Erdogan, Hussein. Trump, Obama.
What do all the above men have in common? They were all elected rulers of their nations. And the citizens of their nations (Turkey, Iraq, USA) all went to the polls to cast their votes for their choice for their highest leader.
But, there are several deep truths that are often lost when we think about elections for any public office, particularly in America. So with Election Day around the corner, let’s explore these truths and why your vote counts… but for very different reasons than you think.
Your Vote Does NOT Ultimately Decide the Election
Sometimes a negative example can help us illustrate a positive truth. So let me try to do so.
Saddam Hussein, the former President of Iraq, seemed to always win, regardless of his devious nature and evil pursuits. His citizens voted, but their vote did not ultimately decide the election. Saddam Hussein always determined the outcome. This same reality could be said for many evil dictators.
While there is no comparing Saddam Hussein with God, there is a lesson to learn here. God allows you and me to vote freely, but ultimately it is His sovereign, just, and perfect will that determines the outcome. This truth is affirmed throughout Scripture, but here is just one verse that teaches this truth:
“He (God) removes kings and sets up other kings…” (Daniel 2:21)
So if you’ve thought your vote for or against a particular candidate was the reason he or she won or lost, think again… unless you think you can outvote God.
Voting is Your Obligation
So if God choses our rulers, is there really any reason to vote? If His will is going to prevail, what’s the use in my even going to the polls?
We have been given not only a right to vote in America, but more importantly an obligation has been entrusted to us by God. So when it comes to voting, I’m reminded of the verse, “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48)
In Matthew 25, there is a story told by Jesus about three servants to whom their master gave varying resources to manage. They were each rewarded, or punished, based on how they stewarded the resources they were given. Likewise, God has granted to us the obligation to select those who would seek to rule over us. Failing to vote is shirking an obligation that God has provided to you. Just as the servants received a reward or punishment based on their choices, likewise our vote will carry with it a similar response from God.
Do You Pass the Test?
So far we have established that 1) God, for His own particular reasons, has already determined the outcome of each election, and 2) We should still vote to fulfill our obligation. So if these are both true, does it matter who I vote for?
Absolutely. And here’s why.
Each time you cast a vote for anyone, you are revealing what is in your heart. Your vote for a politician is just like a politician’s vote for a piece of legislation. His vote and yours, reveal what you both value and prioritize.
When we vote, we have the opportunity to affirm good and reject or expose evil as we see in Ephesians 5:10-11:
“Carefully determine what pleases the Lord. Take no part in the worthless deeds of evil and darkness; instead, expose them.”
If a would be elected official is known by his “worthless deeds of evil or darkness,” then our vote will either reject or affirm such.
So every time we vote, we are actually being tested by God Himself. We either pass or fail, and there’s no grading on a curve.
When we enter the voting booth, we reveal our priorities. But are our priorities God’s priorities? Are our values His values? Do we honestly seek to align what we are prioritizing with what Scripture instructs us to affirm or reject?
I can personally attest to the fact that as one spends more and more time seeking God’s instruction and direction, many of the issues that seemed to be priorities, as a Republican, Independent, Conservative, or even Liberal, will begin to crumble under the scrutiny of Scripture.
Voting for the “Lesser of Two Evils”
Over the years, I, and many others, sadly defaulted to voting for a candidate we had serious issues with, simply because we disliked his opponent even more. So we succumb to selecting the “lesser of two evils.” But when we do so, we invariably reveal that we do not believe God when He said that “He removes kings and raises up kings.” Or we question God when He affirms that,
“The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; He guides it wherever He pleases.” (Proverbs 21:1)
Invariably, when we vote for the “lesser of two evils” we sacrifice values that we claim are important to us. In so doing we attempt to play “god” with our “lesser evil” choice, even though such candidate likely has positions or values that are at odds with God’s values.
Such approach demonstrates a lack of trust in God, in His ability to elevate, or put down a king, and direct the heart of the ruler. But a vote for a “lesser evil” also reveals that we are willing to prefer the temporal (winning an election to advance some political agenda) over the eternal of affirming God’s principles.
So at the end of the day, it’s critical that you vote. But hopefully you’ve been challenged to reconsider why, how, and for whom you vote. The ultimate Judge is keeping score. You and I can pass the test if we seek His ways versus our own.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.” I Corinthians 13:11
If you have a child you can clearly identify childish behavior. It’s not pretty. But you understand and tolerate such behavior because you know that as that child matures, and he learns from instruction, his tantrums, pettiness, selfishness, and other childish behavior will become less and less prominent. And as he grows into adulthood, he will likely become well adjusted. He will respect others. He will learn that to achieve his goals, he must often help others achieve theirs. And ultimately, he puts away childish behavior.
I was present at the inception of the tea party movement, having founded the Chattanooga Tea Party in April 2009. It wasn’t my first rodeo, but the challenge of organizing and leading a grassroots movement was new. So I came of age so to speak with this movement. And I met a lot of wonderful people. Many of those people are dear friends today. Those who joined the movement were ordinary Americans who simply loved their communities and nation, and were worried that their future was gray and bleak. And the facts and stats affirmed their concerns.
The tea party movement accomplished a lot in its early years, when enthusiasm was high and strategy was limited. But as the years wore on, it became obvious that strategy and thoughtful deliberation would become more important. No longer could the movement sustain itself on raw emotion, anger, or passion. Rather, to succeed, it would require that we learn from our mistakes and failures. Sadly though, nearly ten years later, the movement continues to struggle with the same blunders.
As is the case with most elections, there are often several candidates who could be split into various tiers. The first tier is the “perfect” candidate who might have a near unblemished track record, and his/her fidelity to tea party values is unquestioned.
The second tier includes candidates who, while their voting record may not align perfectly with tea party values, and there may be other “complaints” some in the movement will lodge, they do have redeeming qualities. Ultimately, if elected, they would advance many values the movement supports.
Then there are the third tier candidates. These are the ones who are so offensive or wrong in their policies, affiliations or track records, that most tea party members would likely never support them. What we find though is that the candidates in Tier 1 are typically underfunded and thus not electable, while Tier 2 & 3 often have sufficient funds to mount a credible campaign.
These three tiers expose one of the greatest flaws of the tea party movement: its unwillingness to coalesce together. Independent elements, personalities, and egos are rampant in the movement, and unwillingness to tolerate the slightest variance from “perfection” is the norm.
Sadly, many tea party members are unwilling to consider anyone outside of Tier 1. Because of this reality, what invariably happens is that other credible and acceptable candidates in Tier 2 are maligned and rejected. Additionally, because Tier 3 candidates not only have sufficient funds, but they typically garner the establishment Republican voters, Tier 1 & 2 voters split all the other remaining votes. Consequently the Tier 3 candidate often wins. In every case this has been the worst case scenario for the movement, our state and nation. We saw it with Romney in 2012. And in Tennessee, we saw it with Governor Bill Haslam. And Lamar Alexander. And Bob Corker. And others.
Now again in 2017-18, tea party members in Tennessee are repeating the same old mistake. The fidelity by many to their “perfect” but unelectable candidate is blinding them from the reality that there may be another “acceptable” candidate who is both credible and electable.
Let me digress for a moment to state that there are times when one may not, for conscience sake, be able to vote for anyone in Tier 2 or Tier 3. If that is the case, I would never attempt to judge someone else’s conscience. At that point, it’s a deeply personal decision and no one should ever question someone’s deep rooted beliefs when they enter the voting booth.
But in the absence of a moral reservation, the movement is missing another opportunity to help influence, and ultimately select, the next Governor in Tennessee. It may require some to select what they consider to be a Tier 2 candidate. But if they do, they will be selecting a candidate who can actually win, and they would be revealing a maturity that heretofore has been missing in the movement.
Growing up requires that we oftentimes sacrifice perfection for good. Maturity understands that we don’t always get what we want. Honesty enables us to look into the future and predict what will likely occur and use our best efforts to influence that future. Conversely, dishonesty keeps us glued to our own narrow-mindedness, trapped in our own little echo-chambers.
Sadly though, if a movement never grows up, it ceases to be relevant. And once it’s no longer relevant, it doesn’t have long to live.
The tea party movement in Tennessee is at a crossroads. It can stay on its present course and drive over the cliff, never to influence again. Or it can take a right turn, and begin to coalesce around principled pragmatism, which is simply recognizing reality and attempting to win as many battles as possible by remaining as true as possible to one’s principles.
Losing elections never advances one’s principles. Winning elections with imperfect candidates can advance some of our principles.
So will the tea party movement put away childish attitudes and grow up, or simply fade away?
So you’ll go to the polls on November 8, (or perhaps you’ve already voted). You will reject the lesser of two evils. Or vote your principles. Or support your party. Or affirm its platform. Or vote 3rd party.
Check that off. You did or will do what every patriotic American does. Right?
And then you can sit back down. Phew! That’s behind you. Election 2016 will be over.
Sure, there are real consequences to what will happen on November 8. But you will have voted. You’ll be back in four years. Or maybe even in two years if you’re a real radical. So let’s move on.
It’s time to get on with life.
Being a Parent
If you’re a parent you’ll recall those nine months leading up to the big day. Before ultrasounds it was kind of like an election. You know that the big day is coming. You may have your preference as to a boy or girl. But you wouldn’t know which it would be until Election Day, umm, I mean Delivery Day. Boy or girl?
But then that little girl appears. She’s been your focus for nine months. But why worry yourself with the next years of her life? You did your job. You played your part. You became a parent. Time to go back to your busy life. You had plenty on your plate before little Emma showed up. How could you add anything else?
Yet, you realize that being a responsible parent does not afford you the option of simply sitting back down and expecting that little Emma will be self-accountable, self-ruling, or self-sustaining.
Rather, you know intuitively that Emma has no chance of surviving, much less flourishing, without you. Her entire being is dependent on you and the commitment you will make to her (and to be certain God’s guiding and sustaining hand).
So, why is it that you know these things about being a parent or nearly every other discipline in life? But when it comes to sustaining one of the most precious gifts you and I have been given, our blessed America, you act as if your vote is enough?
Voting is not Enough
Surely, deep inside, you know your vote cannot be enough. Yet on November 9th, over 100 million Americans will repeat what they’ve done for the past century or two. Like Rip Van Winkle, they will slumber for another electoral cycle, leaving the Republic in the hands of broken, self-interested and, in too many instances, corrupt people.
America, our ship of state, owned by you and me, will be left with an unaccountable captain and crew to guide it, likely on a course you and the majority of America reject. Yet, rather than stepping up and holding the captain and crew accountable, will you wash your hands, turn on your favorite TV programs or engage in your favorite hobby, and then wonder why our future is so dire? This is unquestionably a formula for failure.
One Reason America is Failing Politically
We know, instinctively and experientially, that people, left to their own devices, and with little to no accountability, will degenerate rapidly. But add in the opportunity to enrich oneself, with prestige, fame and even wealth, and the likelihood of self-interest and corruption skyrockets. Too often we elect good men and women to a political office and then walk away, assuming that they will not change. But they do. In overwhelmingly large numbers.
But the fault lies at our feet. We expect too much while inspecting too little. If we desire to see change in Washington, our state capitol, county commission or city council, then it’s incumbent on you and me to change our course. Voting has never been enough. In fact, it’s almost meaningless if you are unwilling to show up the other 1459 days before the next 4 year election cycle.
Birthing and guiding a nation, like parenting a child, is a thankless and unending job. It requires day after day, and year after year, engagement. Anything less will ensure that the two main options offered today, Hillary and Donald, will look like saints in four years, as a lesser of two evils philosophy will continue to degenerate further into the abyss.
Is it too late to change our nation, state or community? Only time will tell. But act as if November 8th completes your civic duty until the next election cycle, and I assure you, our Republic will fail to recover from our current tailspin.
So, for the sake of your family, your offspring, and your fellow citizens, step up on November 9th and commit to the battle for your nation, state and local municipalities. Future generations will either thank or curse you based on your response.
And if you’re not quite sure what to do, then reach out and let’s talk, regardless of your political persuasion. Together we can make a meaningful difference.