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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Filtering by Tag: voting

When You're Thrown Under the Political Bus

jenmichel@me.com

I’ve touched a political nerve with my recent her.meneutics essay, “How Canada Convinced Me Not to Vote.” Although I don’t think my piece advocates that people shouldn’t vote, this seems to be what many have found most offensive. They feel I’ve shirked my civic duty, buried my proverbial political talent, and failed to value the freedom for which my fathers and mothers have fought hard.

As I expected, others have cited the abortion as the most pressing political concern of this (and every) election and are outraged at my apathy in the face of slaughter.

One woman has gone as far as to say that if I, “have a problem standing up for these principles then I need to re-examine my heart and relationship with Jesus Christ.”

There’s little to say that I haven’t already said in my 900-word piece, except to note that some of the comments in the thread bear out the unfortunate tenor of our political conversation.

We often fail to be charitable and believe the best in one another, especially during election season.

Many still believe that one of the political parties is inherently more “Christian” than the other.

I am thankful I wrote the piece, and I’m grateful for the thoughtful comments, many of which have really forced me to re-consider what is my Christian responsibility this election season. I certainly don’t have all the answers: in fact, my piece tries to tease out the many political complexities that face every Christian who steps into a polling both. But I am willing to continue reading and exploring, especially as I ask whether my failure to vote is a sin.

Another Christian essayist, Branson Parler, explains why he’s not voting at Think Christian. I find his reasons important to consider.

He suggests we take a look at Ross Douthat’s recent book, Bad Religion, and consider how we may have imbibed the political heresy of “nationalism that ascribes ultimate importance to the state.” Parler (and I assume Douthat) concludes: “It is clear that some Christians give precedence to the American kingdom over the kingdom of God.”

I would tend to agree that our Christian and civic responsibilities are often confused, and from the description of Douthat’s book on Amazon, I know this is a book I must read.

“As the youngest-ever op-ed columnist for the New York Times, Ross Douthat has emerged as one of the most provocative and influential voices of his generation. In Bad Religion he offers a masterful and hard-hitting account of how American Christianity has gone off the rails—and why it threatens to take American society with it.

Writing for an era dominated by recession, gridlock, and fears of American decline, Douthat exposes the spiritual roots of the nation’s political and economic crises. He argues that America’s problem isn’t too much religion, as a growing chorus of atheists have argued; nor is it an intolerant secularism, as many on the Christian right believe. Rather, it’s bad religion: the slow-motion collapse of traditional faith and the rise of a variety of pseudo-Christianities that stroke our egos, indulge our follies, and encourage our worst impulses.

These faiths speak from many pulpits—conservative and liberal, political and pop cultural, traditionally religious and fashionably “spiritual”—and many of their preachers claim a Christian warrant. But they are increasingly offering distortions of traditional Christianity—not the real thing. Christianity’s place in American life has increasingly been taken over, not by atheism, Douthat argues, but by heresy: debased versions of Christian faith that breed hubris, greed, and self-absorption.

In a story that moves from the 1950s to the age of Obama, he brilliantly charts institutional Christianity’s decline from a vigorous, mainstream, and bipartisan faith—which acted as a “vital center” and the moral force behind the civil rights movement—through the culture wars of the 1960s and 1970s to the polarizing debates of the present day. Ranging from Glenn Beck to Barack Obama, Eat Pray Love to Joel Osteen, and Oprah Winfrey to The Da Vinci Code, Douthat explores how the prosperity gospel’s mantra of “pray and grow rich,” a cult of self-esteem that reduces God to a life coach, and the warring political religions of left and right have crippled the country’s ability to confront our most pressing challenges and accelerated American decline.

His urgent call for a revival of traditional Christianity is sure to generate controversy, and it will be vital reading for all those concerned about the imperiled American future.”

* * * * *

At the end of the day, we are going to decide these things differently. That's Ok. But whatever political decision we make (or don’t make)  November 6, the Scriptures call us to active and redemptive participation in the world around us.

Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7

However we may each choose to express our welfare-seeking, whether by political vote or small acts of beauty in our neighborhoods, schools, and cities (or both!), I’m praying that Christians can lose the vitriol that we so readily unleash on each other and circle around the gospel’s call to bless.

I have a feeling that civility in the face of difference, honor in the midst of disagreement may indeed accomplish what Jesus said it would: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another," John 13:35.

 

 

 

 

 

How Canada Convinced Me Not to Vote: Why I won't be casting my ballot in two weeks

jenmichel@me.com

A friend e-mailed weeks ago to ask my political opinion. Because of her newfound faith, she’s approaching this election differently. Like most Christ-followers, Democrat and Republican, she wants to cast a “Christian” vote. Her e-mail arrived the day Her.meneutics released its first eBook, What Christian Women Want This Election Season, which I advised her to read and which I've reviewed here. Apart from this recommendation, however, I was stumped. In fact, I was feeling—and still feel—politically ambivalent. Voting is a great freedom and an important civic responsibility. However, a vote for president cannot express the breadth of Christian conviction.

Although political disengagement may not be a “moral option,” I have decided I won’t vote next month. Now that I am living in Canada, I would have needed to obtain an absentee ballot to vote, and I simply lacked the political will to bother.

* * * * * You'll find the entire content of my essay here at Christianity Today's Women's Blog, her.meneutics.

eBook review: What Christian Women Want This Election

jenmichel@me.com

Mitt Romney has “binders full of women” that he’ll need to open in a couple of weeks -  because it’s likely American women who are deciding this presidential election. The gender pay gap, abortion, access to contraceptives: these are only a handful of the issues that the candidates are talking about in their efforts to win women voters.

But the issues I care about aren’t limited to those I’ve cited, largely because my faith as well as my gender influences my vote.

This is why I chose to read Her.meneutics new eBook, What Christian Want This Election Season -  and why I recommend it to you. First, I appreciated that the book captures the real tension of voting “Christianly.” In the essay entitled, “What Do Evangelical Women Want This Election Season,” author Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra explores the ongoing political tension for Christian voters. Is fighting poverty and other social ills more important than standing against abortion and gay marriage? Appreciating the Christian convictions that undergirds both Democratic and Republican political commitment challenges us not just to tolerate one another, but deeply honor each other despite our political differences.

And Rachel Held Evans implores women to follow a honor code this election season in her essay, “Why We Can All Opt Out of the War on Women.” “The decisions we make – for ourselves, for our families, for our churches, for society – rarely fall into neat and tidy categories of liberal or conservative.” Evans argues that politicians want to divide women, exploiting us as “spoils in a political war.” “While we should certainly speak up for what we think is right, as followers of Jesus, war is not an option.” This is a message that resonates with me, a woman embattled by the Mommy Wars. I’m grateful for her reminder.

What I may have gained most, though, from What Christian Women Want This Election Season is historical perspective. Elesha Coffman writes, “A Brief History of the Evangelical Woman’s Vote,” which explains the historical trends of both the female and evangelical vote. (Did you know Billy Graham was a registered Democrat?) Historical evidence confirms that we as voters are products of our era, regional culture, and race, and that is properly sobering when we’re ready to go to blows over political “principles.”

Anna Broadway’s essay, “Health-Care Reform and the God of Salvation” was of particular interest to me, especially now that I live in Canada, where government-funded health care is available to everyone. If there is a political issue that is driving me this election, health care is it. Broadway provides theological perspective for a very complicated issue and reminds us more broadly that, “Orthodoxy is not defined by what positions we or others take on the law, but by the creeds. Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.” I might have wished, however, that Broadway considered the real failures of our current system, rather than simply identifying the weaknesses of the Affordable Care Act.

Another essay of interest was Trillia Newbell’s piece, “Why This Black Christian No Longer Toes the Democratic Party Line.” She challenges us to consider how race often trumps our Christian identity when we vote, and she cites her reasons for breaking with the Democratic party. Alongside Newbell, the editors may have done well to include a similar story of demographic breaking with the Republican party. (Maybe that’s the essay I should have written.)

Sarah Pulliam Bailey ends the book with her interviews with Condoleeza Rice, Nikki Haley, and Michele Bachmann. I don’t know that you’d hear these speak so candidly about their faith elsewhere, which is another reason for acknowleding What Christian Woman Want This Election Season as a unique and important resource.

I found Her.meneutics first eBook helpful and even-handed, and I’ll look forward to more like it in the future. While it can do only as much as a short eBook can do, it manages to succeed in framing some of the bigger political complexities facing Christian women as they vote. For women like me who are eager to dig further into the details, they may be think in future eBooks to include a list of additional resources. Overall, What Christian Women Want This Election Season is a book I recommend, as it is well worth $4.99 and a couple of hours on the couch.

And if you're interested in knowing how I'll vote this election, catch me at Her.meneutics Monday, October 22.