When I took off my journalism hat fourteen years ago, I had no plans to return to the profession. Television news had burned me out at the ripe old age of 25. I fell into college teaching and professional speaking, adopted a child, gave birth to another, and settled into a life I loved.
Last year, a producer I’d worked with during my television days tracked me down and asked me to pick up the mic again – this time as a radio news anchor. Technology allows me to work this job from home, with the occasional field trip. The most recent excursion included a five-day stint in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention (RNC).
People have asked me what it was like to attend the RNC. “Interesting,” “incredible,” “eye-opening” “insightful,” and “weird” are words that come to mind. I interviewed Dr. Ben Carson, sat kitty-corner from Newt Gingrich in a steak house, and maneuvered my way through a gauntlet of police officers at numerous checkpoints throughout the city. I ran into countless familiar faces on media row, chatted with Michigan’s attorney general, and watched the Lieutenant Governor belt out “All Summer Long” at a Blues club. Our team put in time-and-a-half each day and came away both sleep deprived and refreshed.
Perhaps the most meaningful part of my assignment included speaking to Michigan delegates – ordinary people appointed to represent the state as the party named its nominee. They’re teachers, farmers, skilled-trades workers, and professionals. Some have spent years immersed in the political process; others dabbled for the first time that week. Whether it was in a noisy bar, rowdy convention hall, or on the busy sidewalk, I couldn’t escape the message God kept communicating to me loud and clear.
Christianity and modern-day American politics mesh like middle schoolers on a date. They’re awkward together. The discussions surrounding are equally confusing. What once was clear to me in my younger years is now more confusing than ever. How much does God care about American politics? Who is the “right” candidate? Is there one answer to how Christians should vote? How do Christians involve themselves in a political system that’s so obviously broken? How do we discern the facts when we’re drowning in a sea of skewed information? The answers are nuanced, at best.
When questions like this immobilize me, I cling to the one example that provides clarity. Jesus was well aware of the political barometer of his time, but he didn’t put too much stock in its role. Instead, Jesus’ ministry focused on people rather than policy. He reached out to the broken, the outcast, the impoverished, the blind, and the forgotten. Jesus never marginalized people. He ate dinner with “the least of these.” He picked 12 men who to be his closest confidants and partners in his ministry which many dismissed as a ragamuffin group. (When you gather together former tax collectors, blue-collar fishermen, and two privileged brothers who let their mother fight their battles, there are bound to be a few raised eyebrows.)
Since people mattered to Jesus, they must matter to us. Here’s what I’m doing as I try to be a Jesus follower and an informed American citizen.
- Pray for wisdom. Scripture tells us to approach God’s throne with confidence, but how do we pray regarding politics? I am learning to simply ask God to bestow wisdom upon our elected officials, and ask that evil to be undone. This applies to all political parties and all candidates, even the ones I like or dislike, support, or am trying to oust from office. All people matter to God, and he wants to work in their lives too.
- Pray for discernment. The platforms of any political party are built on shifting sand. Therefore, it’s important to know where our security lies. Asking God to clarify candidates’ motives is one place to start. Remember: hope and change touted by a political system seems insignificant when the savior of the world voluntarily paid the price for our sins.
- Engage. Some of my Christian friends are adamant that voting is unnecessary. Others say it’s the utmost importance. Perhaps we can meet somewhere in the middle. Being salt and light is not only possible in the voting booth, but also in our offices, neighborhoods, churches, and family dinner tables. Educating ourselves about current events helps us intellectually engage with our friends and family, clarify questions, and apply a dose of truth in love when needed.
- Listen. We must be brave enough to ask questions and even braver to listen. We don’t have all the right answers, nor do we always have to respond when someone is done talking. Jesus met people where they were, literally and figuratively. We should extend the same courtesy.
- Extend grace. I’ve loved God for more than 30 years. I’ve studied politics and report news for my job. My relationship with God (and American politics) is different than someone who is a new Christian, has followed him for 8 decades, or isn’t as fascinated by the political machine. That’s okay. God’s still working on all of us.
Jesus’ example shows us we should be less concerned with “Making America Great” and more focused on “Thy Will Be Done.” This November, our country will not be saved by a Republican or a Democrat. The world already has a Savior.