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Presidential Election. Christian Response.

A Christian Response to the
2008 Presidential Election

by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts

Copyright © 2008 by Mark D. Roberts

Note: You may download this resource at no cost, for personal use or for use in a Christian ministry, as long as you are not publishing it for sale. All I ask is that you give credit where credit is due. For all other uses, please contact me at Thank you.

A Christian Response to the 2008 Presidential Election

Part 1 of series: A Christian Response to the 2008 Presidential Election
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In November 2004 I put up a short series entitled – Presidential Election Results: A Christian Response. I meant for this series to be relevant to all Christians, those who supported John Kerry and those who supported George Bush. I was searching for common ground, for affirmations that would help all believers to respond to the election in a Christian way. So that my readers would know that my thoughts were not a result of my own response to the results of the presidential race, I wrote the entire series on the evening before the election itself. I put up the whole series early so people would know that I didn't "cheat" by shaping my comments in light of some specific result. As you may recall, the election of 2004 promsied to be very close, with some polls favoring Bush and others favoring Kerry.

I want to put up a slightly revised version of my 2004 series because I think we Christians need to be reminded of a few things with regard to our citizenship (or citizenships, actually). At the moment I write this, most pundits are predicting a victory for Barack Obama. Of course, you never know how it will turn out until the actual results are tallied. But my comments are independent of the results of the presidential election. They'll be just as valid, in my opinion, no matter who wins tomorrow. Of course there's always the possibility that we won't know the victor for several weeks, as in 2000. (Photo: Truman celebrates his "loss" to Dewey. One of the great photos from American political history. It reminds us that strange things sometimes happen in political affairs.)

Whatever happens tomorrow in the presidential election, some Christians will be glad while others will be upset. I can't remember a year in which Christians were more obviously split in their party loyalties (except, perhaps, the 1976 election). No matter what happens tomorrow, some Christians will believe that the best candidate won, while others will believe the opposite. Post-election polling will show what sort of Christians voted for which candidate. But it will still be true that a vast number of Christians will have voted for the winner while a vast number of Christians will have voted for the loser.

Yet, though our emotions and prognostications of the future may differ widely, I believe that all Christians in America can and should be united in a five-fold response to this election. I'll explain Response #1 today, with more to come in the next couple of days.

Facet #1: We Should Act Upon the Call of Jesus to Peacemaking in the Way We Relate to Our Fellow Citizens.

We should recognize that our nation is deeply and almost evenly divided on many, many issues. The fact that one candidate won the election in no way erases this fundamental reality. Moreover, our national divisions are not only ideological, but deeply emotional. When the next president is announced, many Americans will be ecstatic, while many will be profoundly concerned about our nation's future. Furthermore, no matter whether we’re facing the prospect of President Obama or President McCain, we can be sure that the next four years will be filled with disagreement, dissembling, and disgust as both sides continue to duke it out in the political arena.

Can anything help to heal our nation? Can anything bring us back to more civil discourse about the crucial issues in our time? Yes, I believe so. I believe that the church of Jesus Christ can help to accomplish these worthy goals. After all, Jesus himself has called us to be peacemakers (Matt 5:9), to forgive those who wrong us (Matt 6:14), to be salt and light in our world (Matt 5:13-16), and to love, not only our neighbors (Matt 22:39), but even our enemies (Matt 5:44). We who follow Jesus Christ should treat our political opponents in the spirit of Jesus even as we call others to do the same. (I’ve had much more to say about this vision for the role of the church in our nation. See my series: “The Church and Politics in America.”)

Now of course I’m well aware, sadly enough, that the church in America often contributes to the divisiveness in our land, rather than helping to heal it. Some of the most vitriolic rhetoric in this last election has come from Christian pulpits and pundits. This is tragic and wrong. Though believers should speak their convictions clearly and courageously, they should refrain from doing so in a way that is inconsistent with Christ. Perhaps before becoming peacemakers, Christians in America need to repent for the ways we have contributed to the meanness of our national discourse.

I believe that all Christians and all churches, no matter what our political leanings, need to embrace once again the call and promise of Jesus in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Added in 2008: What you've just read is almost word-for-word what I wrote in 2004. It seems rather scary and sad that in the 2008 election some of the rhetoric from pulpits and pundits has been even more vitriolic than in 2004. Yikes! Yet, at the same time, there were moments of hope in this recent election. I'm thinking, for example, of Rick Warren's televised interviews of Senators Obama and McCain in The Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency. This was the most sane, balanced, and insightful interchange of the whole election. Rick Warren exemplified the kind of clarifying, peacemaking role that Christians can play in our civic discourse. Of course there is certainly a time for Christians to express their divergent views and to disagree. But, even then, we should do this in the way of Christ.

A Christian Response to the 2008 Presidential Election (Part 2)

Part 2 of series: A Christian Response to the 2008 Presidential Election
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In my last post I began discussing a Christian response to the presidential election. More accurately, I began repeating a discussion I posted four years ago. At that time, I wrote this series without knowing the results of the election itself. I was trying to articulate a Christian response to the election that wasn't dependent on its results or on partisan affections. Here's what I have so far:

Facet #1: We Should Act Upon the Call of Jesus to Peacemaking in the Way We Relate to Our Fellow Citizens.

In today’s post I’ll discuss the second and third facets of a Christian response to the presidential election.

Facet #2: We Need to Reaffirm Our Dual Citizenship.

Christians are to live in this world, but not of this world. Though we are citizens of a nation – and ought to exercise our citizenship faithfully – we find our true citizenship in heaven (Phil 3:20). Moreover, we are to exercise our citizenship in a way that is consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ (Phil 1:27). Thus, no matter how involved we may be in secular politics, we must always stand back and view earthly affairs from a divine perspective. And no matter how much we may support one candidate or the other, we must always remember that our primary allegiance is not to any human being, or to any political party, but to the one true God.

The fact that we are citizens of heaven should not mean we care less about human politics, however. In fact, the more we embrace our heavenly home, the more we realize that we have been “sent” by God into this world to make a difference for his kingdom. For those of us who live in a democratic nation, this surely entails living out our citizenship as an act of discipleship.

But, at the same time, as citizens of heaven we are not beholden to the narrowness of any nation or party or ideology. We have a perspective from which to critique, not only our political opponents, but also political allies and even ourselves. Moreover, we have a perspective from which to affirm our political opponents when they act in ways consistent with God’s kingdom.

Thus our dual citizenship doesn’t dilute our joy or our sorrow over the results of a presidential election. But it does allow us to see such things in a heavenly light. It allows us to see beyond raw partisanship. Moreover, it reminds us that there is only one true Savior of the World, and his name isn’t John or Barack, but Jesus.

Facet #3: We Need to Refocus Upon Our Fundamental Mission.

On the day before the election, we Christians had a mission in the world. We were sent by Jesus Christ to make disciples from all nations (Matt 28:19). We were called to be light in the world, so that as people see our good works they might give glory to God (Matt 5:14-16). As Christians, we have accepted God’s instruction through the Hebrew prophet Micah to “do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with [our] God” (Mic 6:8). We joined Jesus in his mission of bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, letting the oppressed go free, and proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor (Luke 4:18-19). As the church of Jesus Christ, we have accepted our calling to be a provisional demonstration of the truth of the gospel, not only to this world, but to all powers in the universe (Eph 3:1-13). On Monday, November 1st, 2004, and on Monday, November 3, 2008, this was our primary mission as believers in Jesus Christ. (Photo: Christ’s Great Commission window from the Anglican Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s, Newfoundland. This is the oldest Anglican Parish in Canada, having been founded in 1699 as a response to Christ’s Great Commission in Matthew 28.)

It’s still our primary mission today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, until Christ finishes the work of new creation. No election result will change this basic mission. Nor will a struggling economy or economic prosperity. Nor will a season of peace or the threat of terrorist attack. Nor will the enjoyment of political freedom or life under political oppression.

In saying this I’m not minimizing the importance of secular government and politics. Far from it. But I am aware that such matters, as significant as they may be on one level, can easily distract us from our primary calling as Christians. Given how much attention has been focused upon the presidential election in the last year – for better or for worse – it may be time for each of us to refocus our sights on what matters most in life. And it may also be an opportune time for our churches to do the same.

Added in 2008: In recent weeks, the troubled economy has often stolen the spotlight from the presidential election. The greatest concern of many Americans right now is not who will be the next President, but how and when the economy will be fixed. As much as I join those who are concerned about the recent economic downturn, I'm also aware that it can help us to realize what matters most in life. These things, like family and faith, cannot be purchased with money. They are both free and inestimably valuable. Moreover, when the world economy spins out of control, we realize once again that God, and God alone, is worthy of our full trust.

In my next post I’ll finish up this series by addressing elements 4 and 5 of a Christian response to the presidential election.

A Christian Response to the 2008 Presidential Election (Part 3)

Part 3 of series: A Christian Response to the 2008 Presidential Election
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In my first two posts in this series I’ve outline three facets of a Christian response to the presidential election:

1. We Should Act Upon the Call of Jesus to Peacemaking in the Way We
     Relate to Our Fellow Citizens.

2. We Need to Reaffirm Our Dual Citizenship
3. We Need to Refocus Upon Our Fundamental Mission

In today’s post I’ll finish up this short series, adding items 4 and 5 to the list.

4. We Need to Renew Our Trust in the Sovereignty of God

No matter who will be our new president, we Christians need to renew our fundamental trust in the sovereignty of God. I guarantee you that God is not surprised by the election results. In fact, before the foundation of the world, he worked these results into his plan for the creation. Whichever person will be our new president, the truth of Romans 8:28 remains rock solid: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Photo: A Serbian icon, picturing Christ as Pantokrator, the "Ruler of All Things.")

When elections don’t go our way, it’s easy to doubt God’s sovereignty. We wonder why God let the "wrong" candidate win. Our doubts and passions are exacerbated when we hear believers on the other political side claim that the election results reflect God’s personal endorsement of their candidate. Yet there is a benefit for our souls when our candidate loses. We’re reminded once again that our primary trust is in God, not in any human being.

Conversely, when election results match our voting, it’s easy to put too much confidence in a human being or an administration. In our glee, we can neglect God’s sovereignty in favor of political victory or national pride. Thus, even and especially if your candidate will be the next president, you need to remember just who is really in charge of the universe, just who is King of kings and Lord of lords.

This leads to my final of five points.

5. We Need to Recommit to Praying for the President

No matter who was just elected president, we need to pray for this person and his administration, daily, if not more often. However you voted, you can surely agree that the next president desperately needs God’s help. Scripture is clear that we’re to pray for our rulers (1 Tim 2:1-2). The need for such prayer is clear, now more than ever.

Many Christians find it much easier to pray for the president if they voted for him, but not if they didn’t. This is both ironic and mistaken. The irony is that if your candidate lost the election, then you must surely believe that the winner needs God’s help even more than if your candidate had won. So logic would suggest that we intercede more consistently for a president we don’t like than for one of whom we approve.

Moreover, we should remember that the early Christians were called to pray for, not a president whom they elected, nor even a ruler of whom they approved, but rather for an emperor who had been foisted upon them, and who in many cases actively sought to persecute them. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 actually reads:

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.

“Kings” includes both the Roman Caesar and other subordinate rulers (like King Herod). Notice, Scripture does not say, “Pray for your ruler when you agree with him, or when you’re on his side.” Rather, we are to pray for our leaders . . . period. (And, I might add, no matter how bad the next president may be in your eyes, I guarantee you he won’t be as bad as Nero, who was the Roman emperor at the time Paul urged Christians to pray for him. Nero was famous for, among other things, proclaiming himself as a god and senselessly crucifying hundreds of Christians.)

Added in 2008: When I was pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church, I led our church in prayer during most worship services. In these prayers I almost always prayed for the President (Bush, Clinton, and Bush), the Administration, the Congress, and the courts. On a fairly regular basis I added prayers for state, county, and local officials. I would hope that, in the days ahead, more churches would be united in praying for our government officials. Surely now, more than ever, they need divine wisdom and guidance.


Admittedly Christians will differ widely in many of their responses to the presidential election. This is natural, given the diversity of our views on many topics, including politics, economics, world affairs, not to mention theology. But, I believe that all Christians, no matter our political inclinations, should respond with unity to what has happened in our country.

In review and conclusion, here are five facets of that unity:

1. We Should Act Upon the Call of Jesus to Peacemaking in the Way We
     Relate to Our Fellow Citizens.

2. We Need to Reaffirm Our Dual Citizenship
3. We Need to Refocus Upon Our Fundamental Mission
4. We Need to Renew Our Trust in the Sovereignty of God
5. We Need to Recommit to Praying for the President