Professors discuss voting, politics from a Christian perspective

By Jacob Factor, News Editor

Politics has saturated much of today’s mainstream social media and news outlets.

It’s almost impossible to have no opinion on current issues, policies or lawmakers, but how does a Christian decide on these things?

Five OBU faculty gathered in Upper GC last Tuesday for a “Let’s Talk” discussion about this very question: not what stance to take on political topics, but how Christians should go about deciding these things.

Maliek Blade, assistant dean of students: diversity/multicultural, Scot Loyd, assistant professor of communication arts, Alan Bandy, Rowena R. Strickland Associate Professor of New Testament and Greek, Nicole Johnson, assistant professor of nursing, and Christopher McMillion, assistant professor of political science, answered questions prompted by SGA president Clayton Myers about Christians and politics. After the panelists gave their thoughts, a discussion time afforded students the opportunity to express their opinions in small groups.

The first question, “Should Christians be involved in politics?” spurred conversation on voting.

Loyd said we should exercise our freedom to vote. We shouldn’t take our freedom for granted, he said.

Arielle Chastain, a junior elementary education major, who attended the “Let’s Talk” event, said she agreed with Loyd. She said Chris-tians should look at voting as an obligation.

“White men were the only ones who could vote for a long time,” she said. “People worked their behinds off to make it so women, black people and minorities have the right to vote. We shouldn’t take advantage of that.”

Blade said he had a different opinion. It’s up to a person whether or not they want to be involved in politics that way, he said.

“I would say there is not any Biblical mandate that you should vote in the presidential election,” he said. “There might be some social pressure, but no Biblical command.”

Blade said many people look at elections as picking the lesser of two evils. No sin is lesser or greater than another, and the Bible says pick no evil.

McMillion added to Blade’s comment, saying if someone doesn’t vote because they don’t want to pick the lesser of two evils, they should get involved elsewhere politically.

“There’s a responsibility to ask yourself, ‘how else can I get involved?’ and in doing so, hopefully, create a situation where Christians have better options.”

The panel also brought up political parties.

Bandy said “love your neighbor” and “seek first the Kingdom of God” supersedes political parties.

“For us to align with a party is inherently flawed. It hinders our evangelism if we’re too closely aligned,” he said. “The Gospel transcends any human government.”

Later, Johnson touched on healthcare. She said she’s fortunate enough to afford healthcare, but she understands not everyone has that ability.

“As Christians, we should be concerned about that,” she said.“It was with Christ that we actually saw people receive care regardless of race, background or class.”

She said that’s the example Christians should set. Healthcare shouldn’t be solely a governmental issue, she said.

“With healthcare, it’s not always about business,” she said about when money comes into play. “Unfortunately, money sometimes dictates your access, and we have to figure out how to fix that.”

Another social issue talked about was immigration.

“One of the things I find most disturbing is the dehumanization of people,” Bandy said.

He said he understands it’s a complex issue, but regardless of the stance on a solution, a mere “keep them out” is unbiblical.

“I don’t care what country you come from, what language you speak, you’re a human being. Human beings are a priority.”

General election voting excludes homeless

By Jonathan Soder, Features Editor

It’s no secret that downtown Shawnee is a district fraught with contradictions. It’s a place for many students, of aesthetic and spiritual beauty.

Every other Thursday night, students congregate together in the Ritz Theatre for an hour-long worship service.

The amalgamated concrete-brick walls are also popular backdrops for impromptu photoshoots.

On the other hand, downtown is also home to many of the folks who make up Shawnee’s homeless population, a people group who are often left voiceless.

Just yesterday, this population found itself mere blocks from one of Shawnee’s voting centers, Pottawatomie County Courthouse, during this year’s general elections.

Brandon Bryant is one of the homeless men who can be found downtown. At age 39, he’s now been homeless since June 2018.

Before Nov. 6, Bryant most recently voted in the 2016 presidential elections.

He said he’s rooting for democratic candidate Drew Edmonson, though he likely wasn’t going to have the opportunity to vote. This was in part due to the obstacles he faces as a homeless man.

“[One obstacle is] trying to get on and make sure that I’m registered to vote and stuff,” Bryant said. “I didn’t have all my documents with me.”

Gaining proper documentation is of particular difficulty for homeless citizens.

In order to receive a voter I.D., citizens must fill out a form that requires both a physical and mailing address – both of which homeless people tend not to have.

Another of Shawnee’s longtime homeless citizens, Jose, who’s requested his last name not be shared, has spent between 5-7 years homeless throughout the span of his life.

Contrary to Bryant, he said he had no intention to participate in this year’s general elections.

“I figure, well okay, if I do vote for the person, are they going to go sit in the office and do what they’re supposed to do in the office, or are they going to do something else, you know?” Jose said.

Though the men differed in their attitude toward voting, both said that they believe their voice matters.

“Every vote counts,” Bryant said. “Every vote matters.”

Jose echoed this sentiment, adding that, if someone wants something done, there are different voices to be heard on that issue.

Another perceived problem for homeless people during campaign seasons is keeping up with political campaigns and discussions.

However, Jose said that he was able to keep up with campaigns.

“Elections are different times of the season, you know, they’re not all the time,” Jose said.

Bryant, who said he had a little harder time keeping up, got most of the information he had on the elections from the news and the newspaper, though he did not specify any specific channel or publication.

Major aspects of American political campaigning are the “big issues” – those topics which prove most vital for candidates to have a favorable answer to in order to garner votes.

Another important issue for many Americans is the validity of a candidates bid in regards to several factors – trustworthiness, capability, etc.

Jose expressed these issues and not “big issues” are his top priorities when considering candidates?

“Are they qualified to do what they’re supposed to do,” Jose said. “Do they really want the office and [to] do what they’re supposed to do, or are they just running for that office just to be running for it, and then [they’ll] get in there after they’re elected and do something that they’re not supposed to do?”

At the time of this publication’s printing, the results of the general elections were yet unknown.

It’s doubtless that many of Shawnee’s homeless citizens had no say in the outcome, though whether that was due to lack of documentation or abstention from voting is less clear.

In either case, the voice of the homeless population in Shawnee is a large one which isn’t being heard from.

SGA encourages students to vote

By Ashton Smith, Assistant Features Editor

Two weeks ago, SGA manned a table in the GC for students to register to vote for the general elections coming up in November.

The table was set up for an entire week but is no longer available to students, although the link is still available to register, said SGA President Clayton Myers.

“All you have to do is text ‘TOGETHER’ to 40649,” Myers said.

The table was present for students to register and ask questions, as well as have conversations with the SGA members running the table.

“[Students] talked to us about registering, what that civic duty looks like and how to get an absentee ballot,” Myers said.

The event was also brought about because of a partnership with the ‘Because I Care’ campaign.

“We believe it’s our responsibility to vote, not because we love politics, but because we care about our faith and applying proven Biblical solutions to our nation’s problems,” according to becauseicareinc.com.

The ‘Because I Care’ campaign is a non-partisan, Christian movement which encourages students to vote.

The organization has plenty of reasons on their website for why students should vote and vocalize their opinions in the upcoming elections.

They even have a table for on-campus resources so that students can learn even more about their impact not only as a voter, but as a Christian.

This registration table is new as of this academic year and is a part of Myers’ and student vice president Nathan Floyd’s plans for improving students’ campus experience.

“We thought of this idea at the beginning of the semester,” Myers said. “There was no specific place we got the idea from, just knowing that we want to make sure students have a voice in our government.”

Plenty of students visited the table to talk to the SGA officers and to register for this year’s elections.

“The impact we want to have is actually just to get students to vote,” Myers said. “This is in a non-partisan movement, as in we aren’t working for any specific party. We just want to make sure students are encouraged to vote.”

In light of the registration table’s success in its first year, the officers said they are hopeful that the table will be a continual part of SGA’s presence on campus.

As citizens and as Christians, students are motivated to take a stand for what they believe in, especially when it comes to elections.

“We encourage students to vote to make your voices heard,” Myers said. “The time to speak out about who are leaders isn’t 20 years in the future; the time for that is now.”

Let’s Talk: politics, voting, faith, A series of conversations on hard topics

By Jonathon Soder, Faith Co-Editor

Last week OBU students had the opportunity to participate in the seminal event of the democratic process – voting. While this election included no voter riots or protests outside Raley Chapel, countless national elections in years past have resulted in lessthan-cordial discussions nation-wide.

In today’s society, where voters have instant and unhindered access to the national stage via social media, how can we talk about politics without resorting to name-calling and yelling?

Dr. Sherri Raney, professor of history and political science, said that we must resist having the mindset that individuals who vote opposite of us are evil.

“I think that we have a contempt problem in this country,” Raney said. “And I’m not the first person to notice that. We don’t respect other people fundamentally. We hold other people in contempt, beneath us, for a lot of different reasons. When we start off with that attitude of having this contempt, disdain, for people who disagree with us, then there’s really not much point in having a conversation.”

Dr. Galen Jones, chair of Christian leadership, said that the best way Christians can avoid yelling matches is to do what the Bible says and not jump to the conclusions Raney said we’re prone to embrace.

“Seek to understand rather than to be understood,” Jones said.

Jones said that, by taking time to learn about someone else’s background, experiences and why they think the way they do, it will become easier to understand why they vote the way they do.

“If I only think about what I think is right in a politician, or what we’re voting for or the larger issues, then we’ll never really have a way to engage one another,” Jones said.

One stumbling block in political conversations, which leads to heated encounters, is the tendency of voters to fixate on one particular issue. Different issues will be of different levels of importance to individuals depending on their age, gender, race, locale, etc.

“For instance, a lot of white evangelicals focus on abortion,” Jones said. “Evangelicals who are African American don’t necessarily believe in abortion, but what we think about is the life that we have now. My life right now matters. I should value the life of that unborn child, but in the case of the police, we don’t see them the same because they’re not my friend.”

“And so, we need to be able to hear that from one another to understand that the legitimacy of my experience is just that – it’s legitimate and yours is as well.”

Another issue with fixating on particular policies is the reality that, perhaps despite a politician’s best intentions, some policies are administered unequally or in a manner not intended by the policy-maker. One example, Jones said, is welfare.

“Over 55 percent of all the caseload of welfare is white rural people. So, the picture of the welfare mother is not a black single woman. It really is a married, rural white woman,” Jones said.

“But in urban areas there is a policy or a practice of a ‘no man in the house’ rule. If your family is on welfare, then there’s not supposed to be a man there because, in essence, the government is supplying those things.”

Since focusing on one policy can present problems, Raney said that we should instead take the whole of a political candidate’s platform into consideration as well as considering the candidate’s credentials.

“The most important thing [a politician should have] is experience in politics,” Raney said.

While this will differ for student government because SGA is often the first stepping-stone into politics, aspiring career politicians will understand the process of government better if they participate locally and at the state level first Raney said.

Jones said that one thing Christians specifically should look for in a candidate is “fidelity to the gospel.” However, with fewer Christians surviving on the national stage, Christians must remember that their ultimate authority is Christ and that voting isn’t a Christian right or necessity.

“We have become confused that America is a Christian nation,” Jones said. “It never was, never has been and never will be. It’s not called as that; it wasn’t created as that.”

An issue or candidate can blind individuals to the humanity of others. On example of this misconception is the idea that the founding fathers were all Christian. However, neither Benjamin Franklin nor George Washington were Christian men. Franklin, though he grew up in a Calvinist-Christian home, became a deist; Washington, though he attended church services with his wife, would always get up and leave when communion was taken.

“We have what I and others call ‘euphoric recall,’” Jones said. “We do, as Christians, with our government, what we are never supposed to do with our Bible, which is called eisegesis; we read back into it from our own lens and perspective.”

“If we look at it for what it actually was – if we exegete history and the founders – you’ll find out they weren’t talking about the same Christian identity that we understand as Evangelicals.”

With the understanding that America isn’t bound by necessity to Christian morals, Jones said that Christians in America are supposed to fill a prophetic role in their location just as the prophets fulfilled their role in the place God called them to.

“We are to speak for God whether the politician ‘Christian’ is doing that or not,” Jones said. “I think we have to take the onus away from voting.”

This will open conversation up not only in the public sphere, but also in the context of the Church where differences in opinion can be misconstrued as a lack of proper faith.

Raney said that we must have respect for one another when having political conversations and follow the Golden Rule. Devotion to a single issue or candidate can blind individuals to the humanity of others.

Jones said there’s one more thing Christians specifically must remember: “Your candidate is not the Messiah.”