It is highly unusual for me to praise a piece written by a leader of the Christian Right, but Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, actually had some good advice in his essay, published in this morning’s Washington Post. He made three major points.

Daly really spoke to me with his first point.

We all know the issues in this year’s election… [and] there is no shortage of deeply held, passionately articulated opinions on these matters…. But when you step into the voting booth the first Tuesday in November, what “they” wrote or said shouldn’t matter as much as what you think, feel and believe. With our right to vote comes a responsibility: to look inside our hearts and identify what we hold most dear, then check the box, punch the card or tap the screen next to the name of the candidate who most closely aligns with our values.

That’s where the real challenge comes in: Chances are neither Romney nor Obama will earn a perfect score when you go through this exercise…. Some things the candidates have done or said might disappoint you. So your decision will come down to this: Which man most closely stands for what I stand for? Whom do I trust more, based on his public record and personal convictions, to lead the nation in the direction I hope to see it go?

As a progressive who has been at times profoundly disappointed in President Obama’s leadership and job performance, Daly’s words really speak to me. While far from perfect, President Obama without a doubt stands much, much closer to what I stand for than does Romney in either his “severely conservative” or free market zealot’s guise.

Daly’s second point was surprising, but right on the mark:

Note that “values” do not equal “religion”; while for many of us, it is indeed our religious faith that informs our values, we must remember that we are electing a president, not a pastor, priest, rabbi, imam or elder. [The Presidency] is a civic, not spiritual, position with secular, not sanctifying duties.

Finally, Daly is absolutely right in his call for civility. More specifically, he calls on voters

to model something different than the rhetorical savagery that too often colors political discourse in the United States. Some people, on both sides of the ideological aisle, have become so consumed with winning a political “battle” that they’ve lost sight of basic virtues like the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

It’s easy to argue with someone who holds a different worldview. But let’s not take the easy way out. Let’s looks for points of mutual cordiality where they might be found. We may persuade some to our way of thinking by taking a reasoned approach, and even if we fail to change each other’s minds, we don’t have to call each other names.

This does not mean we stop ardently engaging the culture and advocating for the morals and values we hold dear. It does mean we do so in a way that recognizes the dignity and respect we all deserve as humans. We must remember that both names at the top of the ballot belong to human beings.

With so much at stake politically right now, and with right-wing extremism on this rise, I am constantly having to remind myself that every person retains a Divine spark within. And while it feels good sometimes to viciously blast those who seem to stubbornly insist on the wrong path, it is not right to do so — and it is not productive politically either.

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