churches across the nation will begin handing out voters’ guides to sway their flock to vote for the candidates that best suit that church’s predetermined political agenda. The constitutionality of such voting guides is highly questionable given the fact that churches enjoy tax-free status and thus should probably stay out of the political game due to the Establishment Clause. But we all know what goes on and if you’ve been a part of many churches, you’ve probably received such voting guides. It’s been my experience with such church sponsored voting guides that only the most conservative candidates get the endorsement of the church. Consequently, many Christians feel pressured to vote for people who seem to come up short in the category of love and empathy. With that in mind, I decided I would create a voting guide for compassionate Christians. Without endorsing any particular candidate, I will simply stick to some major hot-button issues and advise compassionate Christians as to how they can use their votes to support love and empathy, regardless of the political party affiliation of any particular candidate.
This is a sticky issue. I’ve always owned guns myself, still do. I’ve always supported the 2nd Amendment, still do. However, there comes a time for common sense to rule the day. We clearly have a gun problem in the nation. Conservative Christians are quick to spin that fact. They prefer to focus on the problem as a mental health or a “heart” problem. That is certainly at play and I’m not going to sit here and deny that our ability to identify and treat those who might become prone to take automatic or semi-automatic weapons and fire them into large crowds of people needs to improve. But so does our ability to keep the guns out of such people’s hands in the first place. Yet, the current president undid legislation that made it more difficult for the mentally ill to buy guns. I don’t understand the logic behind that, or the people who support it. A compassionate Christian has as much right to own a gun as anyone, but how should they vote when it comes to gun control? I suggest they should look for common sense in a candidate. If a candidate gets a raving endorsement from the NRA, for instance, that should be a red flag. That organization has become nothing more than a propaganda machine that sells fear and paranoia that any limitation on gun ownership will lead to mass governmental gun grabs and total bans. That’s nonsense and compassion can’t even breath in that environment. A compassionate Christian should look for candidates who are willing to sit down and talk common sense change.
We have too many undocumented immigrants in America. That problem can’t be denied. So what is a compassionate Christian supposed to do about it? There is a lot of blustery talk about building a wall. There are viral videos emerging on social media daily showing hateful people shouting down folks who look “too foreign” and threatening to call ICE on them. Families are being split up all across the country as humans are hunted down and removed from the country. All of this should make a compassionate Christian extremely uneasy. What’s the answer? We need to look at the disease instead of the symptoms. All those undocumented immigrants are symptoms of a huge problem in the basic process. It simply takes way too long for people to be processed through the system legally. One study shows that nearly half of those immigrants waiting to enter the U.S. legally from Mexico and the Philippines, for example, must wait 20 years. It doesn’t take a super-human level of compassion to understand why a dad in Mexico wanting to be reunited with his family in the U.S. doesn’t want to wait 20 years to do so. So, compassionate Christian, look for candidates who are talking about fixing that problem and run from the ones who simply spout off about building a wall.
Candidates know that talking about tax cuts is a proven method to win votes. The “term tax” cuts sounds nice, doesn’t it? Allowing people to keep more of what they earn sounds compassionate, but what does it really mean? It means that less money is going to be spent on something–which also sounds nice–but what gets cut? That’s where a compassionate Christian needs to dig deeper. If a candidate is proposing cutting funds that help those in need while increasing the spending on things like the military–which is quickly approaching the $1 trillion mark–is that really compassionate? A compassionate Christian should look beyond the phrase “tax cut” and look at what’s being cut before they make a decision.ENVIRONMENT
A compassionate Christian should be concerned about our planet. We are called to be good stewards of the earth. Yet, many of the candidates your churches will be promoting support policies which can have devastating consequences to the environment. Our current president seems to be aggressively doing everything in his power to roll back every environmental protection safeguard he can get his hands on. Even the restrictions on deadly asbestos have been eased. Where is compassion to be found in such policies? Compassionate Christians should look for candidates who talk about common sense measures to protect our environment for future generations.
This can be a tough issue for a lot of Christians, I get it. I’m not here to sway you on whether or not homosexuality is a sin because I realize that is an unwinnable debate–whatever you believe about that is probably so entrenched in you that it’s not going to change. What I can try to impress upon you is the fact that conservative Christianity seems to single out that “sin”–a very unbiblical practice–and use it to strip away the rights of citizens of this country. Whether or not you consider homosexuality a sin is immaterial to the argument with regard to whether your voting pattern is compassionate. The fact is, America offers equal rights to all citizens, regardless of religious belief or sexual orientation–in that regard, the Constitution is much more compassionate than the conservative Christian stance. A compassionate Christian would do well to keep that in mind when they are looking at candidates.
NATIONAL ANTHEM PROTESTS
This simply shouldn’t be an election issue, but you know it will be. There is nothing written anywhere that says it is law that an American stand for the National Anthem–that should end the conversation right there. However, the current president has made it an issue because he knows his conservative Christian support base loves to get worked up about it. It also has the side-benefit of deflecting some of the heat from him. In calling for boycotts of the NFL because a few players are choosing to respectfully demonstrate out of grave concern for what they feel is a wide-spread injustice–it makes little difference, by the way, whether you think it’s an injustice or not, they certainly do and empathy dictates we honor that–conservative Christians are throwing compassion right out of the window. I see none of them willing to address the deeply felt concerns of millions of hurting, frightened, and marginalized people. If a compassionate Christian gets a whiff of this kind of anti-protest stance from a candidate in the coming election, that’s probably a person who doesn’t warrant your consideration.
I saved the toughest one for last. Abortion is, without doubt, the issue that is the biggest deal-breaker for many conservative Christian voters. I understand and empathize with the reasons. The thought of terminating any pregnancy is horrifying. Here is where things get really complicated. Compassionate Christian, if you feel hesitant to vote for anyone who is labeled as pro-choice, I understand that. I can’t tell you what to think, all I can do is tell you how I arrived where I am on this issue. I stopped buying into the propaganda from the right that being pro-choice is the same thing as being pro-abortion. I hate abortion. Everyone I know does, whether they be conservative or liberal. Being pro-choice does not mean you have to be pro-abortion. It just means that you understand and accept that there are circumstances we can never fully know or understand that make it necessary for some women to make that awful choice. Being a pro-choice, compassionate Christian just means that we leave that decision between the woman, her family, her doctor, and God. I’ve come to peace with the understanding that allowing that choice is ultimately compassionate. I can never know what a woman is going through as she makes that decision but I can be compassionate and pray that she finds peace through the process. I can’t make your decision for you, compassionate Christian, but I can tell you that taking this issue out of your voting equation will free you from feeling pressured to vote for candidates that support other policies that are devoid of compassion in many other areas of life.
So, there you have it, my voting guide for compassionate Christians. I hope you’ll consider these tips along with the ones your church might give you.