Voting in Good Faith
A brief code of conduct for Christians at election time.
On October 21, Canadians will head to the polls for our country’s 43rd federal election. For political nerds like me, election time is as exciting as Christmas, albeit with less presents and more attack ads, but for the general population election season can be a confusing and aggravating time. It seems like we’re constantly bombarded with billboards of smiling politicians, radio ads and even text messages, all clambering for our vote.
For Christians, the question of who to vote for can be complicated by our own religious convictions. It seems like every follower of Christ has different opinions about which party or candidate is the most aligned with our faith. Because of this subjectivity, I’m not going to try tell you who to vote for. Honestly, every party’s platform contains some policies that mesh with Christian values, along with others that clash. Instead, here are three short instructions that you may use to guide your political discourse over the coming weeks.
“The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly” (Prov. 15:14).
Many voters latch on to a single issue that ultimately determines who they vote for. Whether it’s the environment, marriage equality, union rights or abortion, these hot button topics evoke a strong emotional response from the voting body. This is a common and understandable practice across the entire political spectrum. Unfortunately, this hyper-focused mentality often leads to an unwillingness to learn about the platforms and mindsets of those on the other side of an issue and can perpetrate ignorance in the voting population.
Being an informed voter can mean many things, depending on your individual capacity. If you have the time and interest, you may research every party’s platform, watch the debates and research the voting record of your local representative. For those of us with less capacity, a quick search of each party’s webpage may serve to educate us on what they generally stand for. Either way, when educating yourself about every party’s values, I encourage you to practice empathy with your understanding. You don’t have to agree with every point presented, but try to put yourself in the shoes of those who hold views with which you disagree. What could be their motivation? What life experiences may have influenced their views? What demographic would find their ideas appealing?
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
When faced with the prospect of an argument, Christians can be quick to bring up the story of Jesus cleansing the temple in Matthew 21 to justify their anger. After all, if Jesus himself resorted to physicality when faced with injustice, how could a mere human hope to keep their cool when presented with a dissenting voice?
Here’s the bad news: Jesus flipping tables in response to commodification and corruption in his Father’s house is not the same as getting caught up in your human anger and barreling into a passive aggressive insult-swap with your neighbour on Facebook over a Justin Trudeau tweet. As Christians, we are supposed to combat injustice, but too often we get caught up in belittling those we disagree with instead of channeling our energy into making a real change in our world. Again, empathy can go a long way in our everyday disagreements. Instead of attacking someone with differing political opinions, try asking them how they came to their conclusion or why they hold that view. Be open, not confrontational, and remember that behind every tweet and Facebook post sits a real human being made in God’s image. They deserve your respect, no matter how much you disagree with them.
“Lord, the God of our ancestors, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you” (2 Chron. 20:6).
Imagine your worst-case political scenario: Is it a Green majority? Four more years of Trudeau? A Conservative MP as your local representative? Whatever it may be, take solace in the fact that God continues to reign sovereign over the earth, and any power or influence given to our human leaders comes directly from his hand.
It’s easy to give in to the hysteria perpetrated by the media regarding the election. After all, from our mortal perspective, we are unable to discern the true purpose of our country’s leadership, just as we are unable to discern the true purpose of most things that happen to us. Having people we fundamentally disagree with in power is frustrating and can make us feel helpless, and it is in times like these that we need to give up our anxieties and worries to God and surrender to his divine plan. While it’s true that engaging and voting during an election is important, it’s equally crucial to remember that our faith should be what shapes our behaviour. Our faith should guide us in informed and respectful conduct, and calm us when things seem to be going sideways.