SHOULD CHRISTIANS VOTE?
Eric V. Snow
At this writing, America stands at the edge of a constitutional crisis resulting from the closeness of the Presidential election in key states, especially Florida above all. According to an unofficial tally kept by the Associated Press of the recount of Florida’s presidential vote (Nov. 10, 2000), Texas Governor George W. Bush leads his rival, Vice-President Albert Gore, by a mere 327 votes (out of some 6 million cast). Given the other states both men have won, the winner of Florida’s vote wins the Presidency since it has 25 of the 270 electoral votes he needs to be elected President by the Electoral College, which is to vote December 18. Further darkening the overall picture, it appears that the winner of the Electoral College (Bush, assuming his lead doesn’t vanish under following any more counts, recounts, and re-recounts in Florida) very narrowly lost the popular vote. This political crisis produced by this extremely close election should remind us in the Church of God of an old issue: Should Christians vote? Should Christians get involved in political affairs in order to make this a better world? It’s sobering to consider that the Presidential vote in Florida (as of this writing) is so razor-thin that had the full adult membership of the United Church of God in Florida voted, they could have thrown the election to either candidate of their choosing if they voted as a bloc. Since enormous power can attend such a small number of votes, why should Christians stay on the sidelines? Since twice at work this past week I was challenged by others when I said I didn’t vote in last Tuesday’s election, I strongly suspect others reading this may have faced similar questioning, so it’s well worth reviewing this teaching.
A realistic way a Christian can always judge whether his or her would-be actions are permissible is to ask: What would Jesus do? The apostle John once wrote: “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (I John 2:6). Hence, the WWJD abbreviation found on assorted religious paraphernalia shouldn’t be dismissed as a mere Evangelical Protestant fad since it has a solid basis in Scripture. So then: Would Jesus vote? And if He would, whom would He choose? Would He, who never sinned (Heb. 7:26; I Pet. 2:22), be willing to choose the lesser of two evils, since neither candidate, and neither party, is perfect? Can we imagine Him taking sides on all the myriad, contentious political issues that drive our nation’s politics? For example, would Jesus say the government should provide senior citizens with free (i.e., taxpayer-paid) prescription drugs? Or would He stand apart from the world, proclaim a different way, and point to God’s kingdom as the real solution to humanity’s problems?
Since most of those reading this are, like me, Americans as well as Christians, we face the fundamental challenge of trying to look at our nation as God does, not as we do raised in its midst, taking so easily and carelessly so many of the world’s (i.e., our nation’s and our fellow citizens’) values and assumptions for granted. We must remember that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20), hence, our national loyalty is strictly secondary to our religious identity as ambassadors for Christ (II Cor. 5:20). On trial for His life, Jesus told Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting, that I might not be delivered up to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36). If Jesus proclaimed that His followers shouldn’t fight to save Him from an unjust execution because His kingdom (i.e., government) wasn’t derived from this world (see the NASB margin), then why should we today be so eager to get involved in this world’s politics? We must remember that this world is deceived by Satan and lies in his power (Rev. 12:9; I John 5:19). Remember, when tempting Jesus, Satan offered Him “all the kingdoms of the world” (Matt. 4:8). Do we really think we can get involved in this world’s politics without becoming contaminated by it? Consider the behavior of the Christian Democrat and Centre (self-proclaimed Catholic) parties in Europe and Latin America amidst all their parliamentary maneuverings and wrangles: Do their members and leaders really behave any better, any more Godly, than their opponents?
We shouldn’t waste our time and energies on trying to fix institutionally a Satan-controlled and dying world, whose governments (including ours!) could well be thrown in the ashbin of history in a few decades by Jesus’ return (cf. Dan. 2:34-35, 44). We should instead proclaim to that very world (while living them ourselves!) God’s better ways and His solutions: The kingdom of God, which will solve all the problems that human governments can’t solve. Human governments can’t get rid of evil human nature, Satan the devil’s influence, or the corruption of this world’s deceived civilizations. But God will be able to end them during the millennium, which will be when human freedom can be reconciled with social control. At that time, people will (then) willingly and freely obey laws that they would find horribly oppressive if imposed today. (To name a major one, think how well Saturday Sabbath observance would go over with 98% of the American population today!) Fundamentally, even when the differences between the politicians on policy are as sharp as those between Bush and Gore, they’re still just merely rearranging the lawn furniture on the Titanic. We Christians who are Americans should remember that God will punish our nation for its sins in the not-too-distant future.
So (1) we should tell our fellow citizens, fellow passengers on a doomed ship, about the solutions God’s kingdom will bring to this earth’s troubles, (2) we should start living God’s way of love more ourselves today, and (3) we should have the faith to wait for God to solve the world’s problems instead of trying to do it by our own feeble power.