5 Things to Watch as the 2016 Campaign Gets Underway

Campaign Buttons, Things to Watch Out for in 2016(RNS) As presidential candidacies multiply and campaigning accelerates, we can expect much tawdriness to occur. These are difficult times in American democracy.

Money will pour into negative campaigning and ideological posturing. Lies will become the norm. Every word will evoke counterattack, and facts will lose their currency. Barbed sound bites will be mistaken for wisdom. Bullies claiming to be “Christian” will be among the loudest. On both sides.

What are people of faith to do?

We can assume, first of all, that truth-telling will be absent all around. We, then, need to be truth-seekers, reading beyond the sound bites and toxic jabs for actual insights into what candidates stand for and what is their character.

We can assume, second, that God’s name will be taken in vain by everyone. Every candidate will tell stories of personal faith, maybe even dramatic conversion. They will quote Scripture and claim to be promoting God’s work.

In fact, to judge by candidates’ behavior, their words will be insincere and their faith a concoction meant to satisfy the sweet tooth of religious leaders. We, then, need to do our own work of discerning whether they have any functional familiarity with Scripture and any real concern for Christian ethics.

We can assume, third, that people will be heard less and less. As campaign volume ratchets up, the voices of actual citizens will be drowned out by invective. We, then, need to be people who listen to the voices of citizens and do what we can to make them heard more widely. Churches should be listening centers, not dispensers of campaign literature. Preachers who brag about influencing candidates should preen less and listen more.

We can assume, fourth, that efforts will be made to prevent some people from voting, especially people of color. We, then, need to take practical steps to ensure full participation, such as escorting vulnerable citizens to the polls and calling out voter suppression tactics as they occur.

We can assume, fifth, that “Christian” values will be reduced to sexuality, as opposed to anything Jesus actually cared about. Sexuality is the perfect diversion while the wealthy pillage the nation.

We, then, need to remind voters about the Sermon on the Mount, the healing of lepers, the rescue of women targeted by religious bullies, the feeding of all who were hungry, the focus on the “least of these,” the calling out of hypocrites, the welcoming of outcasts, the call to let go of wealth, and Jesus’ words of tolerance and mercy, even to his enemies.

We cannot have one more election when “Christian” becomes a convenient shorthand for bigotry and bullying done in God’s name while bearing no resemblance to anything God values.

I think it is time we stopped being naive about the current state of American democracy: These are ugly times, and the forces of decency in both parties are under assault. An entire movement seeks to cripple the U.S. government, lest people they hate receive any benefits of citizenship.

It is time for all people of faith to be active, not just those whose guiding star is white, male, straight power. We cannot sit back and wait for the bigots to run out of steam.

The future of American democracy depends on combating the tremendous negative energy this campaign is churning up.

(Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.)


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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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“An entire movement seeks to cripple the U.S. government, lest people they hate receive any benefits of citizenship.”
What movement would that be? I try and follow politics and have heard of no such movement. Sounds like mindless ramblings from a priest in a denomination that is experiencing a membership freefall and is busy suing each other from coast to coast.

George Nixon Shuler

Are you familiar with the Tea Party? That’s what he is talking about. You can watch the results as they are rejecting Marco Rubio even though he claimed to be one of them, because he once advocated a path to citizenship for those in need (Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to entertain strangers [philoxenia], for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained [xenizo] angels.)

Richard Hicks

Money pours into negative campaigning because it works. We The People like being afraid. That is a bit of proof that we are not a Christian nation. Remember “fear not.”

George Nixon Shuler

The term “Christian Nation” is an oxymoron.

George Nixon Shuler

Christ’s kingdom is not of this World. Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

George Nixon Shuler

Like the United Methodist Church, one wonders if an aimiable split is not the best option for America. In both cases, I am against the split primarily for one reason: safety of the young. Still when seemingly educated people believe what’s said by Faux and the climate change deniers, “War on Christianity” hucksters, and slick preachers on the political make, one wonders.

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