I was born and raised in a developing country with a fairly stable presidential democracy. I got involved in politics at the age of 15, and in partisan politics when I was 18. Many of my political and policy positions are different today from those I held 20 years ago. As a non-Christian and then as a Christian, I supported and voted for candidates who I felt did not fully represent the kind of character and policies I wanted to champion.
Then, when I was a diplomat, I studied different historical and contemporary political systems: dictatorships in Europe and Asia, military juntas in Africa, the caudillos and the weak democracies in Latin America. And then, I learned how the Church struggled to survive under those systems, and in some cases the repressive influence of Roman Catholic cardinals and their Concordats.
In most of those countries, Christians have lived and voted for options that were not optimal, to say the least. In some places, they learned to hope in Christ without abandoning the political tools that they had access to; while in other places they learned to hope in Christ and try to survive under a repressive regime that was hunting them down at different levels.
Here in the United States, the Church has had a privileged position. Christians have felt that they could vote for candidates who represented what they stood for. This election has brought to the surface differences within evangelicalism that we have not seen previously. These differences have sadly fractured long friendships and alliances. Pastors and leaders have wrongly questioned the theology and character of others because of their political choices.
My call to my brothers and sisters in the US is: you are in a privileged position. Millions of Christians around the world would love to have the politics, and even the candidates, that US citizens have this year. Vote for whoever you think will do best, but please do not question the character of your brothers and sisters who have decided to vote for X or Y or Z. Be a good steward of the freedom you have, and pray for your brothers and sisters around the world who wish they could vote.
Edgar R. Aponte teaches theology and hermeneutics at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. @EdgarRAponte