It’s almost hard to believe, but the 2012 presidential election is right around the corner. That’s the great thing about our democratic system: by the time you’ve fully recovered from the last election, the next one is already gearing up.
Anyway, the Washington Post published an article a few weeks ago about the potential Republican contenders trying to court evangelicals. I hope my fellow churchgoers enjoy the oratory now, because if one of these conservatives actually wins, these two issues probably aren’t going to be brought up again (lest they damage their re-election chances in 2016).
Here’s what you probably won’t see people courting evangelicals with: a promise to run a campaign that loves the people with whom it disagrees.
That’s the tragic thing about Christians in this country, whether they’re conservative, liberal, somewhere in between or even on the fringes. To defend the truth and Christian values–whether it’s fighting abortion or helping the poor–they will spread and support lies against their political opponents.
Their consciences won’t be bothered in the least by voting for candidates who propelled themselves to victory by viciously tearing down other people.
People who claim Jesus as Lord will have no problem forwarding ridiculous, slanderous e-mails about Barack Obama or the yet-to-be-announced Republican nominee. It won’t matter that the e-mail’s subject line says “FWD: NOT A JOKE”. We’ll accept it as truth because we’re so motivated by our hatred of others that it won’t cross our minds that what we’re telling people is false.
(We all have access to Google, Snopes, FactCheck, and PolitiFact and could verify what we’re telling people in a matter of minutes. To say that this behavior is unacceptable is putting it mildly.)
All of this says something about us:
Being honest isn’t a Christian value.
At least, as far as we’re concerned, it’s not a big one.
And no, it doesn’t matter that you aren’t personally engaging in that behavior.
If you don’t say anything when you hear your fellow believers smearing someone, then you’re just as guilty as they are. Your silence empowers them and their lies. It also damages our ability to share the Gospel, since no one in their right mind would rely on a known deceiver to tell them the truth–let alone the Truth of Christ.
If you hear a politician resort to slander to get ahead in the polls but continue to support them, then it doesn’t matter if you protest how their campaign was run. Why would they care if you object? You still rewarded them with a vote.
That’s why no candidate rallies their supporters by promising that, however tight the race gets, they will not engage in smear tactics against their opponents. That’s not going to get the base to go door-to-door to pass out pamphlets, volunteer to drive people to polling stations in November, or make donations to the campaign.
But imagine if the opposite were true.
Think of how much healthier our political environment would be if American Christians–Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, all of us–stood together and with one voice demanded that our candidates either run campaigns based on truth or kiss their political aspirations goodbye.
Would we see fewer attack ads and more time spent discussing substantial issues? Probably.
Would our candidates hold themselves to the same standard of honesty when they take office and attend to affairs of state? Hopefully.
Would Christians be able to go to bed at night in peace, knowing they honored Jesus by practicing and demanding honesty?
So as we enter the insane season of presidential politics, that’s my hope and prayer: for truth to become a Christian value again.