I’ve heard it said that we have a duty to vote.
I hang my head.
And it doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson, Mickey Mouse, or that guy in your congregation who just has really sound wisdom. You have no Biblical precedent for asserting that it is God’s will that any person be chosen to lead an earthly nation.
AS A CHRISTIAN, YOU HAVE NO MORAL OBLIGATION TO VOTE FOR ANYBODY IN ANY ELECTION, EVER.
The Bible doesn’t say you do. It doesn’t say who to endorse, or that you have to endorse anyone at all. From some of the people I’ve heard make a case for a Christian’s duty being the vote of a particularly candidate, I have also heard the case that we should “speak where the Bible speaks” and “be silent where the Bible is silent.” Such hypocrisy! Such double-tongued-ness! If the Bible is silent on voting, do not speak for the Bible when you speak of voting. Quit being a coward and admit you speak only from conscience and opinion.
It’s one thing to promote a candidate as the best choice, or the “lesser evil,” in your opinion, and to reason with other Christians as to why you recommend such a choice. It’s completely and wholly another to call out such a choice as our “duty,” our “responsibility,” our “obligation,” our “big chance at stopping evil from taking over the nation,” or the litmus test of our faith.
Granted, a person’s reasons for voting a candidate can indeed say a great deal about their faith. But two people could vote for completely different reasons and have the same result. I could be voting for candidate X because I like his hair, or because I think he is a good Christian. Either way, my vote still does the same thing, but my own words and actions in society do so much more.
If you think someone’s electoral vote in a Presidential election is a way to separate sheep from goats, you need to silence your ignorant tongue, for you know next-to-nothing about either the Bible or the politics of men. You are a novice, if anything, and not yet in a place to instruct people.
We can talk all day about what candidate we might believe is the best to choose for various ideal and practical reasons for choosing candidate X or Y:
“X has good moral character and is a born-again believer”
“X behaves in a Christian matter in debates and in sound-bites”
“X doesn’t have all these scandals like Y”
“X will protect our religious liberties”
“X defends the unborn/down-trodden/poor/immigrant/widows/orphans.”
“X believes in peace and not warfare”
“X prays in public”
“X will elect so-and-so Supreme Court Justice”
These can be constructive conversations to have. But no man possesses the perfect formula for how all the pros and cons of a candidate will level out in favor of the will of God. Nor do you have any proof that the will of God can be foiled by the “wrong person” being elected. Consider who was Emperor of Rome when Jesus built the Church. Even he was called a “minister of God,” not because he was appointed by God, but because he was arranged by God as part of a bigger plan than even little Rome. You don’t know what’s going to happen as a result of an election. You can only speculate. You’re not a prophet.
Not even in the nation of the U.S. is voting a duty. Rather, it is a privilege, one that should only be exercised by the informed. Political voting in worldly elections is not our “most important civic duty,” nor is it in any fashion a religious duty. It is a choice, one that, if made, should be based on a prepared mind. This requires a critical mind that can examine news sources for what is commonly called B.S.
Voting responsibly requires an in-depth understanding of how the government functions, what is happening at home and abroad, the policies and character of the candidates. As a Christian, this is no less true, and yet there is the added responsibility of understanding the Bible’s teachings on virtue, freedom, hypocrisy, deceit, power, and the Kingdom of God vs the kingdoms of men. This is a lot of responsibility for each person for something that matters so little. If voting mattered as much as some Christians think it does, you would see it in a list of spiritual gifts somewhere in the Bible. I have yet to see that.
But if you truly believe the consequences of the wrong candidate are dire (or even, somehow, beyond God’s control), that doesn’t mean you’re qualified to be part of the process. I have known selfless, wise Christians my whole life who are excellent examples of Christ, but are not informed well when it comes to politics, and embarrass the Kingdom with fruitless declarations. It’s ok to be uninformed. It just means you need to not speak where your knowledge is silent. You must understand that being a strong Christian doesn’t inherently qualify you to vote responsibly any more than it inherently qualifies you to raise children, run a business, teach, cook, or perform any other thing in life that requires its own discipline and discernments.
Okay, so I read what the Bible says about government and I studied American history, civics, and current events. Should that then make the decision easy? It would if men were honest, if power didn’t corrupt, if the world wasn’t broken. Good, decent, wise Christians could all disagree on who to vote for, but what is truly revealing about their spirituality is how they disagree and who they believe they still are regardless of their disagreement. You see, God doesn’t rely on elections. He already anointed his king, remember?
If you truly believe Christ is King, you have to let it go and realize that participating in the choosing of world leaders isn’t as crucial as you may have been told. As Christians, what is more crucial is for us to model what a truly powerful nation looks like. Our Constitution, our borders, and our banner are the Christ. When we speak of America, or any other nation, there is no real “our.” It is a “their.”
Christians, a nation outside (and within) all others, are free to participate in helping the world’s nations choose their leaders, and discuss which choices may be best. But we live in an unstable world, we see through a glass darkly, and the machinations of men are deceitful, fleeting, and subject to factors beyond our limited vision. For us, it’s not about choosing the leaders so much as it is about advising them. Christians should be known as a people leaders approach to gain advice, not votes.
And if it is the world that is evil, and it is us who can help sway evil toward, good, what of the lesser evil? Is there a perfect method of moral calculus for determining the lesser evil? You’re not obligated by scripture to “choose the lesser of two evils” anyway. If so, logic follows that you can follow the least of three, least of four, or five or six or seventy-seven. In fact, if that for you means not voting at all, then so be it. Let your conscience guide you on such matters as these, where scripture has no command and the strength of the Christian’s conscience is left to dictate. But don’t you dare dictate it to other people, especially if you plan on alleging that their salvation hinges on such a decision.
The New Testament writings make some things clear:
1) The Church and the kingdoms of this world are separate things that operate opposite each other.
2) Unless someone’s conscience goes against the Word, you do not urge them to violate their conscience.
3) If you choose leaders based on them being “less evil,” even when they’re still clearly very evil, you are not in a place to judge people for not doing so.
4) We are not to fear anyone who can “harm the body,” and that includes our fleshly freedoms (i.e. every freedom that is not given by Christ).
5) God’s ultimate sovereignty is not contingent upon who is in charge of the world at any given moment.
What is our obligation to leaders of the world? To pray for them, and to show them Christ. Electing them according to your conscience is a choice you are under no obligation to make.
Beware of dogs. The next time someone tells you that you have a duty to God to vote for a particular candidate, tell them to silence their mouth (Titus 1:11).