Sorting through the mess
Recent elections have set many new standards in understanding what motivates voters. Most political observers are noting new levels of "against" voting regarding the candidates rather than "for" in favor of one, the growing influence of media sway and the dissatisfaction among the population with the political establishment. Coffee table talk and social media rarely reference party platforms, beliefs systems, or the ways the candidates or parties reflect the values of American voters. It's the reason so many political scientists predict a lower status for party platforms in the informational cycle of most voters. John Sides, Professor of Political Science at George Washington University wrote in the Washington Post Wonkblog---
"Party platforms and their specific planks are not a major factor in how voters
make up their minds. No one learns the details of the platforms," he says. "It's
much more likely that voters will hear information about the nominee's positions,
or even the running mate's positions."
Evidently values and what the parties represent have slipped down the scale of our voting influences. And, this is regrettable. Today most voters have to sort through the mess of the MSM, social media, and Starbucks chatter to arrive at voting decisions. This is even more regrettable.
Roy Disney, brother of Walt and partner in the Disney empire, is quoted as saying, "When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier." This life truth is affirmed in much of the contemporary leadership instruction and discussion about personal character, passion, goals and objectives, and a sense of mission. Our deeply held beliefs should always form the basis for what we do in life and how we do it. Jesus Christ said it this way---
These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:21, ESV
Having life in his name certainly refers to eternity and life beyond physical existence. Just the same, it can also be a reference point for the life we are living in the here and now. He has come that we might have life and life more abundantly (see John 10:10). For Christians, then, the teachings of Jesus and the word of Scripture inspired by the Spirit should be the underlying basis for what we believe and how we do life.
Then, there's the information age. Life today is fast and loud and the velocity and busy-ness puts most of us on a treadmill of activity. Things of value, including a formulation of our deepest values and beliefs, often slip through the cracks of harried lives. In many life decisions the basic principles that define us are seconded to the vast informational overload that crashes into every day. Us humans are also plagued with a self-absorbed human nature that seeks personal identity and the approval of others. Living by our values becomes increasingly obscure because we are often blinded by what works best in a given situation rather that what is right. More sorting through the mess.
Because of these tendencies and life realities, knowing and living by our personal beliefs and values is all the more essential, especially when making important decisions. Certainly an election as significant as the mid-term on November 6 is one of those critical decision making processes. Sorting through the mess of popular opinion, trendy language and headlines, and so much other rubble just doesn't seem sufficient to inform how we steward the franchise, our precious vote. So, what are our values and how do we formulate them?
Our values are the significant beliefs and actions deriving from our personal worldview. As one who affirms a Christian worldview these values seek to reflect resonance with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the authority of Scripture in all life circumstances. A recent study by the Barna Research Group asked participants a list of strategic questions to verify the degree to which they actually held Christian values. How these questions are answered may be a glimpse at our particular worldview. These were:
Do absolute moral truths exist?
Is absolute truth defined by the Bible?
Did Jesus Christ live a sinless life?
Is God the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe, and does He still rule it today?
Is salvation a gift from God that cannot be earned?
Is Satan real?
Does a Christian have a responsibility to share his or her faith in Christ with other people?
Is the Bible accurate in all of its teachings?
In the Barna study only 9% of responses indicated positive answers. This is surprising when compared to the 75% of Americans who listed themselves as Christians in previous research. This discrepancy may explain recent declines in church attendance, the moral and ethical slide so visible in our culture, and even perhaps the volatile voting preferences of a confused, spiritually disoriented society. The bottom line is that voters don't always know their values and therefore don't vote them. The voting public is generally motivated by media hype, their preference for candidates based on superficial images, the influence of others, and, in some instances, party politics. You can review the Focus on the Family article about the Barna study by clicking here.
Of course, there are many values assessment systems to establish the things that matter most in this life. Google "worldviews" or "values assessment" to discover pages of insight in determining which of the prevailing systems best represents your personal views. The important thing is that our values go with us into the voting booth. For that to be effective we should also know the values of the candidates who are seeking office in our government, and the parties that have endorsed and supported them.
A candidate was heard saying, "The separation of church and state means that our vote must be a political decision not informed by our personal faith". Give me a break. What we believe should influence everything we do. So, we must discover with clarity our values system and compare what we believe to the platforms of the parties and the clear statements of the candidates, and vote our values on November 6.
Or, continue sorting through the mess and elect candidates that represent themselves.