How do I behave like a Christian in an election year?

April 10, 2024

A question has been nagging at me lately: How do I behave like a Christian in an election year?  The world has grown exponentially negative. Anxiety lurks about. Peace is hard to find. In my experience as a pastor, I have never seen mental health at such a low point.  And all of this applies to our political climate in America, which tends to come to the forefront in a major election year. 

Though we care deeply about the issues that are at stake, perhaps we should be not only be concerned about the results of the election but also about the effect our politicized and polarized climate is having on our souls. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus invited his disciples to clearly discern what’s happening in our culture and prayerfully decide what kind of character we will develop in challenging times.  

As I was meditating on how this applies to my own heart, I started with the beatitudes of Jesus.  Jesus uses the word “blessed” eight times, describing a life that bears the approval of God.  Here is what a godly life looks like! Taking Jesus’ way of speaking of the good life, we can be reminded of the way we have been called to walk as his people in the midst of our current cultural moment. Here are eight ways we can model the blessed life in the midst of a tumultuous election year.

Blessed are those who believe that the world is changed more by prayer than by opinions (based on Matt. 5:3).

Opinions are everywhere. Those who truly pray are few.  If we find that it is hard to get people to listen, and if we believe only God can change hearts, why would we not pray more? Speaking up for truth matters, but will we also have the faith to believe that interceding for others makes more of a difference than loudly and defensively inflicting our strongly held opinions?   

Blessed are those who remember that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world (based on Matt. 5:4).

The emotions of fear and anger are running high in our culture. Many feel like giving up. Instead of trusting in ourselves to “fix” our country, we must remember that we are also citizen of a larger and everlasting Kingdom. Our job is not only to be politically engaged for the good of our communities; it’s to call people to Christ.

Blessed are those who stop complaining and start contributing (based on Matt. 5:5).

Anyone can complain. But wouldn’t it be more beneficial to serve? Making a small difference in someone’s life often does more good than simply winning arguments, especially on social media. Faith without works is dead; so is making a stand without taking action.  

Blessed are those who develop an appetite for what is honorable rather than what is hateful (based on Matt. 5:6).

If we are not deliberate in our media consumption, we may develop a taste for the distasteful. Unfollow angry people. Refuse to click on the stories that spew false truths and realities. Media should inform our opinions, not deform our character. And remember that true and lasting transformation happens through the Spirit of God and Scripture.

Blessed are those who look for the best in people and not the worst (based on Matt. 5:7).

How easy it is to forget this simple grace! We want others to give us the benefit of the doubt. Why would we not extend this same courtesy to others? Instead of jumping to conclusions, let’s slow-walk our judgements about others (James 1:19).

Blessed are those who choose to be undiscouraged, undivided, and undistracted and who delight more and more in the goodness of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ (based on Matt. 5:8).

Focusing on myself leads to discouragement. Focusing on my disagreements with others breeds division and discord. We are made to delight in God! Put another way, to focus on anything other than God will leave us dissatisfied.

Blessed are those who learn how to disagree with others without feeling compelled to dislike them (based on Matt. 5:9).

Culture defines love as accepting and celebrating someone without question. Culture demands that if I disagree with someone, then, by default, I must dislike them. It is better to define love and to model our disagreements by looking to the Lord instead of imitating popular practice. 

Blessed are those who put up with the evil in the world and yet never give up on the goodness of God (based on Matt. 5:10).

If you decide to do what is right, you can count on being wronged. But we trust in the goodness of God even when the going is rough. Indeed, we would rather be thought wrong for doing what is right than to be thought right for doing what we know is wrong. 

Of course, these thoughts address more than the upcoming election season. In the worst of times, let’s aspire to be the best of people. Jesus calls us to be faithful and fearless. He invites us to develop an appetite for truth and goodness, to act rather than react, to be undistracted from our delight in him, to be strong in our convictions and gentle with our compassion, to put up with much, but not give up on living lives that glorify him.  

My prayer as we engage in politics and the 2024 election season is best captured in the words of the Apostle Paul: “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). May God give us the grace to walk in the way of Jesus. 

Deron Spoo

Deron Spoo is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Since he became pastor in 2000, Deron has helped First Tulsa transition from simply being a downtown church to becoming a regional church committed to urban ministry. He is the author of “The Good Book: 40 Chapters … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24