With the election less than one week away I'm sure the last thing you want to read about is more election stuff! I understand. You're probably questioning why you should even take the time to read this blog post. I hope you will; I believe there is something in this post for everyone.

First, let me set the record straight on something. Throughout this election year I have stated often that you do not have to vote. I've written that in Facebook and Twitter posts and I've said it from the stage at Live Oak Christian Church. My motivation behind this thought is simple: voting is not a moral imperative. In other words, it is not a sin to abstain from voting. In fact, not only is it not a sin, it's your right as an American to not vote. I stand by this thought from a scriptural perspective and have repeated it out of frustration over those who have said otherwise. To suggest that as Americans we should vote is absolutely correct; to state that as Christians we are morally required to vote is, in my opinion, extra-biblical. All that being said, I DO BELIEVE IT IS YOUR CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY to vote. Just because you can choose not to do something doesn't mean you should choose not to do it.

With that out of the way, here are a few general thoughts/suggestions I'd like to put forth:

KNOW YOUR VOICE

You're vote is your voice, use it. In fact, as I've said before, if you keep your voice quiet on Election Day, you should keep your mouth shut for the next 4 years. Candidates are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to convince you to add your voice to their campaign. You and I have a voice that the United States Constitution guarantees, and throughout our history the right to vote has been fought for, clarified, and expanded through the 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments. Candidates, political action committees, and super PACS are falling all over themselves for your voice, vying for YOUR VOTE - make it count.

KNOW YOUR VALUE

And this is where I'm likely to lose some of you. I have made it known that it is my intention to vote for a third party candidate. The response to that decision has been a mixture of disappointment, frustration, and flat out disbelief. I've been told that I'm naive, ignorant, and wasteful. I COULD NOT DISAGREE MORE.

Let me be clear about this: THIS IS MY VOTE. It is not YOUR vote. You can vote for whomever you'd like - that's the beauty of our democracy. And the power of the whole deal is this: my vote counts exactly the same as yours. I get one vote, and so do you, and we BOTH get to let our voices be heard by casting our votes. It is this principle that men and women have died for throughout history, and it is what makes America what it is, the greatest nation on planet Earth.

KNOW YOUR STUFF

One argument during this election that runs through me is the assertion that because I am not voting for one of the candidates from our two party political system I am simply casting a vote for the opposition. "A vote for a third party candidate is a vote for Hillary," or, "A vote for a third party candidate is a vote for Trump." The irony is both sides are saying the same thing! Actually my vote for a third party candidate is a vote for SOMEONE ELSE!

I know that third party candidates generally haven't had an impact on a general election since Ross Perot in 1992 (Reform Party) or Teddy Roosevelt (Progressive Party) in 1912, but that isn't the point. The point is that an alternative candidate can run and I can vote for them. While third parties have not had impacts on election outcomes, they have made an impact on the policies of the two existing parties. They have often served to refocus the two major political parties stance or view on issues that have been ignored or shifted in the parties' platforms.

I get it, there is a lot riding on this election, there is ALWAYS a lot riding on the election. I don't need the lecture about the Supreme Court Justices. I know what's going on. I understand the historical context and impending impact on the immediate future with regard to social issues and even constitutional interpretation. I don't need an update on the policies and platforms of the Democratic or Republican parties. Democrats are going to pull to the "left;" Republicans are going to pull to the "right." Progressive taxation versus flat taxes. Higher minimum wages vs. free market wage determination. Communal/social responsibilities versus individual rights and justice. Pro gay marriage versus anti gay marriage. Pro Roe V. Wade versus anti Roe V. Wade. Moratorium on immigration/deportation versus anti-amnesty for undocumented immigrants. Harry Reid versus Mitch McConnell. Blue versus red. Donkey versus Elephant!

Here's my point on this: next week when you vote, you may be naive, you may be an idealist, you may be a hardline party guy/girl ... but don't be ignorant. Know your stuff.

KNOW YOUR MOTIVATION

One last thought. Know WHAT you're voting for. I've heard arguments over the last several weeks about voting for morals versus voting for policies. I've read articles and subsequent comments deriding people who are going to "vote their conscience." It isn't enough to go to the polls and vote because you should, nor do I believe it is right to vote for what everyone else tells you to vote for. For me this means voting for more than a person or a policy, it's feeling comfortable with both. It's being able to lay my head on my pillow the night of November 8 at peace with how I used my voice ... with why I voted.

I'm voting because I can.
I'm voting because I should.
I'm voting because my candidate embodies my beliefs and I believe in them.
I'm voting because in the grand scheme of things I believe it matters.

In the middle of all the attention-grabbing headlines, accusatory breaking news, and campaign mud slinging, when you don't know what to think and aren't sure what to trust, know all you can and trust what you know ... and on November 8 pray before you "pull the lever."

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