Presidential election years always present me with a strong case of emotions. A whole heaping basket of them, but one of the big ones that sits in my stomach is fear. And to be honest, it's not fear of who gets elected, but rather fear of what our country and our people are becoming. Election years tell you a lot about people. And I mean all sorts of people: family, friends, employers, colleagues, strangers in the grocery store, people on the news.
Haven't you ever noticed that things get tense during an election year? It's like we, as Americans, get prepped and ready for a year of war. We all draw lines in the sand and point fingers and offer ultimatums of sorts. The cable news stations become a battleground of words. Words of hate and insults and half-told truths and slanderous lies. Some of those words have a basis of fact and have been twisted into incredible tales. Others have no truth to them at all.
And the worst part is we all listen to these words. We take them and mold them into our own and then we become the ones saying hateful things about people we don't know. Terrible things that we don't bother to fact check or even doubt because surely everything that is said on the news is factual.
Haven't you noticed the direction that pretty much all of the candidate ads are running? Lucky me, I now live in a swing state, so every other advertisement run on TV is talking about the election. All of them have some backing of a super PAC or special interest group, and none of them help me to know who to vote for. All they do is incite fear or anger and further divide this country into three sides: one to support each candidate and one for those in the middle. And the sad thing is, other than at the debates, pretty much all you'll hear out of our candidates is undermining words about each other.
We are becoming a people that think it's okay to be disrespectful towards others. We've gotten to the point now that if our candidate doesn't win, instead of standing behind the chosen leader, we lurk in the shadows and slander him for four years until we can elect someone to replace him. And guess what? It doesn't stop there. The boundary for disrespect is never black and white. We, as humans, live by example, so all the time we spend disrespecting a candidate teaches us and others that it's okay to disrespect other people, too. Generally the ones that aren't like us in any way.
We as Christians are called to love, not insult, not belittle, but love. And in this case, love is a synonym for being encouraging, just, and respectful. We are fortunate to have the privilege to live in a country that accepts people for who they are, what they believe, and what they look like. It's a country of freedom in almost every sense, and it truly is a beautiful and rare thing. And we as Christians are called to love on all those people (in that tricky "love your neighbor as yourself" bit (Mark 12:31)), even the ones that don't look or think or act the way we do. I know it can be easily forgotten, but Christ hung out with and loved on everyone, especially the ones whose voice was never heard (lepers, prostitutes, the blind, children, etc.), and He called us to do the same: to share his word and his love with all of the peoples (Matthew 28:19).
We should also remember that Christ clarified one day that what one eats doesn't make him "unclean" but rather what he says (Matthew 15:11). So all I'm asking is to mentally wash our mouths out with soap and remember our character and respect for others in these last weeks leading up to the election. Our votes may be important, but our integrity and duty to love one another are infinitely more so.