I was at a few different churches on the Sundays leading up to election day, and I heard quite a few comments regarding politics and voting. I have never heard a minister endorse a particular candidate within a church. I have heard lots of preachers encourage their listeners to vote. It is good to vote. We should all vote.
At most churches you will hear something like, “Choose the candidate who most reflects your Christian values,” or “Vote for the person whose positions line up with the Word of God.”
At one church I heard the statement “It is your duty as a Christian to vote.”
All of those statements sound good at face value, but what happens when we scratch a little bit deeper?
If I say that it is a Christian’s duty to vote I am making a statement about right and wrong. I am saying that there is a right thing to do (vote) and a wrong thing to do (not vote). We all know that the value of voting is not in the act of casting a ballot. It is all about who I cast a ballot for. Therefore, this statement about Christian duty makes an implicit assumption that there is a right way to vote and a wrong way to vote.
Christians do not all vote one way though. Most white evangelicals vote republican. Most African-Americans vote democrat. Most Catholics vote Democrat. Most Baptists vote Republican. Most Hispanics vote Democrat. And that is just an extreme generalization. There are all kinds of shades in between.
During the 2008 presidential election , millions of Christians were praying that Barrack Obama would win. Millions of Christians were also praying that he would lose. Did God answer the prayer of some people but not others?
We tend to see our own opinions and beliefs as correct and conflicting opinions and beliefs as wrong. Since we are right, then God must be on our side. That would make our candidate, God’s candidate. What about the person who has carefully examined the issues according to Christian values and has come to the opposite conclusion from us? Could they be right too?
All of us must consider that there can never be a world leader or government system that reflects the values of the Kingdom of God. No matter if it is the kingdom of Caesar Augustus, George Washington, George W. Bush, or Barrack Obama, it will never posses the life-changing and world-transforming power of the Kingdom of God, and our hope should never be placed in the systems of power of this world. My vote may make me feel that I am contributing to a better world, but it will never truly transform the world around me.
I would recommend the book Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne for a radical examination of what Jesus had to say about issues that are central to today’s political discussions.