I realize this may come a bit late for the 2010 elections, but I felt the need to put it out there anyhow. As indicated by the title of this post, I only address here the Christian perspective, which holds additional and unique incitements to exercise civic duty as Americans. In the months and weeks leading up to primaries and general elections each year, I inevitably encounter friends who have hesitations or outright aversions toward going to the polls. Being the boat-rocker that I am, I have never seen fit to let anyone off the hook easily. Although the Bible does not address the specific topic of casting one’s vote, it is anything but silent on the overarching subject of civic government and the citizen’s responsibilities associated therewith. I’ll highlight the most common arguments by Christians against participating in the election of the nation’s leaders.
1. “I’m not a political person.” These days, the word “politics” carries a vicious negative connotation, and with good reason. We live in a fallen world with sinful fellow men who often make wicked, self-serving decisions. But Christians use the term “politics” like it’s a particular sport or subject in grade school. “I’m not into hockey” or “I avoid calculus like the plague.” But politics is not a thing in and of itself; rather, it is a word to encompass the cosmic debate between right and wrong – prudent and imprudent, just and unjust – as it relates to each aspect of a complex society. Even if you ignore the word itself, the underlying debates must continue and the decisions will be made. It is the tone and the tactics of corrupt men that have sullied the term beyond redemption, but the nastiness of a word is no blanket excuse to ignore the importance of its true meaning. You may not follow hockey, and you might deem calculus better left to those who enjoy torture by numbers. You may not, unfortunately, avoid the raging battle of good versus evil, which has claimed ground in every facet of human life until the end of time.
2. “The Bible doesn’t deal with politics, so I don’t either.” Here I must say that if you have carefully read the Bible and honestly believe this to be so, you need to reread it until you realize you’re wrong. There are the obvious “moral” causes that many Christians readily take up (abortion, homosexuality, etc.), but then they abandon the others (foreign policy, economics, etc.) with the justification that there is no “right” or “wrong” according to God. However, the Bible – from cover to cover – is full of issues that still appear in today’s political arena because they transcend all generations and because God’s way always has and will collide head-on with the way of the world. Why would He include such detailed instructions for the national laws of Israel if there were no right or wrong way to establish government? (And please note that I’m referring to civil laws – not the moral laws or the Levitical laws concerning sacrifice.) In fact, much of our common law is derived directly from that given to Old Testament Israel. I’m not interested in telling you (here, anyway) which viewpoints you ought to have, but I am stating point blank that the Bible speaks in some manner to every political topic fathomable by the human brain.
3. “I don’t know anything about the candidates.” I don’t even feel this warrants a rebuttal, other than to say that if you are a competent adult within reading range of this post (i.e., on the Internet), you have no excuse for being ignorant of either the races or the candidates which would appear on your ballot. Whether or not you caught the televised debates (you can likely find them on YoutTube) or other such publicity, there still remain a plethora of online resources to assist you in making an informed decision. Ask your pastor, or your Christian friends, or read the endorsements given by Focus on the Family or another officeholder whom you trust. And for heaven’s sake, pray about it! If God asks you to get involved, He’ll certainly guide you along the path you should take. Many soldiers have given their lives to establish and preserve the freedom to choose who rules us: what do you say to them by refusing to spend a few hours researching candidates and issues? Poor awareness is a cop-out, and you should be embarrassed to claim it as an excuse.
4. “I don’t believe in the ‘lesser of two evils’.” Then you’re in for a life of seclusion or brutal disappointment. As a Christian, surely you acknowledge that apart from Christ, perfect men do not exist. Granted, some political contests lack even a decent candidate, and never will there be a choice that completely meets the unattainable standard erected by our ideological minds. I speak from personal experience, as this particular pretext haunted me for years and still frequently rears its ugly head. You see, Satan hates virtue and conviction, especially where accompanied by passion, and while Christian ideology is an honorable thing, the dirty truth is that the devil will twist it for his dishonorable purposes. The command is to be “in the world, yet not of the world,” and there are two ways to be non-compliant: by being too worldly or by separating oneself to the point of isolationism. Refusing to vote based on this lofty premise smacks of the latter. However, because I wholeheartedly understand the need to occasionally speak out against all candidates in a race, I offer the following advice:
A. Change your registration to “unaffiliated.” In most states, you are allowed to choose which party’s primary you vote in each election (although you may not vote in both in one year). If there is not a candidate you can support in your preferred party, or if you feel a certain person will win that partisan race regardless, vote in the opposing party’s primary. God gave us brains and strategy for a reason! Vote against the most undesirable – or the most powerful – choice of the opposition. There is nothing wrong with using wit to make your vote pack the biggest wallop.
B. There is a more effective way to register your displeasure than staying at home on election day (although this option should be used wisely and sparingly). Keep in mind that not voting – for purpose of statistics – lumps you into the majority of the population that was just too lazy; your noble abstention will be viewed as nothing more than apathy. Instead, go to the polls and vote…in each race except the one that seriously vexes you. It will be obvious that you deliberately chose neither and the clear message is, “I would have settled for the lesser of two evils, but there wasn’t one.” Ouch! You can bet that campaign workers are making note of those votes post-election.
In order to be an effective Christian and avoid Satan’s snares, it is imperative that you reconcile your ideals with reality: someone will be elected, whether or not you vote, however pure your intentions in abstaining. You can take advantage of every chance to proclaim and promote your Christian worldview, or you can (on principle) watch it go down and tell yourself that you had nothing to do with it. But in fact, you had everything to do with it. Want to throw out the whole darn system and start over? So do something about it now! Christ doesn’t wait until we’re good enough to approach us – he meets us where we are. In life and politics, we must follow that example. And remember that a citizen who casts no vote has no standing to question or grumble about anything.
5. “Jesus wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican.” Of course He wasn’t! Jesus is “I AM:” who needs an ass or an elephant when you’re God? Perhaps you are at odds with our governmental structure, or the divergent bi-partisanship of American politics, or the way campaign contributions are managed. It is so tempting to become fixated on what is wrong and to wash one’s hands of the whole mess…except that you can’t – not in America or any other country. Without question, our system is flawed; yet we are still the freest nation in the world, and for all our flaws, there are those who only dream of life as we know it. And God ordains human government, whatever shape it may take. That’s not to say that tyrannical dictatorships are pleasing in His sight, but He gave authority to mankind to put government structures into place. In Romans, Paul instructs the Christians to live under the authority of the Roman government. It was far from being a Christ-centered, just regime, and believers were fighting the urge to reject its leadership altogether. Similar to paying taxes, voting is considered a duty in America, and by not doing so, we disobey authority. I’m a realist and won’t pretend that the current establishment doesn’t sicken me, but that’s where we are and what we have – no amount of idle complaining or wishful thinking is going to change it, but voting will. Your vote might appear smaller and less powerful with every passing election, but if you as a Christian throw in the towel, what’s to say that all Christians won’t do the same? If you think it’s bad now, wait until the salt and light have exited entirely. Any time we are given the opportunity to direct the course of the nation back toward Christ, I believe we are obligated to do so.
There are endless variations of the crutches listed above, and none of them advance the banner of Christendom in the slightest. You need to be involved in “politics,” you ought to be an informed citizen, you can’t hold out for a perfect candidate and you are commanded by God to perform the duties assigned to you by government. After all: you’re going to be taxed until you die, so you might as well try and get your money’s worth!