Published in The Calhoun Times Saturday, March 5th.
Let me begin by saying that I do not tell my congregation how to vote or who to vote for and I’m not even going to suggest to my readers how they should vote. I feel very strongly that you should vote but even I have lost some faith in the system over the years. I want to address Christians and voting more than this specific election cycle.
In 2008 my wife and I lived in another state and served in full time ministry. We were surrounded by co-workers that came from several states, a few other countries, and while many came from similar faith backgrounds there was some diversity. On the things that matter most – Jesus is the Son of God, salvation comes through faith by grace – we all agreed. Everything else was up for discussion. A young couple that served alongside us had some very different views about Christians’ role in the political process, namely that we should not be involved. It was not a matter of choosing the right candidate, voting one’s conscience or asking God to guide our steps. This particular couple strongly believed that Christians should not vote, arguing that the political process is corrupt and we should not participate in it. Governments are institutions of this world and we are citizens of a Kingdom not made with hands. It was not an arbitrary decision and they presented their case well; but I still disagree.
Voting is a matter of citizenship and the New Testament makes a clear case for being good citizens. We respect leaders in authority even when they are corrupt. Unless man’s law specifically violates God’s law then we are to obey the law of the land. We are to pray for all people everywhere including those in positions of authority. Jesus complied with Roman officials and tax collectors and taught his followers to do the same, even though the Roman Empire was politically corrupt and persecuted his people (Jews in his lifetime, Jews and Christians during the first century). Driving the speed limit, throwing trash in the trash can and returning library books on time are all matters of citizenship. It helps us live peaceable with all people and in tiny little ways makes the world a better place.
In this world we will encounter corruption. Corruption in a local police department doesn’t mean we can all drive 30 mph over the speed limit or loot stores and malls. The love of money leads to all kinds of evil but we also need to pay bills, buy groceries, tithe and pay taxes. The opportunity to vote is denied to billions of people in this world and we should do every little thing – and sometimes big things – that we can do. Social responsibility is good Christianity. Feeding and visiting orphans and widows is biblical in the Old and New Testament. We may have trouble finding a virtuous candidate on the ballot but by all means please try. And remember, there is only one President of the United States. There are 50 state governors and thousands of city council and school board members nationwide. Consider running for local office. Some Christians would vote for a Christian candidate if they could find one.
Now, let’s be honest about this election year. The general election in November will probably offer a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Please don’t say you will move to Canada (or Mexico, or England, etc.) if the candidate you vote for is not elected. There are still 535 members of Congress and they are split pretty evenly between the two political parties. The president does not author legislation and can only sign or veto what Congress sends over, which these days is very little. It may be “the most powerful office in the world” but it does not typically affect each of us on a daily basis. The president “leads” the country but really can only lead in the direction we as a society already want to go. Barack Obama campaigned on the issue of marriage equality in 2012, which was a very popular platform. That’s where the culture of our society was already heading and the marriage rights later won were the result of a Supreme Court decision and not an act of the president.
I don’t like to view current events in light of biblical prophecy, but things will get worse before they get better. Our call as believers is to do the best we can with what we’ve got; it will be enough and Jesus will bring the Kingdom.