The topic of elections is one I never thought would be as significant in my life as it has become. Little did I know while growing up that elections would direct the course of my life and career.
Some elections occurred early, including leadership roles in Future Farmers of America, Walther League, Gamma Delta, Phi Eta Sigma, and Texas A&M Corps of Cadets. Those were religious, extracurricular, and academic organizations of my high school and college years. It wasn’t until I entered pastoral ministry that elections impacted my professional career.
There were elections by voters’ assemblies of congregations extending calls for me to be their pastor. I accepted two and declined many others. There was an election by a mission board to be a mission developer and another by a different board of directors to serve as a leader of Lutheran Foundation of Texas. A more recent election by the current board of that organization means I’ll begin serving next month in the same role I occupied 25 years ago.
On a broader scale, there were four elections to the office of district president of our statewide church in Texas by 600 delegates at each election, followed by three elections to the office of national church president by 1200 delegates at each election. The fourth election to that office turned out to be an un-election, which was an invitation for me to leave that office.
Sadly, that last election was characterized by organized negative publicity that included rumors, mischaracterizations, half-truths, and downright lies. Nothing is more disappointing than witnessing a group of people, sacred or secular, conducting pre-election campaigning against honorable men or women willing to serve to the best of their ability if elected.
We saw a great deal of that type of campaigning in the recent U.S. presidential election. We see it also in other campaigns of lesser import. In some cases, we don’t see it but it’s happening nevertheless, under a shroud of secrecy. How sad it is that the presence of sin in our lives prompts unkind, untruthful, unbecoming behavior that elevates one person and denigrates another.
In a perfect world, voters would be simply but earnestly encouraged to exercise their right and privilege of electing the most qualified candidate for any office for which an election is held. We don’t live in a perfect world.
It’s my conviction not to participate in any such negative behavior. I don’t mean that in a pietistic way. I simply speak the truth that’s in my heart. I encourage you to do the same. Ignore and do not participate in uncharitable campaigning. Better yet, discourage it. Speak out against it.
Martin Luther’s explanation of the Eighth Commandment says it quite well: “We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, nor defame our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything.” So be it!