Culture & Society · Politics

Electing Not to Vote

Electing not to vote—that’s what the church group called it. Perhaps you have heard the story—or one similar—of a church whose members thought it was against God’s will to vote in political elections. This community of Christians was so concerned about the prospect of a corrupt politician winning the election that they gathered prior to the election for an all-night prayer vigil. The next morning, however, they refused to vote, and the Christian candidate lost the race by a slim margin—by fewer votes than the number of people at the prayer vigil, in fact. The community of concerned believers ironically thought their prayers would be sufficient and were unaware, seemingly, that God uses human means to achieve certain ends. Their actions, or rather inactions, ensured the very thing they desperately hoped would not happen—the election of a corrupt politician.

But politics is dirty and messy; it is a crooked business. We are not supposed to be “of the world” because our true citizenship resides in heaven. Moreover, our duty is to obey God’s commands and not become encumbered in the temporal affairs of civil government, right?

Well, not quite.

In fact, part of our divinely sanctioned duties is to obey the earthly structures appointed over us. Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17). What this means is that we are to give whatever it is our responsibility to give to the state. In our case, dwelling in a democracy (or a democratic republic, to be more precise), this certainly includes at a minimum that we should cast a vote for righteousness.

God gives Christians citizens in a democracy the opportunity to vote for candidates and policies that are most consistent with biblical values. We have an opportunity to cultivate a culture that recognizes the reality of the divine and to progress that biblically-minded society toward stewarding the nation forward (besides, if we don’t, who will?). I am not advocating a Christian theocracy here but simply a nation whose leaders and policies promote the basic precepts of the Bible about loving one’s neighbor, the sacredness of life, protection from evil, ensuring justice, equality, and religious freedom—in short, the precepts encapsulated in our nation’s founding documents. Being a good steward, then, includes at the very least Christians who are well-informed enough about issues to vote intelligently for maintaining the kind of culture that is consistent with sacred Scripture.

If we do not care enough to vote for righteous candidates, then we are in essence not exercising our privilege the “kingdom of Caesar” affords to prevent widespread corruption. Yet we are called to stand against evil. St. Augustine rightly remarked that citizens of God’s kingdom are best suited to be citizens of man’s kingdom. And it will be those Christians citizens—or at least those influenced by Christian ethics—who put a stop to evil practices. Remember, it is Christian citizens and the presuppositions of the Christian religion that give a rational basis to objective morality—something, for instance, that eventually led to the condemnation of selling Africans as property in the antebellum South and stopped the immoral practice altogether. Going further, it is Christian ethics and principles that find redemption from the tyranny of evil atheistic and secular humanistic leaders such as Lenin, Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. While the atheism of these aforementioned men does not always or necessarily lead to abusing other people, it is, nevertheless, an insufficient basis for condemning the practice; only Christianity can rationally oppose it, and it is because of Christianity that objections to evil are even possible.

As well, Christian involvement in civil matters led to and continues to play a vital role in society. Throughout the ages, Christians in government have given us such things as hospitals, women’s equality, capitalism, public education, respect for human life, and so much more.[1] When we elect Christians to office who have biblically based worldviews, we see the fruits of those godly men and women who apply God’s principles to the troubles of the world to bring solutions to citizens of this country and abroad.

Our responsibility is the same one our forefathers captured in the 1606 charter for the first permanent English settlement in the New World called Jamestown. That initial charter spoke of the settlers’ responsibility of “propagating the Christian religion.”[2] The people of Jamestown understood what it would take to make that happen, and they understood part of succeeding in that stated goal was the election of Christian folks to public office who would help in ensuring religious freedom and liberty assisted in that endeavor (though not imposed upon others). Just the same, propagating the Christian religion remains our task today, but it will take voting for Christians seeking public office to ensure biblically based laws are enacted; it will take voting for principled leaders to ensure the Jamestown vision continues today. Voting is part of our great high calling to ensure we do everything humanly possible to advance the good news, including voting for people who share the same vision.

Should Christians vote in elections? Not only should they, but they must to see the best possible nation for our children and grandchildren. An ancient proverb says, “A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children” (Prov. 13:22). One of the best things any one of us could bequeath later generations is a nation whose laws are grounded in biblical truths. Who will ensure this happens if all Christians throughout America thought like that church group who only prayed and refused to follow it up with action?

If Christians stand idly on the wayside, they should not be surprised to wake up one morning and discover the freedoms they thought were inalienable were usurped by the very same corrupt politicians they fear so greatly. Though we are called not to be too involved in this world that we neglect our heavenly homes, our wholesale removal from the affairs of this world will only spell disaster for future generations. Our founding fathers implicitly understand the inherent wickedness of the human heart and sought to put in place checks and balances to prevent the abuse of power and the usurpation of individual freedom and liberty. But if Christians are not careful and do not follow all of Christ’s commands and vote for the proper leaders, they will pay the price for their apathy, indifference, or ignorance.

Electing not to vote as a general principle stands in opposition to Christ’s command: “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” Caesar asks for our vote; we are to oblige him.


[1] That said, this is not to suggest only Christians have morality, nor is it meant to imply non-Christians do not engage in humanitarian acts. Rather, it is simply to point out is that given the starting point of Christianity, these good things logically follow. Conversely, given the presupposition of, for instance, atheism, what compels atheists to show respect for their fellow human beings? How does this philanthropy logically follow from their Neo-Darwinian naturalistic premise? Simply stated, Christianity is good for society because it brings benefits to all members of society, because of the foundation which requires its adherents to act like the Good Samaritan. The same cannot be said for atheism.

[2] The entire text of the First Charter of Virginia, April 10, 1606, can be found at: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/17th_century/va01.asp.

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