A few weeks ago I was in a store, having my cell phone repaired. While I was waiting for the repairs to be done, one of the sales associates struck up a conversation. After several minutes of the usual pleasantries, he surprised me by bringing up one of society’s forbidden subjects. “So, who are you going to vote for in November?” Simultaneously, I groaned and grinned, “Do you really want to have this conversation? I’d like to remain friends while you’re working on my phone.” After we shared mutual laughter, I said, “you first.” The young man passionately shared his political views, and then politely asked me to share mine. So I did. No insults, accusations, verbal or physical violence of any kind was exchanged during the conversation. How refreshing. I walked out of the store, cell phone in full working order, and even received a “thank you” from one of the associates who had been listening nearby. When I asked him what he was thanking me for, he said, “for being both truthful and gracious.” I might add, the sales associate and I had opposing views.  

I have been reflecting on this conversation ever since. Politics, along with religion and sex, is one of those topics in our culture we are told to avoid, at least if we want to preserve relationships. But why? Why can’t we have honest conversations with one another about anything, and still be civil? I believe it’s because of a lack of grace. Everyone wants to be right, and we live in a time where people are more inclined to seek revenge when they have been wronged, rather than forgive. The idea of underserved favor is almost as scandalous as our current Presidential campaign. 

By my calculations, this will be my ninth election, so I have witnessed a few campaigns. This election season, some evenings when I turn on the news, I just stare at the screen in disbelief, When did it get so repulsive? It seems our society is sliding into an abyss of judgment, condemnation, and unforgiveness, and the two top runners for the future leader of the free world are leading the way. It makes me incredibly sad. This the best we can do? Leaders should be able have conversations with one another, in spite of differences, that don’t erupt in blame and contempt. Pride and arrogance don’t solve problems, and our country has plenty of them that need solving. There are so many things I could say here, but I don’t want to fall into the same trap as our current candidates, so I will take the higher road. I will default to grace. 

Hope whispers, we all need grace.  

One of the greatest things about the Christian faith, is the element of grace. Yep, here comes the topic of religion that I promised in the blog title, but hang on, it’s probably not what you think. Here’s the defining question: What do religion and politics have in common? Absolutely nothing, except one thing: The absence of grace! I am often asked what religion I am, and I always try to politely distinguish that I’m actually not religious, but relational. I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and he is not about religion at all. Religion is about rules and politics, a relationship with Jesus is about love and grace. Big difference. When you read about Jesus life on earth, he chose authentic relationship and giving people second chances, over control and the push for power, every chance he got. Jesus wasn’t about throwing stones at people when they made mistakes; he was about forgiveness and helping them choose a better, healthier path. That’s one reason why I want to follow his model for living. It just makes sense. I need grace as much as anyone. I have made plenty of mistakes in my life, some resulting in painful, albeit valuable lessons. I’m still learning.

Jesus Christ changed the course of history by the extraordinary and unconventional ways he demonstrated unconditional love and grace to others. If Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton really want to make history, then they should choose kindness and common decency over grimy smear campaigns. Otherwise, it’s just another Presidential election. Same ole, same ole.

Vote For Grace! I think I’ll go get a T-shirt made.  

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