Making Choices in the Civic Arena

by Dr. Leslie (Jack) Fyans

I turned 18 this year, and I am excited to vote in the upcoming presidential election. I’ve been following the race and talking with friends and family about my views. My parents and I disagree about presidential candidates for a number of reasons. They imply that I’m wrong because I’m in favor of a candidate they don’t like. How am I supposed to feel like an adult when they don’t respect my opinion?

Come November you will enjoy the great blessing of taking part in the democratic process to help choose our nation’s new leader. I commend you for taking this seriously, both by studying the candidates’ platforms and discussing the issues with your friends. By participating in the political process, you cannot only help select candidates, but you will help define issues and contribute to the development of government programs that reflect your faith.

You’re also experiencing the normal struggle teens often have as they express political ideas that may be different from their parents’ views. Being tolerant of a variety of opinions is part of what makes for a healthy democracy—a concept with roots in ancient Athens, where differences of opinion were encouraged and valued. Citizens debated an issue in the Assembly and cast their vote by a show of hands or, occasionally, by a “division of the house” when the issue was important. The side obtaining the most votes formed the majority opinion, thus deciding an issue. That did not mean, however, that those in the minority were wrong. Parents and teens alike sometimes forget that aspect of the political process.

Your parents may not agree with your opinion or your choice of candidates, but that does not mean you are wrong (even though many parents are gratified when their children follow their own political preferences). Each of us deserves respect, not only as United States citizens but, more important, as people made in God’s image. As Christians who live in a democracy, our faith calls us to be involved in the political process. And believers who are equally committed to their faith can arrive at different opinions in the civic arena.

Exercising your right to vote, therefore, is both a privilege and an expectation. In this and every activity in which we participate as adults we take personal responsibility for our choices. As Christian adults, we make such choices, not with the goal of pleasing others or to be accepted, but to express our personal views, informed by prayer and our understanding of God’s Word.

Questions for “Family Counselor” come from readers and, after steps are taken to assure confidentiality, from contacts made with Lutheran Hour Ministries. Send your questions to “Family Counselor,” The Lutheran Witness, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road, St. Louis, MO 63122-7295. Please include your name and address. 

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