When I was being interviewed by the search committee of my church in Washington, they asked me about my political views. I was a little embarrassed. “I’m almost apolitical,” I said. “I really don’t pay that much attention to politics.” “Good!” they said, in unison. “That’s the perfect answer!” Because in Washington, as you might guess, politics is a big deal. People spend a good part of every day in an atmosphere that is polluted by rhetoric: Democrats fuming at Republicans and Republicans fussing at Democrats. Like the exhaust from a million cars, politics is in the air they breathe. But in church, the members of that congregation hoped for a different atmosphere. They wanted to walk into a place where they could breathe the fresh, forgiving air of God’s grace. And so they had agreed, long before my arrival, to check their partisan politics at the door. And to their great credit they did.
It’s not that you can’t be a Christian and have strong political views (in fact, the longer I lived in Washington, the stronger my views became), it’s just that politics tend to divide people along party lines, and in the church we don’t need that kind of division. We don’t need to say in Sunday school, “I can’t believe what those Democrats are up to!” or in the hallway, “Those Republicans make me ill!” We don’t need to assume that any one party is the “Christian” party, or that if you are a “real” Christian you will vote a certain way. In my experience there are people of sincere faith on both sides of the aisle, and perhaps the most Christian thing we can do is respect their differing views.
Don’t get me wrong: I want you to vote in November. I want you to consider the issues carefully and make a thoughtful, well-informed decision. This is an important election. But in these next few weeks, as the weather gets cooler and the rhetoric gets hotter, let’s do what the members of my last church did: let’s check our partisan politics at the door. When we come together, instead of talking about what the Democrats are doing or what the Republicans are doing, let’s talk about what God is doing. And above our allegiance to any earthly nation, power, or party, let’s pledge our allegiance to Him.