In spite of what many Christians, perhaps well-meaning, would have us believe, there is no such thing as a Christian party, nor is there always a clear candidate who is God’s man or woman for the job.

Perhaps a look at history will help. Two effective and esteemed presidents, Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, were both quiet about their personal faith. They were both popular leaders–and also alleged adulterers.

Former President Jimmy Carter is a Sunday-School-teaching evangelical Christian, a peace-making, democracy-spreading, house-building person of high integrity, who had a less than effective presidency.

President Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich hold extremely different political views, with the first a “born-again” Christian, the second largely silent regarding faith. What they do share is adultery in office, Gingrich in spite of the high moral talk of the Contract with America.

It seems history doesn’t really serve as much of a guide, except perhaps to remind us that no candidate is perfect.

Given the recent moral failings of Democrat and Republican leaders alike, presidential candidates have been reluctant to claim personal perfection or to cast moral stones.  Not wanting to alienate those who do not share their religious beliefs, the candidates leave voters to guess about the content of their faith and how it informs their political platforms.

So how can Christians choose between candidates in this and other major political contests?
The following steps may help you prepare to vote:

–Pray for national and local governments, both current leaders and candidates, while seeking wisdom from God.
–Open your mind and spirit, dropping old assumptions and listening anew for God’s voice.
–Read literature from all sides (candidate Web sites are and, as well as newspapers and magazines with different slants, trying to get beyond the hype.
–Discuss issues and candidates calmly with other believers, knowing when to drop a tense subject.
–Discern, remembering that this is politics and that many–of any party–will say whatever it takes to get elected.
–Consider and choose.

After the votes are tallied, we must remember–again–that no one party or candidate is absolutely right or wrong. So lose the smugness if “your” candidate wins and resist the temptation to claim a victory for God.

And whoever triumphs, continue to pray daily for our leaders and our government. That is always the right choice.

Karen Johnson Zurheide is co-author of “In Their Own Way: Accepting Your Children for Who They Are.” She serves on BCE’s board of directors.

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