Less than 100 days! Sunday (July 29) marked the official countdown of the final 100 days until the 2012 presidential election. For political junkies, the presidential campaign is a better spectator sport than the London Summer Olympic Games – a glorious final few months of political jockeying and showmanship in an epic race to determine the leader of the free world – a race that comes only once every four years.
But 100 days may seem interminable to anyone who is not a political junkie. Young voters (age 18-29) – many of whom are able to vote for the first time in a presidential election – report a growing disillusionment with politics. The current generation of college students appears just as likely to tune out of politics, than turn out to vote this November. Recent studies identify a number of frustrations young voters express about the American political process: increased polarization and partisanship, their inability to distinguish between truth and political “spin” to participate intelligently in the political process, and uncertainty over whether their vote can make a difference.
What I hear from many Christian college students I speak with is that they are turned off by the lack of civility – the downright nastiness – of politics today. They point specifically to negative ads and name-calling, heated political discussions among friends, disingenuous political “spin,” and seemingly endless partisan bickering and gridlock.
But are those good reasons to drop out of the political process? I believe the current political climate calls for just the opposite response: The very nastiness of the current political system demands Christian involvement, engagement, and influence. For those of us who long for more civility in political discourse – and Christians are not alone in their disgust for politics today – there is no better solution than for those who understand the power of the tongue, who recognize and respect the intrinsic value of each individual, and who are commanded to speak the truth with love to enter and ultimately change the political arena.
Like the vision of the meaner, angrier, more hopeless post-Rapture world presented in the Left Behind book series, a political realm devoid of grace- and peace-filled Christ-followers would be even uglier than it is today. And one final thought – since when are followers of Jesus supposed to avoid going places that are unpleasant, hopeless and uncomfortable? The political climate will continue to devolve unless those who understand true principles of civil discourse are willing to participate.