Should Christians Vote?: In Reply to Critics
Since I managed to set off a minor firestorm by defending the church’s traditional teaching that Christians shouldn’t vote, it’s necessary to make some brief reply to those advocating Christian involvement in the world’s political processes in the Dec. 31, 2000 Journal.
Those who argue that Christians should vote and that they have a “dual citizenship” in both heaven and earth ignore the implications of Hebrews 11:13, 15-16:
“All these [Old Testament believers] died in faith, without having received the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth . . . And indeed if they had been thinking of that [earthly] country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is a heavenly one.” We’re simply not full “citizens” of this world if we really believe that the next life is far more important than this one. And if God considers us spiritually to be “legal aliens” in our nations in any sense that becomes literal, not just metaphorical (as Steve Andrews observed in a sermon last year), then we aren’t full citizens of our earthly nations, regardless of what our passports may say.
Since we’re called out of the world, we shouldn’t be so intimately tying ourselves to its governments such that we’re determining (through voting) their policies through the people we would choose. Why is the Catholic Church pictured as a great harlot “with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality” (Rev. 17:2)? If we’re even vaguely familiar with the history of medieval Europe, we know the union of church and state, of professing Christians as part of an institution in Europe’s governments, corrupted them both. Why should we believe it would be any different today? Are some among us, to mention a work by two prominent leaders of the American religious right who are having second thoughts, “Blinded by Might”? Whatever responsibilities we have as Christians as citizens of the United States (or other countries) doesn’t mean we should be involved in setting the policies of our nations by any means that ultimately use coercive power (i.e., the power of law behind it, not mere persuasion), which voting most certainly does have.
If He were on earth today, Jesus certainly would publicly condemn various sins our nation is guilty of, such as abortion. But He wouldn’t pollute Himself by participating in a human government that Satan ultimately controls (Matt. 4:8-9) that His own “incoming administration” shortly will replace (Rev. 11:15, 17-18). It’s not merely because the prophetic timing was wrong that Jesus refused to be made king by human means: “Jesus therefore perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone” (John 6:15).
A major mistake in Bryn Hendrickson’s piece (besides its general tone of terrible moral judgmentalism, in stark contrast to Jack Demirgian’s ability to disagree without being disagreeable) was to assert that God has delegated to humanity who our rulers are: “But, when God gives you the option to choose, don’t thumb your nose at Him and tell Him you don’t like your choices.” In this context, let’s remember Dan. 2:20: “And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removed kings and establishes kings.” Similarly, when God made Nebuchadnezzar insane for seven years, the reason given for the punishment was: “In order that the living may know that the Most high is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes, and set over it the lowliest of men” (Dan. 4:17). Since God may have chosen the man (or woman) who’s the “inferior” choice from our viewpoint as Christians in order to speed up (or slow down) prophetic events, if we vote, we may be choosing someone God didn’t choose. Therefore, we’d be opposing, in our ignorance, God’s will by voting for “X,” who may oppose abortion, rather than “Y,” who wishes to keep it legal. Even the worst tyrants of the last century, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, were placed in the positions they gained by God choosing them instead of the would-be alternatives, for His own mysterious purposes (cf. Isa. 55:8-9) in fulfilling His plan for humanity. God just doesn’t choose positive leaders, such as Winston Churchill, who Mr. Demirgian mentions. Furthermore, practically speaking, if God is REALLY the One who’s “vote” is always decisive and totally controlling, why should we waste even the (say) fifteen minutes it takes to go out to vote when the outcome has already been predetermined? Is our faith so weak we think the outcome of elections has been really been delegated to us (cf. Luke 18:8)?
Merely asserting the rights we have, as Paul did on occasion (Acts 25:11-12), isn’t the same as determining governmental policy to begin with. Neither Paul nor Jesus tried to reform Caesar. The would-be counter-examples of Daniel or Joseph may be good precedents for Christians becoming high-level civil servants, but they prove little concerning voting, since neither was the one ultimately responsible for policy, serving as they did absolute monarchs.
Finally, in conclusion, we should not believe that the duties or rights of earthly citizenship requires Christians to participate in the political process such that we’re determining by a legally binding, coercive process who our nations’ rulers are. We have look at the present world’s predicament more strategically, instead of getting caught up in the political passions of the moment as our worldly neighbors, family, friends, and coworkers do. Just as God called upon Noah to witness to the world while building the ark, just as God called out Abraham from Ur, just as God called out a nation of His own (Israel) to be separate from the other nations, just as God calls the present church “first fruits” and isn’t trying to save the whole world now, God wants His people to devote themselves exclusively to Him in pure worship, instead of trying to incrementally improve a civilization and world system which Satan dominates (II Cor. 4:4) by intimately involving ourselves in its political processes. We need to catch the vision—God’s vision—of our human governments, not the world’s.