Growing up in St. Elizabeth Jamaica I was pretty sheltered from the divisive politics that went on in the inner cities. People from competing parties sat together on election night to watch as the voting results are reported and at the end of the night the winning party’s supporter celebrate while the others argue a bit, have a drink or two, and move on. What I don’t remember ever seeing is politics playing out in the Church. Even though I have now lived in the US longer than I did in Jamaica, I am still shocked at how politics has and continue to influence the church. I cringe whenever I hear pastors and Christian leaders chide each other as being a liberal and the pride with which others take in being conservative. I often cannot tell where faith ends and politics begin in these statements.

It’s not as if the church doesn’t have enough that divides us that politics should be an added ingredient. It is disheartening to hear Christians say that fellow Christians who vote Democrat are all going to hell or that Conservatives only care about two issues [abortion and traditional marriage] but neglect to care for the least of these or to afford justice to the less privileged. To make such a broad statement is even criticized in the political realm and should not flow from the mouth of a Christian.

Many church leaders say “vote your conscience” but then proceed to preach a sermon on the evils of the party they oppose. How does this not alienate members of the congregation? I’m personally offended by much of the hypocrisy I hear flowing from our pulpits. A Christian is not defined by the candidate he or she votes for. We are defined by our faith in Christ and Christ alone. Voting party, in my opinion, can be a betrayal of our conscience and biblical values because party affiliation doesn’t qualify a candidate for salvation. The church seems to have allowed politics to dictate what qualifies as sin and to even add weight to sins as if one is less damning than the other.

As a Christian, I believe that life begins at conception and should anyone ask my opinion, I would advise against abortion. I also believe that the bible is very clear that marriage is between one man and one woman. However, I believe that God gave us freedom to choose and that freedom should extend to everyone. Can we be the land of the free if we restrict people’s freedom to choose? Would that not be contrary to the constitution? The matter is far too significant to simply dumb it down to “pro-life” or “pro-choice”! I believe one can be both, just as it is God’s will that no one should perish but gives us the freedom to choose. “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

We must stand on biblical principles and not compromise that which is very clear in scripture. We must also be mindful that our commission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. This does not mean people will accept and we cannot force anyone to. When Jesus sent His disciples out he told them that if anyone or any town should not receive them they should shake the dust of their sandals as a testimony against them. Free will is an essential part of our salvation story and we should recognize its importance.

This year’s election is, for lack of better words, crazy! Much of Christendom is being challenged in what they have held to as the candidates before us make it a bit difficult to justify voting party line. However, I’m sure this won’t stop that from happening. Lately I have been hearing Evangelical leaders saying this election boils down to the Supreme Court. Meaning that they will vote for the person they feel will nominate a justice who agrees with them on abortion and traditional marriage. But is this not putting your faith in man instead of God? Does this really justify us voting for a candidate who we don’t feel reflects the values we as Christians seek in a president?

Furthermore, why are we pretending that any of them will make a difference? Roe v. Wade was passed by a majority vote among mostly Republican appointees (Democrats and Republicans). Since that time there has been a transition of power between the two parties and there have been no successful attempts to overturn the law. The recent court ruling on marriage equality was passed with the support of a Republican Justice, who also happens to be Catholic. Somehow I feel the trend on this ruling will not be much different than Roe v. Wade.

The only thing I ask is that non-believers afford believers the same respect they seem to be demanding from us; our freedom to practice our faith.