I have a policy. I will happily discuss politics and political candidates as a private citizen, but I will not do so from the pulpit, as pastor. What I am about to say, therefore, are my thoughts. As Paul told the Corinthians, “I (not the Lord) say…”

That said, I have deliberately limited my remarks, particularly on social media, about the current election cycle because I believe the current campaign season has reached a mudstorm of unprecedented proportions. In fact, I am fairly convinced that we moved on from mud to slinging manure some months ago.

At least, that’s what it smells like.

And the worst part of it, to me, is that prominent members of the Church of Jesus Christ are right in the middle of that storm. We are slinging mud at the candidates, at people who don’t agree with us, and even at each other. And because we’re in the middle of it, a very good portion of the manure that’s being slung is actually landing on and sticking to us.

The reputation of the Church in America has been sullied tremendously during this campaign season, and that says something. We did not enjoy a great reputation prior to this season, and for cause.

As an example of this, for nearly forty years, we have touted abortion as the singular political issue of import, but in doing so, we have voted for candidates who said the right things but did nothing. For example, in 2000, one of the major parties advanced the notion of a culture of life, but even when that same party dominated all three houses of Washington and public support for abortion waned, they did nothing. Worse, the various scandals and failures of those the Church has supported have compelled our neighbors to have legitimate questions. At the very least, they have questioned our discernment. At worst, they have questioned our character.

They have dismissed as impotent, irrelevant, and hypocritical the Church that supports candidates who have proven themselves the same.

But it gets worse. Time and again, we have consistently allowed others to control the rhetoric of our national conversation. While they hijack words like freedom and choice and love, we shout angrily and act heinously.

As bad as these things have been in the past, however, this current election cycle has made them several orders of magnitude worse. On the one side, we have prominent leaders endorsing Donald Trump, who shouts angrily and acts heinously. We have others who, unable to swallow Trump’s poison pill, have thrown their weight behind Hillary Clinton. Say what you will about her integrity and such, she stands on a platform built against several key Scriptural principles and precepts.

Even so, the thing which saddens me most is that the Church has had its chance. Even the staunchest supporters of each political party admit that their flagship candidates have massive flaws. Instead of focusing substantively on matters of real import – the protection of our most basic freedoms, the sanctity of all human life, the preservation of the nuclear family, national security, immigration reform, the global refugee crisis, poverty in our own nation and abroad, mental healthcare, restorative criminal justice, and more – the single largest plank in both parties’ platforms is “We’re not them!” The result of our culture’s selfishness and depravity is on display for all to see as this election cycle has devolved into more of a coliseum than a campaign.

And the American people know it.

In an election which has generated more cynicism than any other cycle in recent memory, the Church had an opportunity to stand as a beacon of hope. We could have preached good news to the poor, proclaimed freedom to those held captive by the bonds of sin, recovery of sight to those blinded to the things of God. We could have set free those oppressed by the political machine and proclaimed this the year of the Lord’s favor. We could have offered our neighbors a clear alternative to the earthly values and methods which have delivered us into this sorry state.

Instead, we have waded into the middle of the vitriolic cesspool and jumped into bed with candidates this world has advanced, all in the hope that we may be able to get something – anything! – from the mess. Writing on his blog the other day, my friend Josh McNall equated this to prostitution. Indeed, the Church has become the whore of the political machine rather than the prophetic witness is was designed to be (source: https://joshuamcnall.com/2016/10/10/why-id-rather-lose-my-religious-liberty-than-vote-for-donald-trump/)

The Bible speaks a great deal about prostitution, a fact which I am certain was on McNall’s mind as he wrote. In fact, Scripture uses prostitution as an illustration for idolatry. Sadly, I think that is exactly what we have seen in the Church of Jesus Christ in America in these days: idolatry. Oh, we still sing for God to bless America. We will still proclaim, “In God we trust.” But like Israel of the Old Testament, our god has become our own appetite, and like Israel of the New Testament, we are looking for a savior to emerge from the political machine.

It’s time for the Church to become more like Jeremiah, who chastised the king and court for its ungodliness; like Elijah, who dared the gods of this world to compare themselves to the Most High; like Ezekiel, who utterly rejected the conventions of his culture. We must become like John the Baptist, who realized that the hope of Israel was not in Jerusalem and its worldly, political powers.

The Church must sound the clarion call to repent. We must winsomely pronounce the word and way of the Lord and refuse to compromise our standard in the name of political expediency. We must be that beacon of hope and holiness which draws people out of the political mire.

Do not, however, misunderstand me. Jeremiah, Elijah, Ezekiel, and John the Baptist did not remove themselves from the political arena. Instead, they engaged it as directly as they possibly could. Jeremiah routinely held audience with the king, and Elijah called out the king, queen, and all their prophets of Baal. Ezekiel tenaciously critiqued the priests, who held de facto authority in the refugee camps of exiles in Babylon, and John hailed Pharisees, Sadducees, and other influencers who came to him from Jerusalem as a “brood of vipers!”

No, drawing people out of the political mire does not mean disengaging from the political arena. It means engaging it differently than we have before. What does that look like?

First, it means recognizing that the Church already has a Savior, and His name is neither Donald nor Hillary. Our hope is not founded on who occupies the oval office or the Congress. We must stop whimpering about the sky falling if one of these candidates gets elected and start acting like people who have an unshakeable hope in the immutably sovereign Most High.

Second, it means realizing that our Savior does not identify with a donkey or conduct Himself as its colloquial equivalent. Nor does He associate with a pachyderm known for its thick skin. Instead, He calls us to be meek, gentle, selfless, and full of hope.  He expects us to be holy, wholly set apart from sin. He demands that we be circumcised of heart, tender and sensitive to His leading and the needs of those around us. In short, we must not continue the angry-preacher-spouting-condemnation-while-pounding-the-Bible-on-the-pulpit routine. Instead, we must recognize that the root of preaching is persuasion, and the biggest tool that Jesus and His disciples used to persuade was their actions. Jesus preached daily, but only rarely from anything remotely like a traditional pulpit. He didn’t even have a big black Bible to pound. He invited Peter and co. to follow Him. He asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water. He didn’t yell after those who decided not to agree with Him. And He went silently to the cross. We must ensure our attitudes and actions are consistent with that of the Savior we claim to follow. (I know this is tough when we’re right and “they’re” wrong, but Jesus was the right-est Person ever, and He was never a jerk about it!)

Third, we must focus on holiness. The Bible is pretty clear on this. While neither “Republican” nor “Democrat” appears even once in Scripture, the author to the Hebrews says, “Pursue… holiness – without it no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14, HCSB). (By the way, that same verse says we should “pursue peace with everyone.” That’s a far cry from what we’ve got now!) Neither political party comes close to having a monopoly on holiness, the one thing that God requires. The Church, however, must. What does that mean? Two things: stop equating one political party and their platform with holiness, and start calling people to real, biblical, life-transforming holiness characterized by an all-consuming love for God and man. Call out the issues the Bible identifies as important, define your stance on those issues based on Scripture, and refuse to endorse any candidate or party who doesn’t do the same.

And finally, we must engage the political system from an entirely different angle than ever before. In the Bible, common people had little to no say in the government. They would be ruled by a king who was either born into power or seized authority by force. For them, the most they could do was to pray for the kings and authorities over them, that God’s people would be able to “lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2), and that was actually a tall order. With the advent of democracy, though, the people were invited to participate in the government. We, therefore, must embrace principles such as Deuternomony 16:18-20; 17:14-20; 1 Timothy 3; and Titus 2; etc. The problem is that, instead of taking a proactive role in choosing our next leaders, we have resigned ourselves to choose from whoever the leading political parties advance as options. But the political parties do not care about principles. They exist for one reason only: political power. And they will do whatever they must to maintain that power. As long as we are resigned to choose from whoever they nominate, though, we are sending the message that they have only to field a candidate who is better than the alternative. Thus, we end up with campaigns where both parties spend more time talking about how terrible the other person is and giving only lip service to the actual issues of the day. How do we change that?

We vote for someone else.

Now, I am not advocating that you vote for Gary Johnson, the only other candidate on the ballot in all fifty states. I do not believe that his positions mesh with Scriptural mandate any more than the Democrats’ or Republicans’. Nor am I advocating for revolution. I don’t think we should launch a civil war to replace the government or anything like that.

However, I would submit to you that, in the absence of any truly godly candidates, we in the Church most write-in someone else. Who? Well, I do have a suggestion, but she has not officially agreed to campaign. Therefore, I will simply say: vote for someone godly.

Of course, some would remind me that it is highly unlikely that this strategy will land a candidate in the White House. To these, I would concede: they are right. This strategy, in all likelihood, will not result in an election-night victory party, but that is not necessarily the objective. Our goal, rather, will be to convey the message that we will no longer be content to vote for whoever the political parties advance and the warning that, if the parties will not advance godly candidates truly standing for godly issues, it will take only a little organization to unseat them from their thrones. And how much more clear could that message be if a substantial portion of Americans effectively votes “None of the above.”

Others would assert that writing in a candidate is either throwing away a vote or handing the election to the other team. To these, I would say that the banner over the Church bears neither an elephant nor a donkey, but the Lamb. Technically, both Republicans and Democrats are “the other team.” They are to the Church the equivalent of the Egyptians and Assyrians. The Israelites ran to these earthly powers when they doubted God’s sufficiency, even though God warned His people to avoid them like the plague. The Church must not align itself to them, but it absolutely must expect them to align themselves with us!

Now, I recognize that there are nine states that do not allow write-in votes. To people in these states, I would say this: start working now to change the laws in your state so that, by the next election, write-ins are allowed. And in the meantime, I would recommend that the best you can do is vote as the Spirit leads.

There is a leadership maxim that states that, if you keep doing things you always have, you’ll keep getting the things you’ve always got. I would submit that we have reached that point in the Church: if we keep voting for a Republican or Democrat just because they’re the ones on the ballot, we will continue on the downward spiral which we have seen over the last several election cycles. It’s time for the Church to stop being a pawn in the world’s political machine and start working for change.


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