Last night I went to a screening of the new movie, Our Brand is Crisis, which will be in movie theaters this weekend. It’s the story of a campaign strategist hired to help an unlikable candidate win the presidential election in a South American country. There is a lot of rough language and crude sexual jokes in the movie, but I would still recommend it as a quick education in dirty politics.
The main character, Jane Bodine, tells a group of campaign volunteers, “Wake up! This is war. There is only one wrong in this. One Wrong – and that is losing.” From the stories and quotes that are littered throughout the movie, there has been more than one presidential candidate in the US who would agree with her. Winning is what matters – and you have to do whatever it takes to make sure you win.
There are a number of good lessons in this movie, such as pointing out how easy it is to twist the facts – or even make them up. “The ‘truth’ is what I tell the electorate to believe,” Jane says. Jane also claims that the single most important factor in voting is fear, which is probably true. If a candidate can figure out what his voters are afraid of, if he can put a name to the enemy and say “I can beat that,” he has a good chance of winning those votes. If he can’t beat the real enemy, all he has to do is create a new one and focus everyone’s attention on that.
Our Brand is Crisis is not a feel-good movie, but there is little about politics and campaigning that makes any of us feel good these days. Many people are angry, and they will simply vote against whoever is making them angry rather than for anyone or anything. Other voters will be motivated by their fear to vote for the candidate who seems best able to “win” and beat the fearsome enemy. Many others have been moved to cynicism and apathy by past candidates who claimed they would fix everything, only to go back on their word or be unable to create any real change.
So what is a voter to do? More specifically, what is a Christian voter to do?
First, don’t just listen to the campaigns and the candidates when deciding how to cast your vote. Look into the issues for yourself – from multiple viewpoints, since you can never depend on any one source to give you the whole truth. Also, consider whether a candidate can actually do what he or she says she will do. Candidates are famous for promising things they have no constitutional power to do. Our government is a republic, made up of many elected and unelected officials who have to work together to get things done, so a candidate also must have the ability to work with others.
Second, don’t be motivated by fear! Fear leads us to believe that we (our candidate or our cause) must win or the result will be disastrous. Because we must win, anything that allows us to win becomes allowable. The only “wrong” is losing. Hardly the right attitude for Christians who are called to be the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).
Third, remember, winning isn’t everything. During the Revolutionary War, Patrick Henry famously stated, “Give me liberty, or give me death.” It was a noble sentiment, but not a Christian one. Henry believed that winning liberty was absolutely essential, and that nothing else would satisfy him. As Christians, though, we are to be like Paul who said, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12). The writer of Hebrews also said, “Be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you’” (Hebrews 13:5).
Few political promises have been kept with absolute integrity, but there is one promise you can always depend on – “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you.” Never – no matter who wins the next presidential election, no matter what resolutions pass or fail, no matter what. So do your homework, vote your conscience, don’t be ruled by fear, anger, or the need to win. And Trust God! Then, and only then, you can never lose.
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What is my mission as an author? The goal dearest to my heart is to help Christians think about what they really believe and then to act as if they believe it. It all begins with understanding what it means to be a Christian. Then we have to learn to live like a Christian.