Author: Rob Schenck

The Rev. Dr. Rob Schenck is an ordained evangelical minister and president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, located in Washington, DC. He holds a Doctor of Ministry from Faith Evangelical Seminary in Tacoma, Washington and is a senior fellow of The Centre for the Study of Law and Public Policy at Oxford. Rev. Schenck is the author of the book, "Costly Grace".

Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 12, voters in Alabama will decide who they want to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became U.S. Attorney General. I’m a believer that this election belongs to the good people of Alabama. They alone know their state and what it needs in terms of representation in Washington. What I, or any other non-Alabamian thinks about the election is, largely, irrelevant.

Having said that, I do have some thoughts about how the race is affecting people—inside and outside Alabama. My thoughts here are not about who should win, but who is being hurt by this spectacle, and how God’s people are to act in the midst of it. In the interest of full disclosure, I happen to know both candidates and appreciate many things about each of them, but each man also causes me great concern, for very different reasons. Again, it’s not worth going into detail because, in the end, it doesn’t matter what I think about them—it matters what the people of Alabama think about them. But we should all care about the non-combatants in this battle, because they are our fellow human beings, and our fellow Americans. For me, many of them are also fellow Christians.

My real concern about what has played out in Alabama centers on the collateral damage this race has done, first, to the women at the center of the controversy over Roy Moore’s past, and to the evangelicals that will either be credited or blamed for the election’s outcome. They are the real people in this mess. Maybe it’s the pastoral side of me that keeps my focus off the two candidates and on those other souls, caught in the throes of this tumultuous political season in our nation. If this were solely a matter for Alabamians, with no Steve Bannon or Gloria Allred to sensationalize it, no Fox News or MSNBC to exploit it, no Washington-based RNC or DNC to finance it—maybe, just maybe, there wouldn’t be so many collateral victims.

Politics is a rough-and-tumble sport. Roy Moore knows that, and he can take it—he was a kick-boxing champion in his hometown of Gadsden and a horse wrangler in the Australian outback. Doug Jones knows it—he was a federal prosecutor who took on the Ku Klux Klan’s murder of children in a church bombing. The ones who do not know how bad political fights get, and what damage they do to our souls, are the women who accused Moore of sexual assault and impropriety—and the Bible-believing Christians left to judge their accounts as true or false—and then decide what to do with that information on Tuesday. Both Republicans and Democrats are using the women and the evangelicals reacting to them for their advantage. Here’s my advice to both these collateral victims, offered in my role as a minister, not as a politician:

Most importantly, you and everyone in this mess matters to God. He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Nothing you do—or don’t do—on Election Day, can change that fact. Nothing anyone says about you can change that fact. This is God’s promise to you and to all of humanity (John 3:16).

For the women that have accused Roy Moore: No matter your motives for coming forward, the accuracy of your allegations, or whether your fellow citizens believe you or not, your voice is to be honored and your words are to be weighed seriously. No one should ever be categorically dismissed because of the timing of their complaint. Politics is never more important than people—especially people that say they’ve been harmed. The people of God are obligated to pray for you, love you, and support you, no matter the circumstances surrounding your cry for help.

To my fellow Bible-believing evangelical Christians in Alabama: Your citizenship goes way above and beyond the state of Alabama and the United States of America. Scripture tells us: “For our citizenship is in heaven; from which also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Your concern as a believer must, in the end, above all things, be the will of God—not political expediency. The voice that disciples of Jesus must always listen for is not the voice of candidates who want to win a race, or, of media pundits trying to please their audiences, or, of political operatives or parties that stand to gain from an election’s outcome, or, of social groups that need you to help them achieve their objectives. The only voice that matters is the Lord’s, that still small voice in your heart, speaking to you in your conscience, where the law of God itself is written (Hebrews 8:10).

To all as you contemplate what you’ll do tomorrow: Prayer, of course, is the beginning of discernment (Philippians 1:9), and love is the mark of the true Christian (John 13:35). So, as you prepare to vote start by praying and exercising the love of God toward all involved in this election process—the candidates themselves, their supporters and detractors, the women accusers, the candidates’ defenders, your family members, friends, and co-workers who issue their opinions and applaud or harangue you for your position.

Finally, as you bathe this whole exercise in prayer and love — for God and for your neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40) — also seek wisdom, which God promises He will give you (James 1:5). You will know it is wisdom from God by its characteristics: “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

If the only reason for the vote you cast or decide not to cast tomorrow is to get back at someone or something, prove a point—maybe that you’re right and somebody else is wrong—or because you’re afraid of someone or something—you stand a pretty good chance of getting it wrong. If you approach your duty as a citizen of Alabama conscious that your ultimate allegiance is not to a state, not to a nation, certainly not to a candidate or political party, but to God, and you act accordingly, you stand a very good chance of getting it right, not necessarily in a political sense, but, much more importantly, in a moral sense.  It is far more important to do what is right in God’s eyes than get your vote right!