I didn't watch the debate last night between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I didn't watch the previous debates either, though I've followed along on Twitter and watched some of the analysis. At this point I'm not sure debates add much to the decision making of the voters. I know who I'm voting for, and have known for some time. This has been a most depressing election cycle, and many are disillusioned by the process. Politics and democracy itself can be and often is messy. I made that point in one of the chapters of my book Faith in the Public Square. The choices we make and the votes we cast can be driven by a number of factors, including fear, that do not seek the best for all, but perhaps only for the few, including ourselves. I wrote in that book:
In real life, numerous factors influence our choices, some of which may be less than honorable. It could be the way a candidate speaks or looks. We may take into consideration a candidate‟s gender, race, or age. Fear is a potent influence – and candidates and parties are very adept at manipulating them. Then there are the promises candidates make, promises that often pander to our prejudices or sense of entitlement. Too often we vote our own self-interest at the expense of our neighbors. That is, altruism often takes a back seat to me-firstism. We may voice our support for the biblical premise that calls on us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, but too often love of self comes before love of neighbor. [Faith in the Public Square, p. 101].
As we enter the final stretch of this election season, I would ask those of us who are people of faith to consider our allegiances. If I believe, as I do, that God is my ultimate allegiance then how should that work itself out in life? How should it guide my votes? And as I ask that question, of course, I need to take into consideration my understanding of God's nature. For me that means recognizing that love of God is partnered with love of neighbor, and neighbor isn't just the person who looks like me, thinks like me, talks like me. My neighbor might be the person I vehemently disagree with. My neighbor might be that politician for whom I have no political regard. Nonetheless that candidate, that politician, was created in the image of God and is one whom God loves.
There are no perfect candidates. We may have to live with decisions that others make that we disagree with. That said, may that principle of ultimate allegiance, which is ensrined in the Lord's Prayer, guide us as we make political decisions. May our commitment be to find a way through they messiness of politics to a decision that best reflects God's vision of love of neighbor.