I’m going to talk about politics, and I’m going to talk about Jesus. And I don’t care if you agree with me.
Oklahoma is a “Super Tuesday” state, so last week I voted. The line was long, which is supposed to be good news, and my wife and I were not the only ones who brought our kids. The woman in line in front of us had a daughter about the same age as our two-year-old. The woman a few places back had a son a little older, and a lot less happy to wait in line. He knocked over some pamphlets in the church hallway and made a lot of noise. His mother started to take him out, and this is when my favorite thing happened. Everyone around told her to stay. “He’s fine.” “We don’t mind.” “This is important.” “I’m just glad it’s not my kids.”
No one knew who she was voting for and they didn’t care. It wasn’t about the winners and losers. It was about participating in something important and it was about basic human kindness.
So, not about politics at all.
We live in a country and I live in a state where people bring up Jesus a lot in their political debates. And I’ve come to believe that even when I agree with their point, the attempt is misguided. People tried to engage Jesus in political debates all the time. They asked him to weigh in on taxes, to support the Sadducees over the Pharisees (or vice versa) and ignore those who cooperated with Rome. These are political questions. But Jesus never gave political answers. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s (taxes) and to God what is God’s (whole self)” is a redirect. He was pushing the perspective up and out to take in a bigger picture. Just when the Pharisees thought he might be on their side because of something he said, he called them “white washed tombs.” He said they were pretty on the outside, and dead on the inside because all they worried about was how they looked and who was on their “side.” He ate with tax collectors, not because he supported Roman occupation but because they were people. Real people who weren’t okay.
Jesus probably had opinions on all of these arguments. They were important. Finances were scarce and it mattered where every coin went. The Pharisees were a grass roots populist movement who were at least trying to obey God. The Sadducees were the only group with the money and power to resist Roman rule and the Romans were dangerous, violent and occasional perpetrators of religious oppression. That stuff matters. Still Jesus didn’t really weigh in. Instead, he took care of the humans in front of him.
Now, let’s look at modern American politics. I know the politicians and pundits need to yell really loudly about the differences so we’ll stay interested enough to tune in tomorrow. But I’ve got a degree in American History and I can tell you that our two political parties just aren’t that far apart. If you put all human governments on a line 10 feet long, stretching from “right” to “left”, the difference between Ted Cruz and Bernie Sanders (the guys who won Oklahoma’s primaries) would be about an inch. 98% of the Federal Budget is spent on things we generally agree about – defense, infrastructure, personel, ect. And the last 2% is all we’re really arguing over. Everyone who disagrees is selling something – themselves, their network, Mountain Dew, their soul. Issues like immigration, taxation, health care and foreign policy matter. But things have gotten ugly. Too ugly. The fight is making us distrust each other in ways we never have before. And when that happens, it doesn’t matter who wins the election. We’ve all lost.
So here’s the thing – the “Christian” way of being political has almost nothing to do with who you vote for and almost everything to do with how you treat the ones who vote differently.
The issues matter, yes, but nearly as much as the humans standing around you. So vote. Vote carefully and vote for the party/person who you think helps us look and act more like Jesus together.
But like I said, I don’t care if you agree with me. I care if you’re okay.