As election day approaches this year, the prospect of voting looks different to me than it has in the past. Whether I look to the left or to the right, my thoughts echo the prophet Jeremiah: “…Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?” (Jer 12:1).
Hopefully the situation improves by 2024.
Some may wonder what principles would normally make a Christian feel obligated to vote. They include these:
- Those in government have duties assigned to them by God (1 Pet 2:14, Rom 13:1-5).
- In nations with rule of law and elected lawmakers, we’re all in the government in at least two ways: the power to choose lawmakers by voting, the power to seek justice through the courts.
- Love of neighbor means acting in ways that make for a better society for them, and this applies even more to family and church (Gal 6:10).
These are solid and compelling principles, and some of the reasons I’ve heard for not voting don’t hold up either.
Wrong reasons to skip voting
(1) This world is not our home. Our citizenship is indeed in Heaven (Phil 3:20). It doesn’t follow that the condition of the world we live in now doesn’t matter or that we have no duties to our fellow humans. The fact that we will live forever somewhere makes what we do here matter more, not less. “Just a passin’ through” doesn’t seem like the right way to view our stewardship (Matt 25:14-27, 1 Cor 4:2).
Regardless, we’re called to seek the good of our neighbors—and our enemies, too (Luke 6:27-28).
(2) God is sovereign. God will do whatever He pleases. All His plans and goals will be accomplished. Scripture is clear on this—Isaiah 46:10, for example. It’s a mistake, though, to think that, therefore, we have no obligation to fix anything ourselves or that we’re not responsible for our choices. The things we do or fail to do are part of the fabric of secondary causes that ultimately achieve God’s plans—and we’re responsible. That’s why there’s a judgment (1 Pet 1:17). God’s sovereignty is never a reason for inaction (though His instructions certainly can be: Exod 14:13, 1 Sam 12:16).
(3) Only the gospel matters. Is “politics” just a huge distraction from spreading the gospel? It certainly is a distraction for many—but so are sports and other entertainments, hobbies, work, parenting, and some of what we call ministry.
When is an activity “a distraction”? Multiple factors determine the answer. Maybe the person doing the activity isn’t doing it out of a heart and mind that is gospel-rooted and gospel-suffused. Maybe the person doing the activity has special gospel-serving duties he’s neglecting. But maybe the activity is more gospel-related than it seems.
The gospel is the good news that God intends to fix our sin-ruined world, starting with sin-ruined humans who put their trust in Jesus Christ, recognizing Him as Lord. When these believers engage in good, or creative, or helpful work in a way that seeks the glory of God and the Lordship of Jesus Christ, they aren’t competing with the gospel. They’re living it.
Why not, then?
Given all of that, why not vote this time around?
- While the social/political left continues to do the usual and nominate candidates I can’t support, the right is nominating its own breed of unfit candidates. Our major parties seem determined to out-dolt, out-kook, and out-hothead each other.
- I can’t seem to get good information. The conservative candidates don’t talk about their own party. On the topic of the GOP, they’re either not talking about its sad state or they’re personifying it. I can’t tell who the sober-minded grown-ups are.
- We’re going to keep getting bad candidates if we keep voting for whatever bozo is on the ballot, just to try to beat the other party’s bozo.
- Our form of government can’t thrive with untrustworthy people in power—and I can’t see any way to vote that would help put trustworthy people in power.
The bottom line: this time around, voting seems—more than usual—like an exercise in futility.
You’re too idealistic
Yeah, I know… Politics is the art of the possible. Quit being so idealistic. Our duty as voters is to help elect whoever will (probably) do the least damage or whoever will prevent someone worse from gaining power.
My defense of “idealism” is essentially the same as it’s been since 2016. I don’t have a new one, but I can summarize it a different way.
First, three points I’ll gladly concede. I’ve never doubted or questioned that …
- outcomes matter;
- elected leaders don’t have to be paragons of virtue to earn a vote;
- a vote for a leader is not an endorsement of everything he is, says, or does.
Absolutely! Still, other truths remain:
- More than outcomes matter: some things are wrong regardless of better results.
- Even if “greatest good for the greatest number” was a Christian approach to ethics (it’s not), we often don’t know what will accomplish that goal.
- Scripture is far from silent about what sort of people are fit for leadership and what tends to happen when the unfit gain power.
- Though a vote is not an endorsement of all a candidate is, says, or does, it is an act that directly helps the candidate rise to power.
- Increasingly, the worst pundits, candidates, and officeholders on the right are the most vocally “Christian.” How much damage to Christian testimony should we do in order to achieve social and political good?
- What’s less painful in the short run is often more painful in the long run, and what’s more painful in the short run is often most beneficial in the long run.
- Political parties hate losing. Losing enough elections may eventually alter the perception of what sort of nominees will win.
- Indirect outcomes of our actions (or inactions) aren’t ethically the same as results we cause directly. (Example: withholding “heroic measures” and letting a terminal patient die isn’t the same as killing that patient.)
When I add it all up, it seems I might as well just sit back and watch this one―but also pray “for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim 2:2).
Aaron Blumer is a Michigan native and graduate of Bob Jones University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He and his family live in small-town western Wisconsin, not far from where he pastored Grace Baptist Church for thirteen years. In his full time job, he is content manager for a law-enforcement digital library service.