In 2004 I went door-to-door for George W. Bush, certain he was the better option for president. I loved that guy and believed he stood for everything I believed in, that he represented me and my interests, that he was the best man for the job. I was 22 and knew only my healthy, safe, rural upbringing, buoyed by my college education in creative writing, English and religion. Brandon and I were near poverty-line poor working in private Christian schools but had access to credit cards that kept increasing our limits when we almost reached their maximums, so we bought Starbucks coffee and ordered Quiznos for lunch, spent beyond our means and earned negative equity on traded-in cars.
That was 12 years ago. In that time we’ve moved, had babies, increased our income levels, paid taxes, attempted to control our spending habits, pursued some dreams and abandoned others, made stupid decisions and learned from them. We have met new people and encountered people who are different than us, some we have loved and others we have not understood. I have heard differing viewpoints that had never been voiced to me before from people I had never known beyond their stereotypes. I have listened to friends with different religious beliefs and political leanings explain why they believe a certain way and I have shared my view with them.
It is not by flimsy or casual crossing of the aisle that I have arrived where I am today, with the opinions I have today, with the faith I have today. When circumstances present themselves that are new to me I have tried to remain open to all possibilities, even and especially the possibility that my current standing opinion is wrong.
And so with this election season I have held in my hand the possibilities and what I know to be true. I am, first and foremost, a follower of Christ, and as a follower of Christ I try to match my behaviors to the words of Jesus.
I try to apply the words of Jesus liberally, not just to my interests (do unto others), but ever more broadly, remembering that it is all people who are children of God, and to measure the integrity of candidates and policies beyond the tagline, the slogan, the emotional roar, and the panic.
I try to apply the words of the Bible liberally, remembering that love is the firstfruits of the Holy Spirit, followed by a whole host of compassionate virtues including peace, patience, and kindness, virtues I attempt to practice publicly and privately.
I try to apply the words of the Bible universally, remembering that knowledge is not anti-God but God-given, that I should test my emotional responses with rational thought and thorough investigation, that I should remain open to the possibility that I do not know all things, that maybe I am wrong, or partly right, or right once but now the facts have changed and I should reevaluate my position, trusting that my world will not crumble if my world’s core value remains rooted in Love.
I try to apply the words of Jesus humbly, as sly as the serpent and as innocent as the lamb, with authority while surrendering authority to the Lord I have chosen to follow, above country, with the same love and compassion Jesus extended to every human he encountered here on earth.
I resist the either-or, black-and-white, with us or against us rhetoric because it is not true to the human experience and it is against the very nature of God represented in Jesus, who when presented with an either-or question always proposed a third way– it is neither this nor that but this other thing that should direct your steps, and that other thing is always directed by Love.
It is that Love, that impulse to see not only my interests but the interests of others, that guides my footsteps, away from hate and toward love, away from fear and toward faith, away from rage and toward mercy, away from power and toward service, away from might and toward righteousness, away from ignorance and toward truth.
I have not always gotten it right. I will not always get it right. But we must, as people of God, educate ourselves on issues, read the actual words of Jesus, and see the world beyond our immediate backyards into the spaces where the widows and orphans (and immigrants, and marginalized, and minority, and “other”) are trying to survive. How will our vote, our chosen leader, our policies affect not just us but them? Will our positions further divide or unite? Will we be a people of “we” rather than a people of “us” vs. “them”?
Cross borders. Read books by people other than your skin color or gender. Unearth and revisit what it is that Jesus actually says instead of assuming you know already. Test your faith. Discover the colorful tapestry of human experience that is this nation and this world and then see how the potential leaders of this nation will damage or preserve or challenge that tapestry.
Find trust. Find compassion. Find love. Find hope. It is there that the kingdom of heaven is made known.
Dare to be a swing voter, swayed not by political slogan and fear but by slow consideration, steady and prayerful investigation, broadening of perspective and steadfast pursuit of truth.
And the truth shall set you free. It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.
You shall be free indeed.