This is going to be just a short reflection on what I think about the Presidential election that we just lived through here in America.
Ever since I could vote (since 1992)— so since the George H. W. Bush versus Bill Clinton election— I have voted as a registered Republican; and I have voted for every Republican candidate (so just the Bush family). Beyond that, I have been alive since Richard Nixon was in office; so I have been around for a little awhile. The first presidential election I can remember was the one between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s love for jell bellies were what stood out most to me about his time as president, and then his role in helping to “bring down that wall” between East and West Germany. So you can see my pedigree, it is, as I imagine it is for most American Evangelical Christians, what has been termed; right wing Conservative.
I sketch my personal background to provide context, and foil, really, for what happened to me this time—this could’ve been my 5th time voting for a Republican Presidential candidate. As I have mentioned frequently on my Facebook wall (where I initiated quite a few discussions about this, leading up till yesterday), my reading of the book of Revelation has drastically impacted the way that I think in general as a Christian; and in particular about American politics (or any politics).
As a former dispensationalist, I used to read the book of Revelation as if it was ALL referencing future events (except for the first three chapters, of course); so I was what has been called a futurist exegete when it came to this code type book (how I used to read it, like I needed a decoder key, and the current instantiation of the that is modern day Israel). But things changed (over time), and came to a climax for me as I read two books on the book of Revelation by Richard Bauckham. It was his clarity that allowed me to see that the primary audience of the book of Revelation was the seven churches the revelator wrote the letter to. It was the idea that this apocalyptic/prophetic book was actually an epistle that opened my eyes to its primary intent. The intent in a nutshell is: that this apocalyptic vision[s] was given to John in order to provide a way for these early Christians (and all subsequent) to understand their witness within the Roman imperial milieu (or any Imperial milieu). All of the vivid imagery in the book of Revelation finding its store-house in the apocalyptic literature of the Old Testament (and some of it in apocryphal and pseudipigraphal texts); John, as Jesus’ mouth and eye-piece painted a backdrop, of cosmic proportions, in order for these early, and highly persecuted Christians, to understand that Rome and all of her military and economic might were not it. That these humble little nobodies, these quaint little Christians living in Imperial Rome were part of a kingdom (Christ’s) of which was like that rock of Daniel 2; the kingdom that ultimately crushes all other kingdoms. These Christians were to take heart, and find joy and peace in the fact that even though they were being beheaded (etc.) for their Christian witness, even though they were living a martyrs life, that they should take heart; because their blood (just as Jesus’ was) will be vindicated at the bodily and second coming of Jesus Christ. It was this kind of reality that really has shifted my neo-Conservative political aspirations into a perspective that sees the Christian’s place in the state as one that is shaped by martyrdom and self giving (even to the point of death) instead of might is right triumphalism, or get me outta of here ‘escapism’ (although I am ready for Jesus to return … I think anyone who isn’t is crazy!).
So, how did this inform my voting posture this time around? It made me think that any candidate who was in support of foreign, domestic, and/or economic policies that put the US in a place wherein we prospered off of living off of the backs of the poor and the oppressed, that I could not vote for this candidate in good conscience. Further, if a candidate was not truly pro-life (and I don’t mean just abortion issues, but also in humanitarian ways, like with our trade agreements with the nation of China for example; a nation we know has engaged in horrific humanitarian atrocities [and continue to]), then, in good conscience, I could not vote for him or them either—which pretty much made it quite impossible for me to vote for either of the primary options (which is why I wrote in a candidate who I felt better exemplified my personal criteria).
So this is what went into shaping my voting posture this year. I am thankful to have the ability to vote, and to live in America. But to vote in a principled way became more important to me this year than voting my usual party line. I trust God to take care of his people; and maybe operating with a martyr ethic when it comes to voting and political engagement (or not) will have drastic impact on the witness that Christians can have in America and the world. Maybe if we follow this kind of ethic (of martyrdom), we will actually stand out and be distinctive from the rest of the world; maybe the Gospel will no longer be collapsed, this way, into a political platform or cluster of ethical norms. I have more work to do in developing my own position (some times my trajectory feels Anabaptist, but I don’t think so … we’ll see).