The Takeaway

     I voted, and I have the sticker to prove it.  Gary and I marched into Breton Downs School last Tuesday with our cheat sheet in tow.  We briefed each other the night before about candidates and issues, including the local school board election, University of Michigan Regents (with 3 UM grads in our family I had to get this one right), Michigan Supreme court judges, and the 6 state ballot proposals.

I’m a sucker for elections.  There is something magical about 120 million ordinary people freely meeting at the polls without anyone harassing or preventing them.  Each one with one vote regardless of age, ethnicity, income, status, or location.  People waiting hours to vote, never giving up because they wanted to exercise their right to have a say in who will lead them.

  • The takeaway?  Don’t underestimate the power of people who are determined to shape the future of their country.

     I voted, but I was also baffled.  The infamous Proposal 6 stared me in the face, “Should voters approve every tunnel or bridge from Michigan to Canada?”  WHAT?  Matty Moroun’s bridge company, which owns the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, put $33.2 million into the Proposal 6 campaign after a potential competitor, the New International Trade Crossing Bridge, was put before the Michigan legislature last year.

Depicting the new bridge as a government pork project for Detroit and a pay-off to Detroit politicians, Moroun engineered the ballot proposal so that Michigan voters would have to approve every bridge project from now on.  Opponents of Proposal 6 claimed that the proposed bridge is critical for economic development in southeast Michigan and that Moroun is afraid of losing the $60 million in annual tolls from his bridge monopoly.

  • The takeway?  Voters aren’t dumb and would not allow a special interest group to control the state Constitution.  The proposal went down.

     I voted, but I also goofed.  It’s pretty embarrassing to make a mistake on a ballot because everyone waiting in line could see me slink back to the desk and beg election officials for a redo.   In my humble opinion, the layout of ballot was difficult to decipher, which was confirmed by others.  I held my head high, waited for another spot, and got it right the second time.

  • The takeaway?  Keep it simple, please.

     I voted, but I also checked in with a few friends from around the world.  My African friend said, “In the Congo it takes months for people to know election results, but in the U.S. you know the same day who is going to be the next President.  In some parts of the Congo, the election is not free, and people are pressured by soldiers to vote for the person they will tell you, especially in the villages.  I also don’t like it that some people get to know who the president is going to be even before the election.”

A friend from the Philippines said, “I trust and pray that President Obama’s second term will make him better and that he will be God’s answer to our prayers because we recognize the U.S. as the world police today.  Let us hope for the best in attaining real peace and deliverance from all social evil.  Your election result is so quick.  Here in the Philippines it will take more than a month before we will know the result.  Consequently, many political losers do not concede immediately, and that divides our people.  Keep us in your prayers, too.”

  • The takeaway?  Much of the world still looks to us as an example of freedom and cooperation.  Are we living up to our reputation?

I voted, but I was also saddened by Maine Senator Olympia Snowe’s decision not to run for re-election after 33 years in the Congress, in part because of incessant partisan bickering.  Snowe, a Republican and one of the few Senators willing to work toward compromise, often provoked consternation in her party by bucking convention and voting her conscience rather than the party line.

In announcing her retirement, Snowe said, “As I have long said, what motivates me is producing results for those who have entrusted me to be their voice and their champion…  I intend to help give voice to my fellow citizens who believe, as I do, that we must return to an era of civility in government driven by a common purpose to fulfill the promise that is unique to America.”

  • The takeaway?  The mandate of our executive and legislative branches is to work together in creative problem solving for the good of our country.  This year I sensed the desire of voters to elect officials who have the will to set aside their own party or personal agendas to achieve unity.  How will we hold them accountable?

I voted, but I also learned a lot about the church by watching the election results.  In an election predicted to be very close, the Obama campaign developed a brilliant strategy and did not waver.  They mobilized thousands of volunteers and targeted swing states that would provide the tipping point for electoral votes.  After both campaigns spent nearly $1 billion on television ads, President Obama carried seven of the nine critical states.

  • The takeaway?  Strategy and execution are everything.  Why is it so difficult for local churches to develop a specific plan for numerical, missional, and spiritual growth?  What is preventing your church from devoting itself to prayer and discernment, doing the necessary demographic research, and then formulating goals for worship attendance, outreach, small groups, and children’s, youth, and young adult ministry?  How will you ensure the necessary follow-up?

If only white people voted in this election, Mitt Romney would have won handily. Romney garnered a whopping 72% of the white vote.  However, 93% of African-Americans, 71% of Hispanics, and 73% of Asians voted for Barack Obama.  Romney won the senior vote by 12 points, but Obama won among Americans under 30 by 23 points, while.  The LGBT vote went to Obama as well.

If only men had voted, Mitt Romney would have won the presidency, 52% to 44%.  However, Barack Obama was reelected with 55% of women’s votes and 45% of men’s votes.   This is the second largest gender gap (10%) in presidential voting recorded by the CNN exit polls, according to the Center for American Women and Politics.  The Democratic party was much better able to connect with the new face of America.

  • The Takeaway?  Embracing diversity strengthens the whole.   Does the make-up of your church reflect the constituency of your neighborhood?  In politics as well as the church, we ignore the burgeoning ethnic diversity of our country at our peril.  Is God calling your church to become a church for all people?  If your answer is yes, as I hope it is, then how will you be intentional about transforming your hearts and minds, practices, and worship style in order to reach people who are not like you?  Don’t just lament the lack of young people or racial/ethnic diversity in your church.  Be intentional, be humble, have a passion for connecting with their language, needs, hope, and dreams, and prepare to be blessed by their presence.

Voters will not normally cast ballots for someone they believe is not concerned about the general welfare.  Although they want politicians to understand their own needs, even more so, they desire liberty and justice for all people.  Voters don’t want privileges at the expense of others, and they don’t want money thrown at them.  Rather, when voters believe that their leaders demonstrate fairness and authenticity, they will come together to accomplish amazing things.

  • The takeaway?  Making collective responsibility toward others our default mode creates unity.  Psalm 86:11 says, “Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth.  Give me an undivided heart to revere your name.”  An undivided heart displays integrity toward others and consistency in thoughts, words, and actions.  The church is called to lead the way in proclaiming that when faithful people rally together for righteous causes, we can and will change the world.

We may have red states and blue states, but we do not have to have a divided nation.  We may have a Congress consisting of two parties, but we do not have to have divided hearts.  We may have different religious and political beliefs, but we do not have to be divided in our desire to join hands to create a country where 100% of people count.

     I voted, and I have the sticker to prove it.  But it’s the takeaway that ultimately matters.