I normally cringe when an election year approaches. I don’t enjoy politics. Self-promotion annoys me. I’m a “don’t rock the boat” kind of person, and elections are all about boat rocking. But of all the elections I’ve endured since I was old enough to vote (back when the redwoods were young), none have descended to the level of this one. What ever happened to thoughtful, respectful discourse?
It’s not the candidates—it’s their supporters.
In the past few months, several friends have called me an idiot, a Nazi, racist, bigoted, hateful, and insane. No, they haven’t done so to my face, but their comments on social media accuse me of all those things and more, just because I support a different candidate or party than they do.
Of course, these same friends vocally support “tolerance.” Apparently they’re only tolerant of those they agree with. They call people bigots, but perhaps they’ve forgotten the definition: “a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.” No single party has a monopoly on bigotry, although the ones doing the accusing might want to look for some logs in their own eyes before they complain about the splinters in someone else’s (see Matthew 7:3-5).
The media is fueling this feeding frenzy. Just try to find something you can trust. Candidates’ comments are taken out of context, twisted, distorted, and given new meanings far from the original intent.
Instead of discussing issues PACs spend their time hurling insults, intent on making the candidate or party they oppose look as awful as possible. The result is that all the candidates look bad. This negative campaigning has two serious repercussions:
- Many people, especially Christians, have decided not to vote, as they can’t support any candidate.
- We’re about to elect a president that a good portion of the country hates—no matter who wins.
Most of us aren’t in a position to change how campaigns are run, but there are some actions we can take to both e responsible, informed voters and to maintain our Christian integrity.
First, examine yourself. Are you part of the problem? Do you attack people you disagree with, or are you respectful? You have your views, and you probably have good reasons for them. Assume that other people also have intelligent reasons for believing as they do. I’ve found that, for the most part, both liberals and conservatives want to help people in need, grow the economy, and improve our country. We just take different approaches on the best way to accomplish those things.
Be careful what you say on social media. It’s easy to hide behind our keyboards and phones. Pretend that someone who will disagree with you is standing right in front of you. Would you tell someone to their face what you’re typing? The so-called friends who have been insulting me all year are normally very nice people, at least when I’m around them.
Take the time and effort to find out the truth behind the rhetoric. Don’t read about the debates—watch them yourself. Go to the candidates’ websites and read what they have to say for themselves. Listen to their actual speeches online.
Then take the candidates’ statements about themselves and compare them with reality. Are they telling the truth? The internet has plenty of old news, and you can easily go back and see what really happened. There are a number of fact-checker websites, but remember that they’re often biased too.
For those who have previously held office, look at their record. How did they vote? What did they support? Were they effective? Competent? Assume the media is biased; do your best to by-pass the reporters and get your facts firsthand.
If you feel overwhelmed by so much information, remember that God knows the truth. Ask for wisdom and insight. Luke 8:17 reads, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.” Ask God to bring that verse to bear on the election. Then ask Him whom he wants you to vote for.
Finally, now that you have your facts, decide which candidate best matches your view and VOTE. It’s both a responsibility and a privilege, and one we shouldn’t take lightly.