Written by Bryan Maier
Monday, 03 September 2012 00:00
NOTE: This blog addresses a subject similar to the one addressed in the blog written by Sam Logan and posted on August 22. Comments about either or both blogs are welcome!
Here in America, we are beginning the silly season, or as we know it, the Presidential election. Now I am not going to get into a political debate or give my position on any particular issue. I am also not going to discuss whether Christians should vote (I think they should) nor whether they should be involved in politics (again, I think they should). What I want to think through is how does being missional impact how a Christian behaves during a political campaign? Or put another way, how does a Christian weather the silly season from a missional perspective?
I don’t have the time or space to address all that I am thinking so I will restrict myself to one practical example. In all my years of voting, I have never put a political bumper sticker on my car nor have I put a political endorsement sign up in my yard. This does not mean I have not wanted to and I want to again this year. If I am planning to vote for one candidate and probably support several candidates financially, why can’t I merely identify which candidate I am voting for and supporting with a sign in my yard? Well, here are a few questions that come to mind when I think about this decision missionally.
1). What I am saying vs. what is being heard. I know what I would mean by posting a sign in my yard. I would be saying that I am voting for that particular candidate and hope that those seeing my sign would consider that also. However, I cannot ignore that someone may make many more assumptions about me just based on that sign. If they believe certain things about ALL who support that candidate (or party) then I would be subjected to that stereotype without even a chance to defend myself. This is not fair but I have to face that it happens all the time (I am also guilty). None of this would really matter except that their reaction to my sign might bias them towards ever hearing from me a far more important message (the gospel). Of course if we agreed politically, it might favorably dispose them to hear the more important message.
2). How about down ticket? What if my friend is running for dogcatcher in my town? Can I put his sign in my yard? What about my son’s Sunday School teacher who is running for town treasurer? Can I put her sign in my yard? In both cases very few people would even know who these people are, so it should not cause such an emotional reaction for them to know who I am supporting. In fact it may leave a favorable impression that I know enough about local politics to advocate for people I actually know. On the other hand, they may not like my friend’s ideas for managing the canine population and are they therefore more or less willing to hear the more important message? (disclaimer: I have no idea who is running for dog catcher in my town, this is merely hypothetical)
3). Do I stand out? What if everyone in my neighborhood has a sign in their yard and they are all for the same candidate and I support the same candidate? Now if I add my signs to theirs, my specific sign probably makes no difference. What if I don’t add my sign and I am the only one on the block without a sign? That says something too (whether it is accurate or not) and we are back to point #1. Of course, if my sign is different than everyone else’s I am sending a strong message too. If I am willing to be counter- cultural politically, am I willing to be counter cultural for the sake of God’s mission?
Any other issues you can think of whether putting a sign in your yard is consistent with being missional ? By the time I figure this out the election will probably be over.
Related exit question: Is it consistent with being missional to drive through Philadelphia with a Dallas Cowboys's bumper sticker on my car?
Bryan Maier, Psy.D. is Associate Professor of Counseling at Biblical Seminary.