I'm a bit giddy from cold medicine this morning. I'm also increasingly optimistic about the chances of a Kerry victory. (See this morning's current prediction at Electoral Vote.Com). My own electoral college prediction (why not, it's free) is that Kerry wins 284-254. Bush will concede on Friday of this week, I imagine. The Democrats will have a net gain of one Senate seat, or so I predict.
I like to play with the numbers on interactive electoral maps; a good one is on the PBS NewsHour site.
My fiancee and I will be in line at our polling place tomorrow morning before 7:00AM. (We are prepared for a bit of a wait.) I won't say how she'll be voting, but I can say that our views are neither perfectly aligned nor diametrically opposed. Some loving disagreements are perfectly healthy; my maternal grandparents cancelled out each other's votes for years. (Defying stereotype, my grandfather was a liberal Democrat, my grandmother a Republican moderate.) Once again, if anyone is interested in my endorsement slate, it's here.
The Los Angeles Times had a reporter at All Saints Pasadena yesterday. George Regas, our rector emeritus, preached a sermon entitled "If Jesus debated Senator Kerry and President Bush." It was as close to a partisan sermon as one could get without jeopardizing one's tax-exempt status under the IRS code. Regas began with a small joke, quoted in today's Times:
"I don't intend to tell you how to vote. We can just agree to disagree. You go your way and I'll go God's way."
It was meant in jest, and we all laughed. He hastened to say that good men and women of sincere Christian faith could vote for Kerry or Bush. But after that quick caveat, Regas proceeded to tell the jammed sanctuary (high attendance at church yesterday) exactly how Jesus would feel about the Iraq war, the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and abortion rights. Jesus, we learned, would consider this war an abomination, the failure to disarm the gravest of contemporary sins, the latest round of tax cuts as an assault on the poor, and the right to abortion necessary in order to save lives. Except for fleeting references to Micah 6:8 (we liberals do love that text), no Scripture was cited to support these positions, but that didn't seem to matter. George Regas was certain of how Jesus would stand on all of these complex modern issues, and by the time he was done, there was little doubt how Regas thought Jesus wanted us to vote.
I was angry and disheartened. Look, I'm a solid liberal on every issue except abortion. I'm voting for John Kerry tomorrow with hope and enthusiasm. Naturally, my faith does inform my voting, as I would like to believe it does every other area of my life. But I'm stunned at the hubris of anyone, left or right, who claims certainty about how Jesus would view our modern day political landscape! I've never been comfortable with fundamentalisms of any sort -- and what I got yesterday from the pulpit at All Saints was liberal fundamentalism at its most self-righteous. I don't like it one bit when it comes from Dobson or MacArthur or Falwell on the right -- and I don't appreciate it from the left, even when the positions espoused are quite close to my own.
Tomorrow's election is important for all of us. It is important for our nation, and for the world. But while I do believe that Christians are called into the political arena (though my neo-Anabaptism leaves me ambivalent about that), I don't think that the world of secular affairs is our most important battleground. Whoever wins tomorrow (if, deo volente, it ends tomorrow), we shall still have poor to care for. We shall still have hungry to feed. We shall still have lonely to comfort. I will still have teenagers to hug and laugh with. The work of the church is going to continue under a President Kerry, it will continue under a second Bush term. Ultimately, the president is still Caesar, and though we are subject to Caesar's laws (and in this society, may even help him make those laws), our focus must always be on service to another, grander, greater kingdom.
Both liberal and conservative Christians are too enamored of the power of the secular state to transform the hearts and minds and lives of its citizens and the citizens of the world. Yes, the moral character of the ruler matters. Yes, the policies of the state matter -- and good Christians can differ in good conscience as to what those policies ought to be. But the God I worship had little time for great leaders when he walked the earth. Jesus was political, yes -- but His politics were far more radical than anything any modern politician could possibly espouse. To claim Jesus' endorsement for any party, any candidate, is unbiblical and profoundly offensive.
I'm tired of the question, "What Would Jesus Do?" Though a useful corrective to the self-absorbed, the question assumes that there is always a clear answer. Sometimes, the answer is clear. More often, it isn't. I'm no bible expert, but one thing I see in the Gospel is Jesus consistently confounding the expectations of his followers. He tends to do the unexpected, the surprising, the scandalous. Even those who knew Him best were taken aback time and time again.
So do I know how Jesus wants me to vote? No, I don't. I don't think anyone else knows either. I know He calls us to service, sacrifice and giving. But beyond that, a humble respect for mystery does not allow me to go. I'm voting for Kerry. I want him to win. But I would never, ever, be so bold as to say that he is God's candidate. Of course, I also categorically reject the suggestion that the incumbent is God's favorite in this race. Ultimately, Bush and Kerry are competing to be the most powerful prince in the contemporary world's greatest principality. And while Christians can and should take an active interest in the affairs of this world, there is no question that real justice, real transformation, and real hope cannot come from the princes of this world.
The real battle is already over. Jesus already won. And in the certainty of that, I am struggling to remain tranquil on this tense and anxious day.