2020, and the strange intersection of faith and politics

This is a special contribution to the Montana Bugle from Travis Mewhirter. Check out his website travismewhirter.com for more.

I had one of the more bizarre interactions I’ve had in quite some time the other day. Not that this is unusual. It’s 2020, after all. Bizarre is the norm, especially when it comes to social media, that bastion of civil discourse.

I had retweeted a post by Kristi Noem, the governor of South Dakota and my current favorite individual in the field of politics. She said that “South Dakota is entering next year in a strong position. Many other states are trying to plug massive deficits with more debt, higher taxes, and federal stimulus money. Because we took a different approach to the virus, South Dakota’s financials are in good shape.”

I retweeted it with the hashtag #NoemDesantis2024. I like Noem. I like Ron DeSantis, the current governor of Florida who I also think has done a fantastic job. You’re welcome to disagree. Such is the nature of politics.

Still, it seemed a fairly innocuous thing to post, lighthearted relative to the vitriol that is typically circulated on the internet. But, again, this is 2020: support of any political figure, no matter what side of the spectrum, results in the strangest of polarized reactions.

This one came from a buddy of mine from college who I can’t recall having any interactions with since he graduated from the University of Maryland nine years ago.

“I see you showing off the good book on Instagram,” he wrote, referencing my regular reflections on faith, and my journey in discovering it these past few years. “Let me know when you get to the part where it says it’s fine to sacrifice the old and infirm to balance the budget or whatever.” He’d later add, “Bro, what are you even about?”  

I’d view politics and religion as two completely different arenas. We even have laws making it clear to do just that, to separate church and state. I was, honestly, taken aback quite a bit. It cut fairly deep. I’d view reading the Bible and voting republican as mutually exclusive from one another, just as I would reading the Bible and voting democrat.

I value individual agency, and I value the individual freedom that both our government and what I believe to be God allows us as citizens of the United States and human beings, respectively, to express it.

There are good choices and there are bad choices. I don’t think Noem or Desantis “sacrificed the old and infirm to balance budgets.” I don’t think anybody did, despite what many would attempt to have you believe. I think they let people choose more than others in similar positions, and I like them for it. Nothing more. Nothing less. To find an example of that in the Bible, where my belief of valuing agency and choice stems from, I look no further than Genesis, and a little story about Adam and Eve.

They could have eaten the apple or not.

They knew what was good. They knew what was bad.

The choice was theirs.

Because Adam and Eve, like us, were human, and humans have agency.

God trusted Adam and Even to choose, even with the fate of humanity’s existence at stake.

I dig that.

Paul, the apostle who wrote much of the New Testament, writes something in Corinthians called the Believer’s Freedom.

“Everything is permissible — but not everything is beneficial,” he writes in first Corinthians, Chapter 10, verse 23. “Everything is permissible, but not everything is constructive.”

I value that agency: We have permission to do as we will, with the knowledge that our choices can be beneficial or not, constructive or not. Those who choose the beneficial, constructive route more often will typically lead more fulfilling lives. It’s the foundation of my ideological and, by extension, I suppose, political beliefs. That’s the brick and mortar of my life.

There are Christians — and Muslims and Buddhists and all types of believers of something or other — who are liberal and Christians and believers who are conservative. I think it would be blasphemous to say Christians should vote one way or the other, that Christ would have us lean red or blue. There are many Christians who value agency and vote differently than I do. There are many atheists who vote the same way I do.

All of that is just fine.

To tell you the truth, I don’t think Christ would really care either way for whom we vote. There are bigger issues, I believe, than who we vote for every four years — like our daily interactions that compound to make up our lives, how we treat our neighbor, or opponent, or ref, or lady at the checkout line. My voting process took 20 minutes. There are 525,600 minutes in a year. There are four years every election cycle.

My vote mathematically constituted .000009 percent of my last four years.

Meanwhile, the beliefs I have influence my interactions and decisions on a daily, near minute-by-minute basis.

That considered, I think He’s probably been up there facepalming a bit at how the majority of us — I am certainly no exception — have behaved this year, losing family and friends over what button we pushed on November 3.

How we vote says very little about who we are at our core as human beings. I love that I’ve been able to carry on and build upon some of my most cherished relationships in this volatile year in spite of us voting different ways or supporting different candidates. It hasn’t always been easy, and it’s quite possible I’ve lost a few along the way because of the stances I’ve taken.

Unfortunate, sure, but it’s also ok. I made my choices. Sometimes these are the consequences. I’ve been raised to deal with the consequences of my own actions.

Sometimes these choices, in retrospect, were good. Sometimes they weren’t so good. I can live with that. Because I’m human, and I have agency. It’s now my job, my prerogative, to learn from those choices and decide whether to continue making them, should I believe I did the right thing, or to change direction.

That’s what being human is.

The Bible calls that process repentance.

You are welcome to call it what you will, though it does remind me of a quote from Friday Night Lights: “Listen to me,” Coach Eric Taylor says. “I said you need to strive to be better than everyone else. I didn’t say you needed to be better than everyone else. But you gotta try. That’s what character is. It’s in the trying.”

That’s what agency values: The trying.

We make choices. Some good. Some bad. We learn. We improve.

Repeat.

That’s all life really is to me.

That is what I’m about. 

This is a special contribution to the Montana Bugle from Travis Mewhirter. Check out his website travismewhirter.com for more.

Published by Mati Bishop

A Realtor with Keller Williams Yellowstone Properties. Agent Number 89757. Supervising broker Chris Fraser #37931 Publisher of MontanaBugle.com

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