I write this several weeks before a presidential election that will determine the leader of a country more polarized than I have seen it in my thirty-some years of living.
Many of you, like me, have watched the rhetoric of journalists, politicians and social-media users grow ever more divisive and have wondered where it is going and what it all means in the cosmic scale of things.
Unlike me, many of you will cast your vote for the leader of your choice. I have never voted in a U.S. election, and at this point I do not plan to. I grew up in the branch of Anabaptists that maintains a strong separation between church and state, including not voting.
I am personally convinced of the wisdom of this policy after watching, over and over again, the opinions of God’s people shaped by a particular media narrative.
One candidate becomes a hero, the other a demon. One will lead us on a road to prosperity and freedom, the other to chaos and a loss of civil liberties.
And while those beliefs in themselves may not be detrimental — everyone is entitled to an opinion — too often God’s people imbue one candidate with the authority of God’s Chosen, the one who will save the country from degeneration and place us in the golden years we’ve always imagined.
Instead of offering Christ as the solution to lawlessness, mental-health breakdown, broken families and racism, we offer a figurehead.
“I feel as though I just gave birth to the man!” one of my aunts exulted when George W. Bush was elected.
Often when Christians take up politics we imbue our cause with all the sacredness of a holy war and forget the battle we are supposed to be fighting.
Paul made it clear who our enemies are: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood,” he wrote. Not against homosexuals or homophobes, abortion activists or white supremacists or my political opponents. If we mistake those people for our enemies, our real enemies — the kings and kingdoms of the spiritual world — gain the advantage of staying undercover.
When I was young and lived at home with my minister dad, the conservative Mennonite church we were a part of engaged in its own version of “church politics.” This saintly version of our national system cultivated two parties, a liberal and a conservative.
The conservative party’s main job was to keep the liberal party in check, and the liberal party’s main job was to ride the edges, to advocate change. Both parties found the other side intensely annoying and their preferences indicative of deep spiritual need.
I will always remember something my dad said during that time: “The mark of carnality is force.” It doesn’t matter if my cause is “spiritual.” Whenever I try to force someone else to conform to my wishes — whether through my own strength, through the church, or through the government — that is carnality.
God offers choice. And as inhuman and unsettling as that feels to us, we as Christians are fighting his battle and must fight it his way.
The conservative Mennonite church where I am now a member recently ordained a new minister. Without campaigning, smearing or open discussion, in a body of nearly 200 members with every male eligible for the lot, this young man was elected by private ballot, his name a clear majority of the votes. God’s will was revealed through the quiet choice of his people.
Although national elections will never be that simple and clean, I encourage you to carry to it that same attitude of gracious acceptance of God’s will. Whichever man is elected president, God placed him there. “He changes times and seasons, deposes kings and sets up kings” (Daniel 2:21).
Whether it’s Trump, whether it’s Biden, whether you love him or despise him — support him. Speak respectfully of him. Pray for him. Pray for the leaders of your country, whoever they are. God asks no less of his people.
Lucinda J. Kinsinger writes from Oakland, Md., where she lives with her farmer husband, Ivan. She is the author of Anything But Simple: My Life as a Mennonite and blogs at lucindajkinsinger.com.