Election season is a spiritual challenge
December 4, 2019
Choosing leaders is a spiritual issue. This is proven by the sheer amount of time the Bible spends giving us guidelines for how to evaluate them; teaching us with stories of both good and bad leaders; and, letting us in on God’s thoughts on the process.
Choosing leaders is a spiritual issue. Yes, I just said that, but some things are worth saying again.
This simple realization about the spiritual nature of these choices has been missed in America for a long time by people on both sides of the political spectrum. We’ve agreed that voting for leadership is a purely pragmatic exercise. And, we’ve gotten used to walking away from this like we do from all other exercise — needing a shower.
As soon as Christians start talking like this, bemoaning the endless task of voting for the lesser of two evils, they will be met with charges like, “Hey, if you demand perfection from your candidates, you’ll never vote at all. Only Jesus is perfect.”
That’s just it, though. In the Bible, leaders are not held to a standard of perfection. In fact, the qualifications for leadership represent what we’d have to admit is a low bar. You have to do a moral face-plant to come up short.
Looking at Exodus 18:21, for instance, can we get some candidates whose previous lives are marked by more than the ability to navigate party waters and raise money? Can we get some trustworthiness, meaning a history of keeping oaths and vows? Can we get some demonstrated fear of God, in something other than a speech? (And, for the record, hating dishonest gain and bribes is not the same thing as bragging about what great use you’ve previously made of bribery.)
Apparently we can’t, from either side.
Christians have been reduced to the basest pragmatism, voting out of fear. Give us Mr. Dog’s Breakfast! At least he’s better than Mr. Dumpster Fire!
A couple hundred years ago, the American thinker, Lysander Spooner, was already critical of this lesser-of-two-evils approach, while admitting that it may come down to a matter of self-defense. In his classic analogy, you’re given a choice between two competing bands of highway robbers, to decide which group you’d rather be robbed by. You choose the one because you’ve heard those other guys treat their captives worse by comparison. You don’t make the decision because you’re happy with your choices, but merely in an effort to survive.
You’d be a fool to think that your choice represents something like “progress.” At best, it’s a defensive maneuver.
We got in this mess with churches who refused to highlight the biblical qualifications for leadership, for multiple generations. Pulpits left their congregants with no spiritual guidance in the matter, and so they went off and voted like secularists, spouting party talking-points as if they were Bible verses.
What can be done? There is no magic bullet solution, but only the hard work, over time, of teaching and living out the truth of God in our lives. Stop voting in fear for biblically unqualified candidates. Make the parties work to earn your vote. Demand better.
Gordan Runyan is the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Tucumcari. Contact him at: