A few questions and answers to myself less than 12 hours before the polls open in Illinois.

1) Who are you going to vote for tomorrow? George Bush.

2) Is that big news? No, not really.

3) Have you always voted Republican? No. I voted for the Glen Poshard, the Democratic candidate for Illinois governor in 1998, when he was running against George Ryan. I'm proud of that vote and I wish he had won.

4) What's the first presidential election you can remember? I was 8 years old in 1960 when John Kennedy ran against Richard Nixon. I remember being in a car with other boys from my Cub Scout pack. We were discussing the election. My father was for Nixon so I was for Nixon too.

5) Were you a Goldwater man back in '64? Well, I was 12 years ago and had my mind on other things, but I remember a soft drink labeled "Goldwater." Maybe it was just Coke with "Goldwater" wrapped around it. 

6) You didn't really answer my question. No, I didn't.

7) What about Nixon in '68? I was for Nixon back then. I would have been a sophomore in high school and I definitely had my mind on other things.

8) Did you vote for Nixon in '72? No, I wasn't old enough. The voting age was still 21, and I was only 20.
9) What about Ford in ‘76? I remember that one well because it was my first time to vote in a national election. We were living in Midlothian, Texas at the time, and I remember that they used very long paper ballots. And they were very particular about using a pen or a pencil. I forget which one you had to use, but you couldn't use the other one or your ballot would be discarded.

10) Do you remember anything else about that election? I'm glad you asked. At that time I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary, and I was also serving as the part-time assistant pastor at Midlothian Bible Church. The Sunday before the election, I was asked to deliver the sermon at a small black Baptist church in Midlothian. Before I got up to preach, the pastor exhorted his congregation to go to the polls and vote. He turned to me and said he supposed I was voting for Gerald Ford. I smiled and yes. He said he understood and then told his people to make sure they voted for Jimmy Carter. "Take your friends with you to vote. And if you see them reaching out to vote for Gerald Ford, take their hand and pull it over to the Democratic side," he declared. I wasn't offended. It was his church and they were his people. I'm sure they followed his advice.

11) Reagan and Reagan, I presume? Definitely.

12) What about the first George Bush? Both times.

13) And Dole? Yes.

 14) And George W. Bush in 2000? Yes.

 15) How does the run-up to this election compare to 1992 when Bill Clinton won the first time? I remember feeling devastated when he defeated the first George Bush. Those were discouraging days. I think a lot evangelicals felt that way.

16) Over the years, how much have you said publicly about politics from the pulpit? That's a very good question. I find myself being more open about political issues as the years go by. During my pastorates in California and Texas, I didn't say much about it at all. That has slowly changed during my years in Oak Park (1989-present).  In 2000 I even changed my announced sermon on the Sunday before the election and preached on abortion as a deal-breaker issue for me.

17) Sort of like what some the Catholic bishops have done? The same thing.

18) Do you put political signs in your yard? Until this year I haven't. I always thought it was a private matter and being a pastor, I didn't want to upset some part of the community that I'm trying to reach. Last week we went on a brief trip to Alabama and Mississippi. When I got back, I found that someone had put a Bush-Cheney sign in my yard. I decided to leave it up. You don't see many Bush-Cheney signs in Oak Park.

19) Why leave it up? For two reasons: First, there is a reasonable difference between what I do as a private citizen and what I do as a pastor on Sunday morning. Second, the issues this year are so vital to the future of the nation that I want people to know where I stand.
20) Are you worried about people getting upset with you? No, most people don't care about things like that. After tomorrow it won't matter anyway.

21) Why even mention something like that? I suppose because I realize that I'm becoming more outspoken as the years go by.
22) Do you think this is the most important election in our lifetime? I don't know but I hear people on both sides saying that it is. It's definitely more than the usual party division. It's much more of a cultural war for the heart of the nation.

23) Isn't it a bit overblown to call the current national debate a "cultural war"? No.

24) Do you think it will be catastrophic if John Kerry wins? I wouldn't go that far, but I find myself in profound disagreement with virtually everything he says. And I do think there could be catastrophic consequences in terms of the justices he would appoint to the Supreme Court and his support for abortion and gay rights.

25) How important is it that the president be an evangelical Christian? It's a good thing if he's also a good president. Martin Luther supposedly said he would rather be ruled by a wise Turk than by a foolish Christian. I agree.

26) Do you think George Bush will win tomorrow? Yes, but I don't feel overconfident about it. It's going to close.

27) What will you do if John Kerry wins? Get up and go to work on Wednesday morning. What else can I do? God's work does not depend on having a certain man in the White House. I have an abiding faith in the sovereignty of God. Neither George Bush nor John Kerry can win unless God wills it so. I am certain that the angels in heaven are not wringing their hands over who will win Ohio tomorrow.

28) I think we've about covered everything. Anything else you'd like to add? Make sure you vote tomorrow. That's the most important thing. Remember to take your Christian convictions with you when you vote.

29) Anything else besides that? Fear not. Trust in the Lord. In everything give thanks. Rejoice always. A merry heart doeth good like medicine. Just the usual things, but they really help on the night before the big election.

To sign up for Pastor Ray's free weekly sermon email list, click here. You can find his daily weblog, online sermons, travel schedule, and other resources at www.keepbelieving.com. You can write Pastor Ray at raypritchard@calvarymemorial.com.