Aren’t you glad you live in Georgia? They tell me that living in a “swing state” is miserable in election years. The radio & television ads are non-stop, the billboards are everywhere, the campaign mass mailings are relentless, and the door-to-door visits are all too frequent. Georgia, they say, is a foregone conclusion. No need to have the election. Just color us red on the map and come back again in a few years. One poll of likely voters in Georgia turns us red by 21%, although it is probably closer to 10% or so. No matter, the campaigns have largely avoided our state with both their “ground war” and their “air war.” Georgia is so much a foregone conclusion that the major media outlets will not be conducting exit polling in our state. They see no need in asking a red state why they choose to remain red. Much more news is to be made in swing states, so they’ve put their news eggs into purple baskets like Florida, Ohio, and North Carolina.
If you’re a Christian, it makes no matter if you live in a swing state like Pennsylvania, a red state like Georgia, or a blue state like New York. A biblical worldview is consistent across geography regardless of the political ideology of the place you call home. This means the biggest influence of Christians – whether they live in Meriwether County or Manhattan – had better be the Word of God. This also means that there are certain non-negotiable issues that should be near and dear to the heart of Christians, because they are near and dear to the heart of God.
Many Christians have washed their hands of the political process. It feels that we are often left having to choose the lesser of two evils. To be perfectly honest, I feel this way about our presidential choices this year. I’m being asked to choose between a religious pluralist and a missionary from the Mormon Church. On one hand, President Obama has done more in his four years to suppress religious freedom than any president before him. On the other hand, Governor Romney practices a religion that most evangelicals – myself included – consider a cult. As a former missionary, he actively proselytized for the Mormon Church. He also supports the work of the church with large sums of money. I’ve heard some say that I shouldn’t worry about such things because “I’m not voting for a pastor.” I agree, because if this were the vote for my pastor, I would have to find a new church.
The good news is that Jesus has given us clear instructions on how we should respond to our culture. In Matthew 5, Jesus tells us that believers are called to be “salt and light” in our world. This really is simple, straightforward advice on how He wants us to live our lives. We are to be influencers in our culture. And it just so happens, in a free society such as these United States, the greatest influence can be felt at the ballot box. What does it mean to be salt and light? Salt is a preservative. In other words, salt prevents decay. Christians should work to stop the decay of our society. I believe this means moral and ethical decay. When we see decay, we must do our part to stop it. That’s what being salt is all about. Light exists to erase darkness. Christians must constantly look out for darkness and shine the light of truth on it. Things hidden in darkness are completely revealed when light is shined on them.
Remembering those two simple things helps me be a better Christian voter. When I vote, I must discern which candidates or political parties will do the best at stopping moral and ethical decay and which will shine light on darkness. At the same time, I cannot trust politicians to do my job of being salt and light. They may govern in such a way that reinforces my worldview, but they cannot change the hearts of those they govern. Only Jesus can do that. While you may have great hope that your candidate will win in November, your candidate cannot change your coworker or your family member. Jesus is counting on us to be salt and light in our own spheres as well. True change for a culture comes when citizens’ hearts are turned to Christ, not just their government.