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Originally published Friday, October 26, 2012 at 9:21 PM

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Golden rule should govern during election season, too

Regardless of whether our favored candidates win on Election Day and our ballot issues prevail, come Nov. 7 we will still have to live with those who disagreed with us politically. Being a good neighbor means looking beyond political differences.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Election 2012 is almost over. Ballots are in hand, and in many cases already mailed in. Soon political pundits will have to come up with something to do besides spin political rhetoric their way.

For most of us, Nov. 6 cannot come soon enough. We have tired of robo telephone calls, endless political emails, nasty television commercials and junk snail mail.

Hallelujah, relief is on the way.

Regardless of whether our favored candidates win and our ballot issues prevail, come Nov. 7 we will have to live with those who disagreed with us politically.

There are a few yard signs in my neighborhood, and I am aware of which neighbors' political opinions differ from mine. I also have had conversations with neighbors who choose not to vote. It is easier for me to respect those who disagree with me and vote their consciences than it is to understand those who choose not to exercise their constitutional right. Yet, the task of looking beyond political differences and being neighborly continues.

Jesus cautioned his followers against being judgmental, yet a hotly contested election that rubs against our personal values can bring out our worst selves.

In this election, we have become keenly aware that a variety of Christian values are in play for most issues. Catholics, members of United Church of Christ, Baptists and Methodists — while they are all Christian traditions, they vary widely on theology and social issues. No one tradition is better or worse than the other. They are just different and appeal to differing constituencies. We all have a right to believe according to our consciences. But our faith becomes threatening to others when we want to impose our personal beliefs, theologies, and rituals on society as a whole.

If our leaders ever made other religions' beliefs and practices the law, Christians would unite across denominational and theological lines to rise up in protest. In the same vein, Christians should not make their own religious beliefs the law for all. Christians must respect other religious faiths — and those of no faith — particularly when Christians are in the majority.

Religious beliefs can inform our voting practices, but in the United States our Constitution guards against religious beliefs becoming civil law.

Once again, Christians are split over what a real family looks like and whether the freedom to marry can be denied to some because of tradition and fear of change.

Love must prevail. Christians must be about protecting and supporting all families, and most important, our children. After all is said and done, those of us who profess Jesus as savior must focus on loving all God's people and work toward easing the suffering of those in need.

In our global village, the question of who is my neighbor gets a bit tricky. In Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan, the ones we think would have a moral obligation to respond to the injured man by the side of the road did nothing They were distracted, or they did not have the time or inclination to care.

It was the man who was culturally and spiritually at odds with the injured man who demonstrated neighborly goodwill. He was able to put differences aside and help. Doing the loving, just and right thing will always take precedence over cultural or religious dogma.

Regardless of election outcomes, we will have to live together. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said we must learn to live together as brothers (and sisters) or perish together as fools. Christians can move beyond differences and facilitate healing in red states, blue states, Western Washington, Eastern Washington, and among those of conservative and progressive theological thought.

We must do unto others what we would like others to do unto us. Love and compassion must always prevail. It is our Christian mandate.

The Rev. Patricia L. Hunter is an associate in ministry at Mount Zion Baptist Church and senior benefits consultant for American Baptist Churches in the USA. Readers may send feedback to faithcolumns@seattletimes.com

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