If I had to vote today...

If I had to vote today...

How am I going to vote?  Or more accurately, what is going through my head right now as I consider the choice that lays ahead?  This post is just as much for me (maybe more) than for anyone else who reads it.  I’ve got a lot going through my head – many questions, conflicts, weighing values, beliefs vs. practicality, how does my faith impact how I vote, etc.

There’s the argument that if such-and-such candidate gets in, we’re screwed.  So that out of fear, we had better vote for the other candidate.  That’s hardly a compelling reason to vote for someone – actually it’s a pretty crappy reason and doesn’t say much about the candidate.

There’s the idea that we are stuck with this choice, so I better get on board with it and vote between these two.  One of them is going to win and a vote for candidate x is really a vote for candidate y.  (PS – that’s such BS logic, don’t ever tell me that to my face, unless you want to see how red it can get).

There’s the question of what is the foundation of how I vote – do I vote for the candidate I think if the best person for the job or do I just vote for the lesser of two evils and hope for the best – assuming one can determine which is the lesser of two evils.

We, or maybe it’s just me, face these questions and more every single election cycle.

It comes down to a question of whether we vote based on our ideals and what we claim we believe or is our voting based on something else.  Elections, especially like the one we face this year, put us in the uncomfortable situation of looking in the mirror and asking difficult questions – what do I really believe?  When it comes down to it, what is it that will drive my decision making?  We’d rather not have to face these questions.  They force us to make decisions – to put up or shut up.

My ideal is that I will not vote for the lesser of two evils – it’s still voting for evil.  The practical situation is that one of these two individuals will be elected because most people accept that this the choice they have.  We often talk about holding up our ideals and moving towards them, but really, we mean that in terms of living out our beliefs and ideals when there is an opportune time to live them out.  When it’s not opportune, what happens to our beliefs?  Often they get put aside for deeper held convictions that really determine what we choose.  And often, those beliefs are rather ugly looking – which is why we try to ignore them or hide them most of the time.

And so we have to face this.  Do we really believe what we claim to believe?  Are we willing to carry out that belief, especially when the circumstances are less than ideal, or far worse?  What are we willing to fall on the sword for?  Anything ultimately?  Or is survival the highest value we have?  Would we trade in everything else we had, just to stay alive?  That’s an extreme end question, but still an important question to ponder.

So here’s where I sit right now, about one month before the 2016 US presidential election.  I say that I will not vote for the lesser of two evils.  Instead I will vote for the person who I think is best for the job.  What happens when that person isn’t on the ballot though?  This is not a good or opportune time for my ideals.  So, what will I do – cast my beliefs aside in order to gain a little bit of security, social acceptability, feel like my vote was worth something, and tell myself that I participated in the established system?

Yet, here I am wondering, when will there be an opportune time to vote the way my ideals and beliefs tell me I should vote?  The answer is never.  Because life is messy and every situation involves people and that makes it messier still.

This is true for voting and it’s also true for what we claim about our Christian faith as well.  We aren’t called to follow Jesus when it’s an opportune time and all is well.  We aren’t called to follow Jesus when we have our shit together, or we finally have the perfect job, or our family is floating along just fine, or our kids are doing well in school and socially, or when we are healthy, or when we have enough money, or when we finish some important assignments, or … No. those are all excuses to delay in following Jesus.

Every time Jesus calls out to someone to follow him in the bible, the statement isn’t: “Follow me when…” No it’s “follow me.”  As in right now.  As you are.  Whatever you are wearing.  Whatever your situation in life.  No matter what else is going on in your life.

The world we live in is broken – it is far from ideal.  That’s about as good of a definition of sin that I can think of.

We aren’t called to fit into a system where we make a choice between extremely flawed ideologies, political parties, politicians, etc.  We are called to set the whole thing aside and implement something completely different.

People like to ask “What Would Jesus Do?” Would Jesus vote for emperor A or emperor B if he had the choice presented to him?  Neither.  Jesus began to implement a new system of government completely different from the false options that were given – He worked on implementing the kingdom of God which holds far different values and concerns than the values and concerns of human politics.  And he did it at a time that was less than ideal.

Instead of waiting for the perfect time to follow what I claim I believe, now is the time to do just that.  It is the perfect time.  If my ideals are worth anything, they should be worth the most in the worst of times, right?  Ideals and beliefs about the world are meant to guide our lives in times of trouble.

So here I am – I wonder, will I reject the options offered to me because I see they aren’t options at all?  Will I follow what I believe?  Or will I bite the bullet, put what I claim to believe, on the shelf, for a more opportune time?  If I do that, than I shouldn’t pick those ideals back up again – they were worthless to me in the time that I needed them most.

I’ll be voting in this election.  Voting for the winning candidate has never been a concern for me.  Over the last several election cycles, the people I have voted for have never won – mostly because I have written in the names of people I believe would do the best job.

I know this much, if all we do is complain about a broken system and then turn around and continue to choose the options that are given, do we really have a right to complain at all?  Aren’t we just legitimizing a broken system each time we choose one of the options given?  When will this change?  When the time is right and everything is going well?  When would that be?  The next election – When one of these two candidates is up for re-election against an equally terrible option?  Or will that be another time that we have to set down our grievances yet again in order to swallow our beliefs and values and give more legitimacy to a broken system?  Why do we continue to accept and legitimize a seriously flawed system?  Why don’t we just start, where we are, living out a new way?  Maybe it’s too costly.  Maybe we don’t know what that would look like.  Maybe there is comfort in familiarity, even when that normal if harmful to us.

These are the questions I struggle with in regards to this election and really in the broader sphere of life.  As of right now, I know how I’m voting.  But the real test will be on Election Day, in the voting booth.  When push comes to shove, will I be true to the ideals and beliefs I hold dear, or will I have to look at myself in the mirror and tell myself that I have been full of it all along?  Will I be true to what I claim, or will I be a fraud who is more concerned with comfort and survival than anything else?  Will the ends justify the means or is the process of equal importance?  We’ll see.  Election day is coming.  I dread the real choice that I am about to make – the choice of who I really am based on how I vote.

Published by Matthew Best

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