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Christian Views on Voting: Why Vote at All?

Today we begin a new series of posts considering views on voting from different Christian perspectives. We hope you’ll think about these issues carefully, regardless of what you decide.

imageHistorically there have been some Christians, particularly among the Mennonites, who have chosen to abstain from the voting process. Many of these Christians abstain from voting because they believe it is inherently violent in that it is an action directed at enforcing one’s will upon others. Whether or not they are correct about this assessment is a good debate, but I’d like to suggest that there is a more fundamental reason to abstain from voting. The Christian is to belong to the Kingdom of God and not to have any faith in governments of men. More simply put, voting is unethical. Putting such faith in government is no less than idolatry.

The true choice is not between politician A and politician B, but between voting and not voting. I choose not to vote. I know it is not a popular position, even among Christians. As a conscientious abstainer I don’t take this position because it is popular, but because it is right.

As Christians we know that the only legitimate laws are those that come from God. God gave man dominion over the animal, plants, and all of the earth. But, only God has dominion over man. When you vote for man you are choosing man to have dominion over you and over other people, but as Christians we are to have one master, one ruler, Jesus Christ our King. We cannot serve two masters.

But, you may ask, what will happen if I don’t vote? Or what would happen if all Christians decided not to vote? If I don’t vote, will this allow for the possibility of a dictatorship coming about? Yes. But, I if do vote, is there also the possibility of dictatorship coming about? Yes. Voting is no assurance against a dictatorship forming. After all, the National Socialists (Nazis) were voted into the majority in the Reichstag in the 1932 elections paving the way for Hitler to be appointed Chancellor of Germany. The results of an election may not be in my power to control, but whether I vote or not is in my power. It is the vote that is the ethical decision to make. I choose not to participate in a system that is contrary to the will of God, and I do not worry about what will happen as a result of Christian abstention. As the old hymn says, “I’m but a stranger here – Heaven is my home.”

Worrying about what will happen IF you choose not to vote is a symptom of a bigger issue – a lack of faith in God. Which is ultimately a bigger concern: what happens if we don’t vote OR what happens if we do not obey and trust in God? We must remember that Christian ethics is a means-based system. We are to do the things that God tells us to do. The end results are left in God’s hands. Consider a similar question that could be asked regarding tithes and gifts to your church. Some may fear that giving will reduce their own financial security. Others may feel that their money will not be put to proper use. But we are not called to worry about the future, nor are we called to dictate how God uses our tithes. We are called to give. When it comes to our earthly needs, we are called to trust in God, not in our own wisdom or in a human government. We are called to be in the world but not of it. We are to be separate. By not voting, you as a Christian follow the demand of Christ to not be part of this world – to separate yourself from this world. Saint Paul writes “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2 (NIV) The pattern of our modern world involves voting. I challenge you to stop conforming to the pattern of this world. Instead, be transformed by true discipleship in Christ alone.

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