My dad lived on a farm in northern Illinois for 85 years. We rarely talked about politics, but one conversation when I was a senior at the University of Illinois in 1968 still makes me chuckle.
“Dad, how do you choose which political candidate to vote for?” I asked him while sitting at the kitchen table.
“I always vote for the best person,” he said, sipping a cup of coffee.
“Really? Have you ever voted for a Democrat or even looked into the party’s positions on issues?”
“No, I’ve never once voted for a Democrat or even bothered to check them out. They’ve never measured up well against Republicans.”
“So, you always vote for the best person as long as he’s a Republican, right?” I said.
“Yeah, that pretty well sums up my political philosophy.”
As you can guess from this exchange, my parents voted conservative and raised me to think the same way. They demonstrated the importance of the democratic process by showing up to vote at every election, whether it was for the local school board, township commissioner, dogcatcher, or whatever. They believed their votes actually made a difference for our nation.
In the autumn of 1964, I took my Johnny Cash record albums and my conservative attitudes to Garner Hall, a residence dormitory in Champaign, Illinois. It didn’t take long to realize Cash and Barry Goldwater didn’t play well with U of I students, 65 percent of whom came from the Chicago area.
I hung in there as a conservative for a little over a semester before caving in and joining the other liberal lemmings, looking for cliffs to jump off for noble sounding causes. Wasn’t college supposed to be a time of enlightenment? That was how I viewed my political metamorphosis.
After graduation, my liberal credentials remained intact through the presidential campaigns of George McGovern, Jimmy Carter twice and Walter Mondale. I didn’t even blink or shudder when I voted for them.
Then a mountain-moving event interrupted my life in 1985. I surrendered my life to Jesus and became a Christian.
My newfound faith didn’t derail my liberal views right away. That took place a little later when I learned more about the abortion issue. But what immediately happened was that I didn’t care about politics any longer.
At 39 years of age, I was a late-blooming Christian. I didn’t know anything about my Lord, and I wanted to know everything at once. Politics seemed so insignificant compared to knowing Him.
I continued on this narrow path for the next 15 years until I heard Bob Jones prophesy that a burning bush would come out of Texas and become the next president. That Texan was, of course, George Bush.
Jones’ prophecy hooked me.
“Hey,” I thought, “if God cares about presidential elections, maybe I should pay attention to politics.”
Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Hugh Hewitt, and other conservative talk-radio programs soon became a part of my day as I drove my vehicle around town. I read WND and the Drudge Report. Fox News replaced CNN as my go-to television news channel.
My wife and I fervently prayed for Bush to win the 2000 presidential election. The Florida recount and the Supreme Court decision stretched our faith to the limits, but we eventually rejoiced with Bush’s victory.
The 2004 and 2008 presidential races did not sneak up on me. I followed the primaries, debates and the elections as closely as possible from the get-go. The 2004 presidential election resulted in a win while the 2008 election ended up as a smashing defeat for evangelical Christians.
The election of President Obama forced me to examine myself. My inspection revealed deep flaws in my heart, which needed to be dealt with before they became stumbling blocks for me.
The truth was that I gave grace to conservative politicians, but I thought of liberal politicians and their followers as baby-murdering, abomination-loving, lying scoundrels. Not a great example of loving my neighbors!
What was the answer for me?
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away (Matthew 5:29).
By using this metaphor about the eye, Jesus reveals that sometimes we need to take radical steps to rid ourselves of sin. It might be painful, but it has to be done.
My sin of judging all liberal politicians and their followers in the worst possible light needed to be handled. The root cause for my sin was the competitive political process and how it personally affected me. By nature, I am an “all-in or all-out” person with no neutral positions in my mental makeup.
So, the only option for me was to be a political dropout and quit voting in December 2008.
It took three or four years to rid myself of my judgmental attitudes toward liberals. But today, I can look at Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Al Franken, my liberal neighbors, and no longer see them as my enemies.
They are people who need God’s grace, just like I do.