While on my way to my polling place in North Carolina this morning, I passed a large sign that said "vote your Bible, not your wallet."
The sentiment should have shocked me, at least a little, but instead, it merely made me shake my head and circle the block for a parking space. Although I'm not a native North Carolinian, I am a Southerner by birth, and I understand this is one of the hazards of living in the Bible belt. Besides, that sign is nothing compared to the nearly 20 McCain robocalls that I returned to find on my machine after spending the weekend out of town.
In the past few months, I've followed all of the horror stories in this battleground state - the dead black bear draped in Obama signs at Western Carolina, the tires slashed at the Obama rally in Fayetteville, the early voters getting heckled at the polls - and honestly, it's left me feeling a little battle-weary.
What's worse, however, is that I've almost grown used to overhearing the not-so-hushed conversations in my neighborhood Food Lion about Obama's supposed Muslim ties. I'm frustrated, but unfortunately not surprised, when people tell me that even though they don't really like McCain, they just can't vote for Obama because he's black.
It's no wonder that the Obama signs are sparse in this area of the state. On occasion, there's one that crops up in someone's yard, but often, it doesn't stick around for long. I've seen several yards that sport Obama signs one day are curiously empty the next, marked instead by the telltale twin grooves left by someone who has dragged the sign away. Those Obama signs that do stick around usually end up plastered with McCain/Palin stickers in a matter of hours.
Perhaps that is the reason why this morning's message stuck with me as I walked to the voting booth. I am not normally someone who is easily swayed by propaganda or rhetoric, but this sign spoke to me. I decided not to fight it.
Before I cast my vote, I thought long and hard about the scriptures I read in long-ago Sunday school, about the messages espoused at the church-sponsored youth events I attended as a teenager, and about all of the lessons I have ever learned about Christ and his teachings. Even though my relationship with organized religion has been tenuous for some time now, the sign was right - once you decide to vote your Bible, the decision of who to elect president becomes a simple one.
I voted for the candidate who has shared his inspiring message with the masses and who has begun to heal the wounds of the past eight years simply by offering some hope.
I voted for the candidate who has promoted service, strength, and yes, humility, by making his supporters realize that it is they, not he, who have the real power in this election.
I voted for the candidate who has made himself a champion for the poor and the struggling, who understands that "spreading the wealth" is not some perverted form of socialism meant to rip money from the hands of others, but instead an attempt to exercise the same kind of benevolence that led Christ to feed the multitudes with just a few loaves and fishes.
Although I respect those who disagree with my candidate's policies, I also voted against the politics of hate and fear espoused by some of his detractors. Too many have called him a terrorist and a traitor. Others have accused him of hubris. Still more have inexplicably claimed that, despite being a Christian for decades, his Muslim heritage somehow disqualifies him from serving as president.
But I also realize my candidate is no messiah. He is a man, as imperfect as the rest of us, and if we elect him today, he will not be a perfect president. He is not a savior. He is simply a turning point, the beginning of something better for all of us, if we're willing to put in the work to make it happen.
What a miracle that in this election, there is actually candidate who doesn't force us to make a choice between our Bibles or our wallets. Instead, he lets us vote both.
So far, turnout at the polls here in North Carolina has been heavy, but lines haven't been long, thanks to early voting. Obama is likely up in some places, but in my area of the state, I hear that early results indicate that McCain has a solid lead.
Still, I'm holding out hope for another Southern Renaissance. I want North Carolinians and everyone else in the southeast to shake off their concerns about what their neighbors will think, to put aside their hang-ups over race, to push away the pressures levied by church and society, and to assert their individuality and vote for the candidate who is really looking after their best interests.
And I am praying that McCain's lead in my county is only temporary, a dwindling remnant of the Old South that Margaret Mitchell coined the Southerner's inability to resist a losing cause.