My Vote

I sent in my absentee ballot today. Beth and I will be gone on election day so I wanted to make sure my voice was heard. I have voted in every primary and general election since Nov. of '92 and I wasn't about to miss one now.

I was raised to believe, maybe not by my parents but by society, that if you were a Christian, you voted Republican. The church I grew up in would have pamphlets each election time you could "pick up" stating who you should vote for and why. I would take that into the voting box with me and vote away. That was 14 years and several elections ago. I've since come to the conclusion that God may not be a Republican. I found a great article back in 2000 from a guy who was feeling the same way I was. the following may be his words but they are eerily close to my thoughts:

"I've always assumed that if you are a Christian, you vote Republican. I thought Democrats were inherently evil--a party of atheist, pro-choice liberals who wanted to crush Christianity. No one ever told me this directly, but I've picked it up from pulpits, articles, and Christian rhetoric.

The plethora of George W. Bush signs on my Christian college campus seems to be reinforcing my childhood misconception--not that Democrats are evil, but that Christians vote Republican. This year I'll be voting for the first time in the presidential election and I decided it's time to tackle these misconceptions. Christians too often proudly revolt against mainstream society, only to blindly follow the lead of someone else.

Recently I've been refining my faith and asking difficult questions about what I believe--sometimes affirming, and sometimes discarding and recasting. With the presidential election, my questions turned to the area of politics and I asked whether Christianity and the Republican party really go hand in hand. I've found my ideas about Christians having to vote Republican and Democrats being evil can't withstand the fire of scrutiny. In essence I've become a heathen. I'm voting for Al Gore.

Expressing this opinion on my Christian college campus in St. Paul, Minnesota didn't make me Mr. Popularity. I wrote an editorial for the school paper titled, "God is not Republican." The response proved my thesis: "God's not Republican? Well, He probably wants us to vote Republican." Christians vote Republican because of abortion. Christians vote Republican because of gay rights. Christians vote Republican because of prayer in public schools.

But what about taxes, education, defense, labor and the environment? Surely these are just as important, if not more so, to our daily lives.

Yet the traditional Republican stance leaves me scratching my head. A 6.6% tax cut for the richest Americans? An endorsement of the voucher system, which forces schools to compete for children with corporate voracity? A ballistic missile defense system even larger than the current proposition--that no matter the size will enrage allies and enemies, will miss the more likely attack from a Ryder truck full of warheads, and will display a sentiment that brute force and violence can solve our problems? An administration that jumps in bed with corporations, treating the minimum wage worker like a forgotten divorcee? A presidential candidate who questions global warming and sees oil fields in Alaska?

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40).

Christians vote Republican because of their priorities. Priorities that put abortion above caring for the poor. Priorities that put opposing gay rights above ensuring the rights of all God's people. I tried to show that in my editorial, and the reaction was overwhelming. The next issue of the school paper featured a two-page spread of responses. Abortion dominated those responses.

Christians vote against abortion because of a basic belief in the sanctity of human life and a widely accepted view that such life begins long before an exasperated mother delivers a screaming baby. Support is found in the Bible, as one response stated, "The Bible shows how God looks at these 'women's rights' (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 100:3, Psalm 139:13, and Psalm 139:16). These and many other scriptures say that not one of us is an accident or a mistake."

Jeremiah 1:5 is the calling of the prophet Jeremiah, where God says of Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

Psalm 139 is a psalm of praise to God, a portion of which praises God for creating humanity. Psalm 139:13 says, "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb."

The core of the abortion debate is deciding at what point between conception and birth a human becomes a human. While we don't agree when life begins, we do affirm that life begins early in a pregnancy. And by that definition, abortion becomes murder. A woman's choice then takes a back seat to the preservation of life.

The problem comes when we hope to change minds with political action and legal rulings. As much as I don't like abortion, I don't see how making it a crime will help. We are losing this battle in courtrooms and political arenas. Public opinion is stacked against us, so why not regroup? While I don't favor abortion, it seems acceptable to concede the loss and focus on other issues. Perhaps personally encouraging women to choose life would change more minds--as opposed to scaring women with picket signs and graphic stories or legally ending abortion.

My fellow students disagreed:

"We have a duty not to give up on an issue that is so crucial to the morality of our future."

"By quitting, we are giving in to the evil of this world instead of fighting say that we should give up on this battle, to say that abortion should not be legally ended, is to let innocent lives be destroyed right in front of our eyes."

"Let us vote in such a way that when we give an account for our every deed (including our votes), we may find joy in knowing we voted on the issue that mattered--namely, abortion."

Thus Christians stand stubbornly against abortion, embracing pro-life candidates like Bush despite other issues. But if Bush is so pro-life, why are there more executions in Texas than any other state? If Republicans are so pro-life, what about the lives lost in Central America during the Reagan Administration? For me it doesn't add up. While I in no way support abortion, I can't support a party that only protects the lives of those still in the womb.

Next week I'll be voting in the presidential election for the first time. I'm not swallowing the notion that Christians vote Republican, or assuming that Democrats are Philistines. Jesus didn't ostracize sinners and deny them their rights. He hung out with the lowest of the low, not the CEO's. He may have overturned tables, but he didn't draw a sword. He loved people, sometimes with a tough love that says, "Go and sin no more."

As a Christian I believe Jesus cares as much for the blue collar worker struggling against an unfair employer as he does for an unborn child. I believe Jesus hates prejudice on the basis of race as much as he hates prejudice on the basis of sexual preference. Jesus watched out for the little guy, he cared for the poor, the oppressed, and the weary.

Jesus would make a bad Republican. He'd probably make a bad Democrat, too. But that's who Jesus is, always defying expectation: Embracing the AIDS patient, dining with the drug dealer, dying to save us."

I think he makes some great points. This election and each one after it, I would strongly encourage everyone to vote on ALL the issues that are important to God. Not just the ones a particular party wants you to believe are important.


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