Presidential Elections and the 4th Commandment

By Graham Glover

“You shall honor your father and mother that it may be well with you and you may live long upon the earth.”

I’ve given up trying to figure out how this year’s election will unfold. Every prediction of mine has been wrong. I still think Hillary wins in an Electoral College blowout, but now I’m even starting to doubt that prognosis. The Donald, despite himself, just might pull off the most improbable of campaigns.

The fortunate thing for me is that no matter who the American voters choose to be our next president, I am obligated to salute him/her and ultimately receive and follow their orders as they become our nation’s next Commander in Chief. Like all those who served in the Armed Forces, I’ll have my say when I cast my ballot, but regardless of who wins, I will respect the desire of the electorate and the individual that will become the 45th President of the United States.

This isn’t to say that I don’t have strong opinions on who our next president should be – I do. Nor is it to say that this election isn’t one of the most important elections in the last 36 years – it is. Rather, it is to highlight the position I am in as an Active Duty Officer in the United States Army. That is, I am obligated to respect those who are placed in authority over me – regardless of how I personally feel about them. Mine isn’t to question who my Commander is, my XO, or my Supervisory Chaplain. Mine isn’t to rebel against the President, Congress, or any other duly elected or appointed leader as they make decisions on behalf of our nation. On the contrary, mine is to respect and obey, which is what I and every other Soldier will do next January when either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is sworn in as President of the United States.

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But this obligation isn’t reserved only for those currently serving in the military. This obligation is for every citizen of the United States. No matter who wins, each of us are obligated to honor those placed in authority over us. Don’t believe me? See the 4th Commandment noted above (or 5th for you Protestants that number the Commandments differently).

Many of you probably don’t want to hear this. Over 90% of the electorate has very strong opinions of the candidate they will not vote for (over 45% detest Hillary, and an over 45% detest Trump). More than any other election, this year’s candidates have higher negatives than ever before. Don’t believe me, just listen to the speeches at the National Conventions. I promise you they will focus more on what’s wrong with the other candidate rather than what’s good or right about theirs.

When the dust settles though, we are to respect our elected leaders. This doesn’t mean we can’t (or shouldn’t) question them. This doesn’t mean that we can’t (or shouldn’t) work to ensure they aren’t reelected the next time around. But we are to respect them while they hold their office, even if we didn’t vote for them. They our still our nation’s leader even if we find their positions and policies vile.

As Luther reminds us in his Small Catechism:

“We are to fear and love God so that we may not despise or anger our parents and masters, but give them honor, serve them, obey them, and hold them in love and esteem.”

So get ready my friends. Get ready for some intense campaigning over the next 4 months (probably some of the most negative campaigning our nation has ever seen). But on Inauguration Day next year, even if your candidate doesn’t win, get ready to do that which our Lord commands: to honor and respect those that He has placed in authority over us.

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