An Anabaptist Survival Guide to the 2016 Elections

(This post is an excerpt from a sermon I preached on March 13. The traditional Anabaptist view is that Christians should not vote and thereby support a fallen system, but I–and many other contemporary Anabaptists–am of the school that voting is an extension of our creative nonviolence. This post is designed to speak to both those who vote and those who are conscientious objectors to voting. All of us must survive the election season.)

The 2016 election is brutal. Not just because it started in 2015. The whole narrative of the election hinges on an existential proposition–that we’re not voting for a person, we’re voting on the very nature of our lifestyles. It’s a terrifying proposition to put to a democracy, but it’s probably not too far off base.

So how do we deal with fourteen months of news reels asking us if the world as we know it is about to end? I tried to design a few practices for my own congregation.

DO Less. Be more. Ask yourself, “Am I seeking the things that love me back? What matters? Where matters?” Seek the places and people who matter.

DO Rest. You by yourself won’t change the election; you will not with a Five Hour Energy or a longer Facebook comment sway the outcome of the state. Be kind to yourself. Rest. Do the things that strengthen you. Live outside of the news cycle.

DO Mourn. The news cycle and talking heads treat this like a sports game, like once the final scores are in you should move on to the next thing. If the scores are upsetting, mourn. If it seems that things are falling apart, honor your sadness. Give it room to breathe.

DON’T predict the endings. All the reporters race to predict the endings, but none of them know the future. The stakes are high, yes. But don’t be too quick to know how the story ends, or to tell others how it will end. Be in this moment. Trust God with the future.

DO hope against the odds. Hope is the engine that guides us to keep acting. Take care of your hope. Keep its cupboard full, even if it is faded and thin. Nourish your hope by acting on it.

DON’T let this be the sum of your faithfulness or the totality of your ethics. Live your political self the best way your know how. But in the meantime, be faithful to your children; to your nieces and nephews; be faithful to the friends who make you laugh and the friends who cry with you. Be faithful to the daily practices that strengthen you. Be faithful to God.

DON’T stop doing good. In the tollbooth, in the grocery store, in the daily interactions, there is good that needs doing even while the bigger picture runs its course.

DO remember the legacy of your faith. Practice creative nonviolence. Remember the French Christians who helped Jews escape persecution; the Quakers and Mennonites who were stops on the Underground Railroad; the young Anabaptists like Vincent Harding who joined the Civil Rights movement. Learn creative nonviolence. Be prepared to use it.

DO read your Bible. God is love. Read minor prophets. When love includes the orphan, the widow, and the alien, and when politics does not, love becomes political. Christian is not a political party; but it is a political orientation. When Hosea says, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice, knowledge of God and not burnt offerings,” Hosea is making a political statement. Prophecy tends to bleed into the political. Listen to the prophets.

DON’T be afraid. Fear will chase your hope and drive you away from relationships. There is no strength in fear. When you begin to be afraid, go back to reading the Bible.

DON’T follow the clickbait. Clickbait is only false prophecy, the tables set up in the temple to sell you sensationalism and fear. News is news because it happens incrementally, not constantly. Don’t refresh your browser. Be patient. Strengthen yourself with love.

DO your conscience. Listen to it. Listen deliberately. Listen thoughtfully. Listen vulnerably and recognize the places where you have failed to hear and follow God. Look for God in your own actions.

DO be kind to those you disagree with. Love steadfastly. Know God. Be gracious to those who seem to know God less well than you do. This is after all how Jesus is, and you are a Jesus follower.

DO NOT expect your politician to save you. You are a Christian; you already have a Savior more powerful than any human. If we suffer, it will not be by the hand of our head of state. It will be by the collective failure of our communities to love each other. A single politician will not change a whole system—elections will not bring salvation, although they may bring hope or hopelessness in other ways.

DO believe that this is not the end. God will work in all things. Keep creating openings. Keep looking for God. If the end is near, it does not change the reality that there is still good that needs doing. Take up the good. Carry it with you.


One thought on “An Anabaptist Survival Guide to the 2016 Elections

  1. I’m calling for spell check on “Anapbaptist” in the title. Only one ‘p’ in “Anabaptist.” My brother saw it when I shared on Facebook.


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