Four years ago, I followed the Presidential election very closely. In my eagerness to vote, I paid attention to every little bit of news that came along. Polls, sound bytes, and political analysis filled my days.
This year, I have tried to stay away from politics as much as possible. I don't have TV, and have a short attention span for reading things on the internet, and so I kept clear of all but the broad strokes of what was going on. And yet, I knew enough to make my decision on who to vote for.
For the last few months, I have seen otherwise wonderful people turn on each other over this election. I have seen outrageous claims, not just about the candidates, but about those who would vote for one or the other candidate. I have seen a peaceful forum degenerate into bickering. I have seen back-stabbing, snide comments, and idle talk come about as a result of people's obsession with what has become our national sport. And I guess I foolishly thought that this would subside once the election passed. And yet, if anything it has intensified.
Now I won't pretend that the issues at stake are not important. I won't make that it makes no difference who is in office, but what I would suggest is that politics as it stands today stands at odds with Christianity. Despite attempts on the part of some people to associate one party with Christianity, the truth is that both parties are good on some issues and bad on others. Both parties make promises that they don't keep. But more than anything, both parties seek power, influence, and control, none of which are Christian ideals. Whether one party or the other is more closely aligned with Christianity is beside the point. It is beside the point because it sets at odds one Christian with another. I make my decision on who to vote for with my conscience, as do the people that vote for the other guy. As Orthodox Christians, we share the same beliefs on everything. I find it hard to believe that Orthodox Democrats believe that abortion or homosexuality are acceptable. I find it hard to believe that Orthodox Republicans don't care about the poor or the sick. I don't think that Orthodox Democrats are Socialists, and I don't believe that Orthodox Republicans are warmongers. I believe that we fundamentally agree, and the system sets us at odds with one another on how to achieve what we want.
We are not meant to create a perfect world through politics. Democracy holds out the hope that we can vote our way to utopia. This will never happen. As Christians, we are not called to create a perfect world, but to be perfected in a fallen world. The election of Barack Obama will change the world, there is little doubt about that. Whether it will be a better world or a worse world does not change our role in that world. We are still called to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Christ. Had John McCain been elected, our call would be the same. I have heard a lot of speculation about how Christians will be persecuted, but Christ told us that we should always expect to be persecuted as He was, and indeed to rejoice in it. Frankly, it disappoints me to hear Christians lamenting their lot in life, as though it is not an honor to suffer with Christ.
We can affect the world through our actions, and indeed, we should vote as we see fit in order to affect this change. But we should never lose sight of the fact that we will never create a utopian society, we will never be loved and adored by the rest of the world, but what is within our grasp is to love one another as Christ commanded us. We must never forget that anything that sets our hearts against our brothers and sisters is not from God. We must keep a proper perspective, and to be charitable with one another even when we disagree about the workings of our government. In the words of the Liturgy, "let us love one another, that with one accord we may confess: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! The Trinity, one in essence, and undivided." We can't risk getting too wrapped up in the things of this world and forgetting about our unity as believers.
Please forgive me if at any time I have forgotten this in my zeal.
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