The election is over. Although I wasn't surprised that President Obama came out victorious (I'd been following Nate Silver's blog for weeks), this campaign did have an unexpected outcome for me personally — it made me more familiar with and committed to my Christian faith.
I realize that's a bizarre conclusion to months of finger-pointing and partisan bickering, but it's true.
It all began as my attempt to turn Jesus into a Democrat. I reasoned that Jesus, who spoke incessantly of helping the poor and the sick, would absolutely be in favor of Obamacare and a tax increase for the top 1 percent. I couldn't understand how most Evangelical Christians supported Gov. Romney, a man who was so dismissive about the needy in that 47 percent video.
Didn't Christ say that it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God? Why was the Republicans' Christian faith their driving force when it came to issues like abortion and gay marriage, but not poverty? Jesus spoke a whole lot more about money than he did about sex.
I started to read my Bible, something that — despite being a Christian my whole life — I had done very little of in the past. I checked out books on theology from the library. I discovered a few excellent Christian blogs. And I turned every mention of God or religion in the political arena into a fact-checking expedition. Are pregnancies resulting from rape really intended by God? Does he care about whether or not his name appears in a political party's platform? What are these Judeo-Christian values Obama and the Democrats are being accused of threatening?
For the record, the answer to the previous questions — from my personal interpretation of scripture — is no, no and I have no idea. But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't pin Jesus down to the political party of my choice. Much like how New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie felt about the election after Hurricane Sandy, I found that Jesus doesn't give a damn about presidential politics.
He hardly talked about the matter, and he lived during politically tumultuous times. When pressed on the subject, he said things like "My kingdom is not of this world," and "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God, the things that are God's." He never took a political stance and didn't urge his followers to do so.
Still, during the campaign season, I heard countless religious leaders tell their congregations to vote for Romney based on faith.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing I saw was a video put out by former Arkansas governor and 2008 Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee just a few days before Nov. 6. It basically tried to coerce Christians into choosing a president based on three issues he deemed non-negotiable — life, marriage and religious freedom. "Your vote will affect the future and be recorded in eternity. Will you vote the values that will stand the test of fire?" Huckabee's voiceover said as images of flames appeared on the screen.
After watching it, I couldn't help but feel like I had just been sentenced to hell unless I changed my mind about who I was going to vote for.
Huckabee's position stands starkly in contrast with what my journey into the Bible and the teachings of Jesus over the last few months has revealed. There is only one non-negotiable issue Christ talks about and it is a simple, yet outrageously radical concept — love.
Jesus never explicitly called on his followers to vote or use government to further his mission, but he did call on us, time and time again, to love.
To love our neighbors and our enemies. To love the unborn babies and the women who've had abortions and the doctors who perform those abortions and the senators who believe those abortions should be illegal. To love the folks on welfare and the 1 percent. To love the president, no matter who he is. To love the Navy Seals who protect our country and those they protect our country from. To love the pundits and the statisticians. To love the gays and the members of Westboro Baptist Church. To love the healthy and those who have pre-existing conditions. To love the Muslims and the Jews and the Mormons. To love Hispanics and blacks and Asians and Native Americans and whites. To love the socialists and the libertarians. To love Mike Huckabee and James Dobson and Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove and yes, even Donald Trump.
We are called to love above all else.
Now, just because Jesus didn't talk about politics doesn't mean that elections don't matter and Christians shouldn't participate in them. I still believe that having the opportunity to choose our country's leaders is a great privilege that should not be taken lightly. Voting gives us an opportunity to affect the future, to make the world a better place. But while I get to cast a ballot for president once every four years, as a Christian, I can demonstrate Christ's love to the world every single day. What do you think makes a bigger difference?