Back in my original "A Christian Voter's Guide," I suggested some basic principles in deciding how to vote:
- Vote based on your worldview
- Some issue are so significant they almost dwarf all others
- You should be fully convinced in your own mind
- There is a lot at stake when it comes to the direction our country takes
I still stand by all of those (although I recommend you read the original article to better understand their individual applications).
This year, at least in my universe of Christians discussing politics, the most contentious issue is whether a Christian should vote at all. For instance, having both candidates claim to be Christians, but neither likely to actually be, for some, means we should vote "absent" on November 6, 2012. (This is not the only reason given for not voting.)
(As a quick aside, I know many may take umbrage to my saying neither are likely to be Christian, but I am not commenting on whether they'll ultimately be saved. I am just comparing what they believe to orthodox Christianity, and both fail miserably in that respect.)
Getting back to the issue at hand. Should Christians vote for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney next Tuesday or should they vote for Jesus by staying home?1 First, to repeat myself from 2010:
Biblically, sometimes you have to go with "For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin" (Romans 14:23b, ESV) and "Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind" (Romans 14:5).2
In all the discussions I've seen for or against a Christian voting, I haven't seen either side show an inch of movement. I guess one could argue that means telling folks they "should be convinced in his [or her] own mind" is unneeded…however, I do think it can help us realize that we should not pressure those who disagree with us to behave our way the first Tuesday in November. If we do, and they are not truly convinced…yet follow our advice…for them it'll be sinning. We should rather have a millstone tied around our neck (see Matthew 18:6).
Another thing I've noted in all the vote/not vote dialogue is that it is often not friendly. Think about this. This is Christian interacting with Christian and it is often needlessly contentious. So much for:
By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).
And even if we were arguing with non-Christians, we'd have no excuse for being inhospitable (see Romans 12:18 and Matthew 5:44), not to mention:
When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
but whoever restrains his lips is prudent (Proverbs 10:19)
I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned (Matthew 12:36-37).
I haven't seen a whole bunch of restraint and I've seen plenty of careless words. Sadly, I may have been guilty of both myself this election cycle.
Before I move on to a few more principles for voting…should you vote in this year's presidential election or not? I am going to vote, so that's where I land on the issue. However, as mentioned above, if your conscience says, "No!"…then please definitely don't. I won't question your motives and will applaud you for having your faith and works in sync.
Now onto some other things to take into consideration as you head to the ballot box, stay home, or converse about the campaign…
Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
but in an abundance of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14).
Although ultimately only trusting the Bible and the Holy Spirit, make sure you allow your saved brothers and sisters to counsel with you. I would also suggest, based on the experience of Rehoboam (see 1 Kings 12:6-24), seriously seek out and give an honest airing to those who disagree with you. Especially in today's fragmented world we can live in an informationally padded room of just sycophants.
And when you do discuss politics (whether with "your side" or the "other"):
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved (1 Corinthians 10:31-33).
Oddly enough, the most convincing argument I read about not voting is connected with those verses in an piece penned by Don Green (although he didn't refer to them):
We combat darkness with Light (cf. John 8:12). I'm convinced that, instead of asking "For whom should I vote?" we should ask, "How can I best call attention to Jesus Christ?"
The only way I see is to take the exceptional step of withholding my vote and explaining my rationale to anyone who will listen. It is a means to make my voice distinct enough to be heard.3
Not only can we connect Pastor Green's view to 1 Corinthians 10:31-33, but also my final two principles (this year) for voting:
- Vote (or don't vote) like a Christian.
- Remember that basically 50% of country will always disagree with you and that in reaching them for your candidate or political party, you may make it impossible for you to reach them for Christ. Which is more important?
Finally, hopefully all Christians can at least agree on one thing. Lord, "Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). Blessings on you all during these harrowing times.
1 I do realize one could instead vote for a third-party candidate, but bulletin space limitations also mean article scope limitations.
2 Fahrner, A. (2010, October 30). A Christian Voter’s Guide. Traditores. Retrieved November 2, 2012, from http://traditores.org/2010/10/a-christian-voters-guide/
3 Green, D. (2012, September 28). The Gospel Alternative for this Election. The Hallowed Path. Retrieved November 2, 2012, from http://thehallowedpath.wordpress.com/…/