So another presidential campaign season is upon us and Christians are engaged at all levels and on both sides of most debates. As a recovering political junkie, I realize how easily my time, my energy, my attitudes can get sucked into the life force of presidential politics. So here are a few attitudes that we might consider as we engage:
1) An Attitude of Prayerfulness for the Politicians (1 Timothy 2:2)
This is hardest to do and least obeyed command when it comes to our political leaders. Its easier to fire off a nasty email/tweet/Facebook post/blog instead of actually committing to daily prayer for our leaders, whether we agree with them or not. I must admit that I'm consistently having to repent of this disobedience.
We should pray for President Obama and his wife and children during a grueling season. We should pray for the Republican opponent and his family during a grueling season. We should pray for congressmen and governors and mayors and local school board officials, etc. And we should not just pray with a grudging "These guys are idiots, boy do they need prayer" mentality, but genuinely pray with concern for their well-being.
2) An Attitude of Humility (James 4:6)
Politics feeds sharp debate among people who disagree on issues. These are deeply held beliefs. On certain issues, we feel, genuinely, that we are right and must stand up. But we can and should do that with humility. We're not right on every single argument. We don't know everything. Despite how we talk, we probably wouldn't do better than the guys in office. We're sinners like they are. And God loves them as much as He loves us. So as we engage, let's try to avoid the kind of chest-beating rhetoric that tempts those who seek power.
3) An Attitude of Faith (2 Timothy 1:7)
Let's be honest. Much of what drives elections is fear. Both sides gin up fear about the other side. All you have to do is read some of the mailers you get: "Did you know that my opponent was in favor of ___ or was supported by ___ or hangs out with ___? Vote for me. I don't do that." Politics is not so much about the good qualities of the candidate, its about "driving up the negatives" of the other guy. Fear also drives much of the programming on cable news programs and talk radio.
That's not to belittle or dismiss the real fears we might have. There is evil in the world. There are concerns about our nation and about the world. But Christians can't and shouldn't be driven by fear, but by confidence in the sovereignty of God. Christians should live with an eye to the next world, Heaven. That doesn't mean we should ignore injustice or do nothing, but we shouldn't be driven by fear, but by mission.
4) An Attitude of Love (Ephesians 4:15)
It's all too tempting to engage politics and check our Christianity at the door. We justify snarkiness and insults and half-truths and gossip about folks with whom we disagree. We justify it because "we're on the right side." But even if we are on the right side of an issue, that doesn't give us the right to treat our enemies with disdain. I'm amazed at the stuff Christians post on Facebook about people with whom they disagree. This isn't right. We can be stand firm in our beliefs and still show respect. Jesus's ministry was all about the balance of grace and truth (John 1:14). In fact, I think we gain an audience when we demonstrate clear, logical, fair, reasoned arguments, rather than falling prey to the nasty rhetoric that passes for political dialogue these days.
5) An Attitude of Justice
What should drive our political engagement is the mission of God. This means we should be discerning about issues we engage, rather than accepting the entire matrix of issues offered by "our side." Christians should fight for justice, whether that's defending the unborn, defending the poor, defending righteousness. We may differ on solutions, etc., but we should be more engaged in issues than personalities. Sometimes we approach politics like we do American Idol. We grew to love our favorite personality and defend them to the death, at the expense of the issues. Or we oppose a politician to the death, dismissing the areas where they may be good on some issues. Perhaps Christians should take a more a la carte approach, speaking out on a few important issues and voting accordingly.
In Summary: Above all, Christians must first remember that they are Christians, that even in the rough-and-tumble arena of politics, we represent Christ.