/ Voting / Jeffrey A Stivason

Church, Polls & a Few Lessons

This story begins in November of last year.  While voting I noticed that there was a need for a Majority Inspector of Elections in my county.  The ballot was blank and so I haltingly wrote in my name.  I did a little campaigning with my wife when I arrived home and she became my second vote and my campaign manager via Facebook. Needless to say, I won the coveted prize and became Master of the Univ… err, I mean, Majority Inspector of Elections for a county which shall remain nameless, though Pittsburgh resides within its geographical limits.[1] In January, I was notified of my victory. After affirming my acceptance and providing all of my personal details I was promised training and then promptly forgotten by officials.  About two weeks before the primaries I contacted the courthouse and was brusquely told that it was my fault that they had not contacted me and so they were forced to appoint a replacement.  After clearing my throat, I said with a calm but self-important tone, “I was elected by the people.”  That was enough to bounce my “would be usurper.”

On Election Day I was introduced to an entirely new world. I witnessed how inept a large county can be.  For example, at three o’clock in the afternoon we ran out of Republican ballots…only Republican ballots.  One of my co-workers asked the obvious rhetorical question on all of our minds, “Our county officials didn’t see this as a big year for Republicans?”  And we weren’t the only district to run completely out of Republican ballots.  At the time, I understood that there were eighteen other districts in the same proverbial boat. What is more, we called to have more Republican ballots delivered and those ballots never arrived. So, in the end Republican voters were forced to use a single machine for sight impaired people, which meant that they had to vote one person at a time.  Though less than a fourth of all registered voters turned out we still had lines of Republicans waiting to vote.

However, as important as those things are I learned some other important lessons that day besides government ineptitude.[2] Let me share one of them.  At the outset, let me state the obvious. The Democratic Party of today is not the party of your grandfather. Whether we like it or not, today’s Democratic Party houses the liberal and progressive ideological wing of our nation.  And they treat politics as religion. Let me paint that picture for you. From my poll working colleagues, I learned that poll working is generational (read covenantal). I heard stories about grandfathers working the polls.  I listened to tales that they had heard from their fathers about running ballots to polling stations. They recited well-worn stories about their teenage years helping their parents at the polls. This was clearly a faith passed from one generation to the next.[3]

What is more, it is a source of fellowship. I walked into a tight knit group. People may not have met one another personally but they knew of one another, which was true of the Judge and the Minority Inspector that day. In fact, they spoke on the phone leading up to the primaries to get acquainted. What is more, they knew people from the county who came to visit us that day. But there was more than fellowship. They even had saints!  They spoke of people dead and living as “legendary”, people who had served at the polls all of their lives.  Apparently, these were “go to” people for those inside.

In addition, they even described a form of devotion. The Judge and Minority Inspector informed me that they listened to NPR religiously. In fact, the Judge said it and the Minority Inspector gave him a nod and me a sideward glance that would have made a Baptist glad and a Presbyterian blush.  This was serious and all serious people listen to NPR.

After a little reflection I realized that I had just attended a church and polling was the worship service. And all of a sudden it hit me. (I can be slow.) This is why our country is in the condition it’s in. The Democratic Party has been serious about its religion!  While Christians have been worshiping God through our Savior Jesus Christ, enjoying fellowship, strategizing about the spread of the gospel, and raising up a godly generation the liberals have been engaged in their own church life at our expense!

Now, my first thought upon reflection was a simple and yet subtle one which should be taken to heart by all of my post-mill friends. Idealist Amillennialism is true. The Gospel good increases even as the bad gets worse!  But I digress.  And I want to be very serious at this point. I realized that as a result of what is happening today the Gospel is being undermined in a variety of ways, even in the church.

For instance, there are those who would like for Christians to infiltrate the Republican Party and become just as serious as the Democrats about their religio-politic0 practices. Evangelicals are prone to take this route. When they do, the Republican Party is viewed as a parachurch that really does the heavy lifting while the church retains the position of the old worn-out uncle that we drag along to parties because that’s what family does.

There are others who want to meet the opposition with the same force, weapons and tone.  In other words, in the face of crazy feminist and gender politics men are supposed to raise the flag of masculinity!  We are apparently supposed to shriek, “I am a man! Hear me roar!” This approach fails because it misses the crux of the debate, which is not masculinity but gospel.  In a literal sense, Christianity becomes man centered.[4] But if the gospel is prioritized gender roles will follow.  How can they not?

And then there are those who want to retreat.  Need I remind you of what happened to the church a hundred years ago when it decided to take this option?  And then, of course, there are those who cozy up to the other side. These people whine that they are winsome and nuanced and if the left would get to know them the left would find them to be really great people! These Christians might even point with head bowed in hushed tones to this article and say, “Not everyone is like him.” Okay.

I have a better idea.  Let’s not beat our chests in false bravado pointing out the obvious. Let’s leave behind the idea that retreat is a good model to be followed. Let’s forget the kind of nuance that takes us within a hairs breadth of apostasy. Let’s instead be faithful to the Gospel.  Now, that faithfulness will include me being a man. Why? Well, because biologically I am a man.  It will include me being wise and winsome.  It will entail these things and others.  But chief among my priorities is faithfulness to Christ and His gospel. Not his gospel plus something else.  Rather, faithfulness to His gospel.  

Just for kicks let’s remind ourselves of what that is.  Paul says in I Corinthians 15:3ff, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received; that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.” That is the Gospel for which we are to contend. That is the gospel for which I will be imprisoned gladly because that is the gospel that provides a garment of righteousness, a body with which to fellowship, a better country which I see by faith and a gracious Lord who loves me not for anything in me.  For Him and His gospel, I will gladly give up all.  

[1]For some of my readers it may be a help to know that I am using here and throughout the article a literary and rhetorical devise known as “humor”.

[2]You can find some other lessons here: https://www.placefortruth.org/blog/some-lessons-learned-at-the-polls

[3]Let me apologize to faithful (read "not liberal") folks who have worked the polls all of their lives who may take exception to my characterization. This was my experience in my county and who can argue with experience?

[4] I would agree that for young men who have grown up fatherless training may be needed to learn how to become a man.  However, not necessarily so.  

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason

Jeffrey A Stivason (Ph.D. Westminster Theological Seminary) is a pastor (Grace RPC, graceingibsonia.org) and NT professor at RPTS in Pittsburgh, PA. He is also editor at placefortruth.com.

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