I know there’s a lot of election fatigue already setting in.
Be assured: I do not want to rehash anything that has been “hashed” anywhere else. But, as always, I want to comment on what’s going on from the perspective of a Christian parent…for other Christian parents.
One of the most common sentiments I’ve been seeing from those who are disappointed about the outcome of the election is, “What should I tell my kids? How can I explain why this is our next president? What can I tell them about the America they’re growing up in?”
I can’t answer those questions for nonbelievers, but I do think I can identify what the answers should look like for Christians.
No matter who you voted for, here are 10 important things we can and should say to our kids about this—and every—election.
1. We have an amazing privilege to be able to vote.
There are many places in the world where people can’t vote, or where their vote is accepted as a token nod toward democracy while corrupt leaders force the actual decision. We cannot take for granted the fact that we live in a country where we legitimately get to choose our leaders. We may not always like the outcome (see the next point), but we are privileged to cast a real vote.
2. Being part of a democracy means accepting election outcomes graciously.
It’s OK to be upset if the candidate for whom you voted doesn’t win. And it’s OK to feel more than a little upset. Most people feel passionately about the issues that divide candidates in an election, and especially this year. We should never feel that we can’t express those feelings…in a gracious way. But the privilege of voting implies that the vote may not go the way you want. When it doesn’t, we need to be able to accept that outcome without personally attacking those who voted differently.
3. People choose to vote for a given candidate for many different reasons—sometimes it’s one very specific issue, other times it’s a combination of many factors—so we shouldn’t make assumptions about the reasonableness, intelligence, lovingness, thoughtfulness, etc., of people just because they voted differently than us.
My dear grandma grew up extremely poor in rural Missouri. Her dad would hunt for squirrels in the woods, hoping they would have something for dinner. They suffered quite a lot and there was often little food. Eventually, New Deal programs gave her father some work and things got better for the first time. She always told me she would never, ever vote for anyone other than a Democrat because Democratic policies changed her life—when, as she would say, “Republicans did nothing.”
Meanwhile, I know several small business owners who have been very negatively impacted (to the point of going out of business) by recent changes to health care policy. These business owners are seeing their livelihoods threatened by a specific policy that most Democrats support and most Republicans oppose. The issue is top of mind for them, and they feel as strongly as my grandma did about whom they will and will not vote for—just with the opposite conclusion.
To label people based on their vote is overwhelmingly simplistic. If we feel passionately about a candidate, and if we find that we just can’t understand where someone with the opposite view point is coming from, ask them. Seek understanding. Then apply that understanding by acting with empathy toward those with whom you disagree.
4. It can be tempting to make light of what you don’t appreciate about those with another viewpoint, but that only serves to fan the flames of resentment rather than build bridges of understanding.
There are all kinds of pictures being shared on social media right now showing empty streets with a caption such as, “This is what the riots looked like after Obama won.” Obviously, that’s a dig at all of those who are protesting Trump’s victory.
Even if something like this is true, it does little to build bridges of understanding. It’s simply making a point, not making a difference. That’s an important distinction. Points that don’t lead to difference-making simply build resentment.
5. It’s incredibly important to be an informed voter…don’t believe everything you hear or read.
A news story started going viral last week about how an FBI agent “suspected in Hillary email leaks” was found dead in apparent murder-suicide. The suggestion, of course, was that Clinton or someone in her circle was responsible for it. The story was on a reputable looking and sounding site called The Denver Guardian. It turns out it was a totally fake story designed to spread a negative rumor before the election. But I saw all kinds of people share it without investigation. Likewise, all kinds of stories with inaccuracies have been shared about Trump.
As people with the privilege of voting, we also have the responsibility to make an informed vote. Always look at the source of data, ask what motivation a person had for writing about the data, learn to spot logical fallacies, and ask yourself why there’s good reason to accept or disregard any given piece of information.
6. A person’s worldview, with respect to his or her beliefs about God’s existence, may or may not make a difference in the way he or she votes.
Research shows that the number of those who identify as Christians is decreasing in America, while the number of those who identify as atheists, agnostics, and “nothing in particular” is increasing. Interestingly, many of those who believe in “nothing in particular” still believe in some notion of God—they just reject revealed religion. If a person’s belief in God is untethered to any revelation by that God to tell us of His character and His directives for us as His created beings, then the sky’s the limit on how a person might act on such a belief.
If you want to consider your political viewpoint in light of a Christian worldview (and you should), you specifically need to consider it in light of the Bible (read on).
7. A person’s worldview, with respect to his or her beliefs about the reliability of the Bible, often makes a difference in the way he or she votes.
Amongst those who accept the Bible as their highest authority, there are certain things that the vast majority will agree on. For example, the Bible states that humans are made in the image of God. Most Christians believe that rules out the moral acceptability of abortion—unborn humans are still humans, and are therefore equally valuable as image-bearers.
On some issues the Bible doesn’t comment directly, but most Christians come to the same conclusion about them based on scriptures that are relevant to the question. A high-profile example of that right now is the question of transgender identity and related laws.
On other issues, the Bible is silent and Christians disagree over conclusions. The moral acceptability of infertility treatments is one example.
The fact that Bible-believing Christians agree on many political conclusions for these reasons does not mean that they will all necessarily affiliate with the same political party. There’s no Jesus party, so no party will perfectly correlate with Christian beliefs. Christians overwhelmingly tend to vote Republican because that party more often aligns with important Christian beliefs, but Christians should never suggest that someone who belongs to a different party is not a Christian because of it.
(Since our kids’ beliefs about the authority of the Bible does fundamentally alter their worldview, be sure you’re teaching them how we know it’s reliable. For help with those conversations, see chapters 25-32 of my book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side.)
8. Much of the time, people cannot come to agreement on political issues because they’re not in agreement on worldview.
If a person is an atheist, and believes that human life is nothing more than atoms that have come together via blind evolutionary forces, it follows that he or she is going to have very different views than Christians on issues that touch on the value of life. This is, at root, a worldview conflict, not a political conflict. As much as we might want to see political change in society, it’s unrealistic in many cases to think that will come about simply at the political level. Worldviews anchor political views.
9. You should welcome the opportunity to get involved with politics as a Christian—don’t believe the slogan that you shouldn’t legislate morality.
When it comes to moral issues, someone’s morality is always legislated. It’s either a prohibitive law (legislating the morality of those who oppose the action) or an approving law (legislating the morality of those who accept the action). We should unhesitantly use our votes to reflect biblical values and stand up for what is right in God’s eyes.
10. As a Christian, you represent Christ…at election time and always.
I try to keep this in mind daily. It’s so important. Our secular society has a very negative view of Christians right now—for both legitimate and illegitimate reasons. It’s up to each and every one of us to remember that we represent Christ to the nonbelievers in our lives and to act accordingly. One very negative interaction with a Christian can paint how a nonbeliever sees Christianity for a lifetime.
We’ll all mess up, of course, because we’re not Christ. But when we do, we should accept responsibility for those actions, apologize to those whom we’ve impacted, and continue to share the perfect Jesus who lived the life we cannot.
Let’s take that very, very seriously.