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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Why I plan to vote

Veracity published an interesting post, in which she argues that Christians should not vote, if they are not convinced that one of the candidates is a good one. I'm not clear as to whether she thinks it's OK to vote for some offices, but not for others, but I suppose she would allow that.

As I say, it was interesting, but I'm not convinced. Her opening sentence was the oft-used phrase: "I don't think any candidate is good, so I will vote(choose) the lesser of two evils." She went on to argue, scripturally, that Christians should not do evil.

I don't think Christians should do evil, either, but I would like to respectfully differ with the common phrase. It doesn't state the situation correctly. Being able to vote in the first place is good. (See recent votes in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Many people, some of them Christians, believed strongly that the very opportunity to vote was a great good.) So good that voting for Jones, who agrees with me on, say, 2 out of 6 issues where I believe there is some sort of scriptural mandate, over Smith, who only agrees with me on one, means that voting for Jones is better than voting for Smith, and is good.

There is some scripture which backs up this position. Romans 13 says that "For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God." (ESV, verse 1b) Surely Paul, who lived under a Roman dictatorship, knew something of the faults of that particular government. But he implied that there was some good in it, and, in fact, in all governments. I'm not sure what to make of some current regimes, such as the one in Sudan, related to this verse, but most governments, even if imperfect, even if they don't allow voting, have some good about them.

The Gettysburg Address, by perhaps the greatest President of the United States, says that that country's government is "of the people, by the people, for the people." The Declaration of Independence of the United States said that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . ." I know that neither the Gettysburg Address, nor the Declaration of Independence, have the force of Scripture, but they are important, and many would say that they are derived from Judeo-Christian ideals. If I am governed by persons and institutions that ultimately require my consent, if government is by the people, and if governments are ordained by God, then I think I have some duty to inform myself about the issues and the candidates, and vote.

Must I vote for every office? I would not say so. But I believe that most citizens have a duty to inform themselves about the issues and the candidates, and prayerfully vote for those they think most consistent with their best understanding of what is right.

Will Christians always make the right decisions when voting? Of course not. Those of us who have the privilege of voting on pastors or church officers sometimes find that it seems we, personally, or as a congregation, haven't made a good choice. But that does not excuse the duty to do our best.

Do Christians always have God's view of the issues, or the candidates? Again, no. I need no further evidence for this than that sincere Christians disagree about issues, or candidates. One thinks that abortion is the only issue. Another is concerned about world peace, or alleviating poverty, both scriptural principles.

Is voting the main way Christians should try to change the world? Certainly not. Christians should demonstrate Christlikeness, and create a hunger for it in the hearts of others. That's the best way to change the world. But it's not the only one.

For what it's worth, I plan to vote. I pray that I am voting as God wants me to, and that He will oversee the result.

Thanks for reading.

P. S., about half an hour later: This is another way of saying that I'm thankful that I can vote.


veracity said...


There is some debate about whether Lincoln was great. He was actually the first president to start curtailing our freedoms.

I too believe that people should stay informed on the issues and candidates, whether you're voting or not.

Sometimes people fall asleep at the wheel when "their person" is in office, and they are not vigilant about guarding their freedoms. The result is that "their man" can do more damage since people are lulled into a flase sense of security.

Martin LaBar said...

You are right about the debate, and, I believe, that he did take away some freedoms. I said "perhaps the greatest president . . ." Perhaps he was, perhaps he wasn't.

Thanks for your comment.

elbogz said...

Richard Nixon said something along the line of "There is no political issue that a good election can't cure"

Julana said...

I'm also thankful for the privilege of voting. This is an interesting issue to me. I grew up in a conservative Mennonite culture, where many people did not vote, or voted only on local issues, because they saw themselves first as citizens of the kingdom of God, not the U.S. My husband grew up in a Calvinist culture, where voting was seen as a Christian's responsibility/ duty.
I do generally vote, at last in the even years. This year, I'm tempted to vote only on the ballot issues, not the candidates. The commercials have been so negative. Everyone seems to be a "bad guy."

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks. Three comments -- that's a landslide!

Yes, Julana, watching most of the televised political ads makes me wonder if free speech is really a good idea. We use the mute button a lot. There must be some candidates who aren't scoundrels.

Mark said...

It seems to me, "yield unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" in a participatory democratic republic means ... we need to vote and talk and so on.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Mark. I should have thought of that, and included it, but I didn't.

Jeremy said...

Most of the ads are produced by parties or independent groups, not by the candidate. It's extremely unfair to judge a candidate by ads they might not endorse.

One helpful way to think about this is that someone is going to win regardless. It might be a very bad person, and the only other candidate might be not so bad but still not agreeable. But if you can do something to help stop the worse situation, and you fail to do so, then you have basically endorsed the worse candidate. Not voting is an implicit endorsement of the winner, since you didn't feel responsible enough to try to prevent that person from winning. You are then to blame for what you could foresee them doing because you had the opportunity to help stop it and failed to avail yourself of it.

On the other hand, if you vote for the less bad candidate, and your justification is to stop the worse candidate, and the less bad candidate wins, then you are responsible for preventing what the worse candidate would have done. You are not responsible for any bad that would have happened with either candidate, since you had no choice about that. What you had a choice about is the difference between the two.

In the light of that, it is immoral not to vote for the person you consider not as bad. The only hard cases are when we see good and bad things about both and cannot figure out which one is overall worse.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks for your insightful comments, Jeremy!