The hevel that you know

Tomorrow is the second Tuesday in November. I find myself happy that 2023 is not a presidential year. We hopefully have 12 more months before another civil war reenactment, where brother rises against brother and son against father. Maybe it’s our country’s legacy to fight our family to the death over state’s rights and racial inequality.

I’ve always considered it a duty to vote, even though I was pretty young when I first heard Stalin’s discouraging quote about the one who counted the votes deciding more than the one who cast them. It still felt very American, since some countries don’t have an opportunity to think about their preference for one overlord more than another.

However, I often treated voting as a strategy of whom to vote against, not necessarily who I was for. It was a lesser of two evils approach, although I did mostly vote party line. I am not sure if I will vote in the future since I found out I had an Anabaptist ancestor who was persecuted. I expect most people who don’t vote strictly party-line tend to consider one or two issues, especially if that issue hurts their heart or livelihood more than another. Or if they benefit personally because they get to smoke weed, their 401(k) grows or they get debt forgiveness.

The problem is when we try to define one issue our nation faces as being more godly than another. Sometimes when I see old, angry men on corners with “ABORTION KILLS” signs, I assume their motivation is to avoid financial punishment on our nation from a God who values life, more than they are motivated for that little life or the one carrying it.

One thing I regret about the atmosphere I raised my children is how faith and politics intermingled—but it’s what I knew. If you confuse nationalism with adoration of the Most High God, and then someday want to vote differently… you might have to cast aside faith to change political affiliation.

I’m not blaming one party over another. I think both conservatives and progressives can legitimately look across the divide and say, “How can you love God and vote like that? Haven’t you read such-and-such scripture?”

The problem is more that we look across the divide instead of seeking common good. It certainly seems like whatever beneficial thing a president wants, the opposing party… opposes. Everyone is less concerned about the detriment to the country than the detriment to the party they… oppose.

It’s silly-naïve to imagine that when your candidate is elected, all your worries will be over. I remember feeling a little nauseous when “our” candidate was elected years ago. People in my circle rejoiced like it was the trumpet sound of the Lord’s return and I wondered if we still needed to pray for our country. Or if it was all taken care of since he professed Christ. On the flip side—it isn’t the beginning of Armageddon if your candidate loses, and evil incarnate wins. But, since the beast does usher in certain events, it’s common enough to hear the fear that the opposing party is evil incarnate.

That’s a pretty bold statement, though. And Christians say it about both Trump and Biden. In Acts 23, Paul calls a man a white-washed wall but then finds out he was speaking to the high priest. He quotes Exodus saying that he would not have said it if he’d known, because, “It is written, ‘Do not speak evil of a ruler of your people.'” In that moment, he was defending a stance more righteous than political affiliation and border control. I wonder if, since we Christians are not under the law, we sometimes feel like we are above it.

There are many reasons to submit to unjust, unrighteous authorities—even slavery and kings who send you to your death. But the reasons are Christian, not American. So you have to decide which you are. The terms are not synonymous like our grandparents preached.

Praying for your team

Sometimes, when I bring my prayer requests before God, I think about King Hezekiah. He was sick and going to die, but he wept bitterly. The Lord gave him 15 more years. During his second chance, he foolishly generated the future destruction of his kingdom. He also likely sired one of Israel’s worst kings during that time. It makes me want to add a caveat when I pray for things, “Lord, if it is your perfect will.” It’s a healthy fear that God would listen to me when I really don’t know what will bring me true fulfillment, joy, peace and security.

I think this is an especially interesting story to consider when you cry out, “long live my favorite candidate’s reign!” He could be Hezekiah for us, even if the economy revives and gas prices go down in the meantime.

James warns us not to make plans because our whole life is a mist or a vapor. (I know that’s a throat punch to the ego.) Ecclesiastes certainly reiterates that our whole life is meaningless: vanity, vapor, a mist—hevel.

The point of our life is not to vote for the hevel that you know, but to bring God’s kingdom to earth as it operates in heaven. And even if we vote to protect the oppressed, marginalized, and the foreigner in our land—we aren’t off the hook for acting in love when we come face to face with them.

Please share your heart. We learn from each other.