Is politics America’s salvation? Hardly. Of course it is the arena where ideas can be debated, which leads to people who are elected, bills that are written and eventually to laws that govern. Few things are more important in America than the legislative process.

Our system is quite unique, but it certainly isn’t perfect. Imperfect people could never design a perfect system of government. No voter has all the facts. No idea is totally unbiased. No congressman or congresswoman is uninfluenced by lobbyists or special interest groups. Few bills are offered for adoption and few laws are written without some opposition detailing their imperfections. Our diversity guarantees that there will always be two sides to every issue.

As long as America is dominated by a party system, we will live in a country where there is a tug of war over ideology, foreign policy, economic well-being, military defense and ethical issues. This is not a bad thing. It’s part of what makes America America.

It has been pointed out that the division in this country seems deeper between the parties, the rhetoric between presidential candidates seems more personal than in previous elections and the facts about issues are sometimes distorted by both candidates. Yet I remain optimistic that whoever is elected as president tomorrow can lead our country forward.

We need neither to wake up on Wednesday morning to celebrate that our candidate won and thus feel that all is going to work out for the best, nor to mourn that our candidate lost and believe all that awaits America is gloom and doom.

Both candidates have strengths, and both candidates have weaknesses. Both have issues that polarize the opposition; both have traits that draw the devoted. Both candidates are guided by faith, although in different ways. Either must work within a legislative system with checks and balances.

The nature of this campaign and the hot-button issues involved cause many people to feel a strong allegiance to one candidate or another. Though such allegiances are natural, we should not feel that our nation has slipped into a dark abyss if our candidate doesn’t win.

We can be opposed to a candidate’s ideas, policy, decisions, interpretation of the past and vision for the future. Yet, as citizens of this great nation, we must remember that we play a very important role in maintaining the unity of our nation.

If we are to be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” we must not pull back from taking an active role in seeking to change the world in which we live.  Some of that is accomplished by casting our ballot for candidates and legislative measures we believe in.

Most of it, however, is accomplished through our commitment to God and our fellow man.

The political system is important, but we shall not be saved by any candidate or political party.

Our salvation has always rested in the arms of a loving God, who through his son Jesus commanded us to love God with all our heart, soul and mind and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Should we strive to follow these commandments, we can make our world a better place regardless of who is elected as the next president of the United States.

When we stand before God in judgment we will not be asked, “For whom did you vote in the 2004 elections?” On Judgment Day, what will matter is whether we looked to God and only to God for our salvation and lived a life that reflected such a commitment.

Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie, Ga. This column appeared in The Moultrie Observer.

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