For the first time in my life I did not vote for a presidential candidate today. Oh, I voted. I voted for all other offices national, state, and local and I voted on all the propositions that overwhelmed the California ballot this year. But I didn’t vote for president. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever not done.
I am not undecided. I am appalled. I am appalled by the dishonest, angry rhetoric of this campaign that has further divided our nation at a time when we need to humble ourselves. I am appalled that both political parties have been corrupted by special interest money that rewards political cronies rather than to champion justice in our society. I am appalled that both campaigns preferred to spread lies about the other than to inspire the citizenry to a higher common good worthy of the place we hold in the world.
And while I have more in common with Bush’s agenda than I do Kerry’s, I found myself grieving President Bush’s arrogance in the face of truth. The fact that he doesn’t seem to learn from past mistakes left me less confident that he should be entrusted with the awesome might of our military and the lives of young people who serve in it. I kept waiting for him to demonstrate some humility and a desire to cooperate with others that speaks of the Father he claims to follow. I never saw it.
I know that risks the wrath of people like Chuck Colson who wrote in his Breakpoint commentary a few days ago: “Voting is not an option for Christians. It’s a biblical duty, because by voting we carry out God’s agency; we are His instruments for appointing leaders.” I’m not so naïve as to think that we are the instruments by which God carries out his purpose in these things, however important I deem voting to be. And I reject his assertion that voting is a biblical duty when it isn’t even mentioned in Scripture. It does say clearlyl that he is the one that raises up rulers and removes them from office. He has already chosen our next president, for whatever reasons best serve his purposes in the earth.
Could Jesus have said it any more clearly than he did to Pilate? “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting…” While I would say Jesus uses our participation as responsible citizens in whatever environment we find ourselves, I think it is a grave misunderstanding to think that we alone are his agency to appoint leaders. Nor should we assume that we can fight with the world’s weapons (including political campaigns) and not end up pressed into the world’s mold.
In the end I could not bring myself to vote for either candidate, or for any of those from the lesser parties. I wasn’t looking for a perfect person but a man worthy of the office to which he aspired. I did not want to merely vote for the one least flawed. So I guess I did vote today. I voted in protest against an election process I found repulsive and against two candidates who acted more like name-calling bullies on a kindergarten playground than statesmen who would put the common good above their own self-interest.
So instead of voting for a candidate I did not respect, I grieved for the state of our nation today and I prayed. I prayed for the eventual winner whomever that might be. (Since the campaigns have amassed $78 million for post-election litigation we may not know who that is for some time if the election stays close.) When our next president is finally elected, I pray God would visit him in the night and reveal himself to that man. I pray he would have the humility of heart to bind up the wounds of this election and not exploit them for political gain. I pray he would walk gracefully before the world and lead our country with wisdom in these difficult days. And I pray he would be a man of compassion and justice for the powerless in our world.