Giving a Shrug About Politics

By Mark A. Taylor

Someone close to me said late in September, “I know who I’m voting for in this presidential election, but I’m not sure why.”

She was expressing the feeling of many Christians about this year’s election. They’re not too excited about it.

And they’re not the only ones. Peggy Noonan asserted in The Wall Street Journal that, even among dedicated Democrats or Republicans, many wonder if their candidate is truly ready for the job. “I haven’t heard a single person say, ‘Yes, my guy is the answer,’” she wrote September 27. “A lot of shrugging is going on out there.”

She would find the same, I think, among many readers of Christian Standard. “The big shrug is a read not only on the men but on the moment,” she added. And I’ve been trying to analyze why Christians approach this year’s election with so much less fervor than several before it.

I have a couple of hunches. One comes in my reaction to an item I heard on the radio late this summer. Some survey had found that John McCain’s supporters shop Wal-Mart more than Barack Obama’s and Obama’s supporters visit Starbuck’s more than McCain’s. I patronize both, I thought, but prefer neither. What does that say about who I should choose for president?

Probably nothing, but I turned off the radio resenting the effort at categorizing me. The resentment turns to ire when the category is called “Christian.”

Christians disagree on topics where some assume we’re one, issues like home schooling and gun control and immigration. And Christians as well as “liberals” worry about the environment and have homosexual friends.

Meanwhile we’re confronted with the secular, self-serving nature of politics. We’re uncomfortable with platform planks from both parties. We learn details about both candidates that we wouldn’t tolerate among church leaders. We’re assaulted by half-truths and slander from both candidates’ campaign ads. Somewhere in the process, we realize no candidate can ever be our country’s savior.

This needn’t discourage us from going to the polls. It only means we don’t expect voting—or lawmaking, or government at large—to solve our country’s core problems.

If we, like Peggy Noonan’s contacts, shrug on the way to the voting booth, that’s OK. Let’s save our energy, as Jason Rodenbeck says this week, for “being little images of Jesus Christ” with everyone we know.

As he points out, this is far more difficult than voting. But it’s also far more powerful than the product of any political pursuit.


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