Estimated read time: Five minutes
Even though I’ve been involved in some way in government and politics over the last 25 years (going back to college), I still find myself getting increasingly annoyed during election season by the constant barrage of political ads. Some of my annoyance comes from the frequency of the ads, which seem to miraculously multiply as November approaches. But mostly what I find annoying and honestly sometimes offensive is the negativity of the ads, often filled with attacks and misrepresentations over the course of their 30 seconds.
At World Vision, we focus our advocacy on an approach that is rooted in faith. We often talk about being wise as serpents and innocent as doves. At its heart, this approach means that we should be smart — do our research, know our facts — but also trust in God. It’s by using our “dove power” that we can truly seek to see the world as God sees it, to get past the negativity and self-promotion found so often in politics and find the power of the Holy Spirit.
“Serpent” power can feel like a very negative thing. When I first came to World Vision after spending six years as a nonprofit lobbyist working mostly for secular organizations, I took great offense to the term. “I’m not a snake,” I thought. “I’m not using sneaky and deceptive tactics!” While certainly serpent power can be used to deceive and to coerce, used the right way it is useful. Serpent power means doing our homework; being wise and discerning as we prepare to speak on behalf of the most vulnerable.
But too often political ads take that serpent power and use it in profoundly negative ways, including using scare tactics and misrepresenting the position of an opponent. Imagine if more politicians based their ads on “dove power” — seeking God’s kingdom with grace and love even for those with whom we disagree!
While I think most of us know we should not be making decisions about who we vote for based on political ads, there is no question that they influence us. But what else should we be doing as Christians to better understand and make decisions about what candidates to support? How do we take a “dove power” approach?
Here are a few tips:
I know that this will feel a little obvious, but I do mean to really, truly pray and open your heart to how God might be speaking to you. Many of us have political preferences and affiliations, favorite issues we might base our voting decisions on. But take time to ask God what is on his heart and to listen to how he might guide your decisions. Ask him to speak to you about what he seeks for our country and our world, but also spend time in silent contemplation to listen for his response.
Read candidates’ websites
Again, this may feel obvious, but I know I for one am guilty of not reading enough about various candidates and their positions on issues. In addition to a candidate’s site, there are nonpartisan groups (like the League of Women Voters) and local newspapers that often will have candidate profiles. These are much more reliable than the political ads we see on TV.
Get involved in a campaign
Part of how we can bring God’s love and dove power to the political process is to increase our involvement and to engage in a Christ-centered way. Often volunteering for a campaign means knocking on doors or making phone calls — engagement that can sometimes get divisive if you encounter someone who disagrees with your candidate. Volunteering will not only help you understand a candidate more but will allow you to show God’s love to others, even if they disagree with you.
Talk to people who think differently than you do
I know sometimes this can be a hard thing to do, but one of the ways that we can learn and grow is to challenge our own assumptions and hear new ways of thinking about things. This approach does not work well if we rely solely on serpent power, but by bringing dove power into our conversations, we open our hearts and minds to what God might be telling us through another person. Even if we still don’t agree at the end, God may use the moment in ways that we cannot see to further His work.
Regardless of the approach you might take to learn more about the candidates for office where you live, I hope that above all you do not become discouraged. As tempting as it may be to just disengage from it all, God has granted us both the right and the duty to participate in our democracy. I hope that each of us will prayerfully seek His guidance on how to use both our “serpent” and our “dove” power to further His will and Kingdom.
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”— Matthew 10:16 (NIV)
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Top photo: World Vision Volunteer Advocate learning about how to engage her members of Congress at a training in Washington, D.C. (©2019 World Vision/photo by Laura Reinhardt)