Ah…the leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping, and the year is divisible by two. It can all only mean one thing: we’re nearing the end of Vicious Smear Campaign Season!
In case you’re unfamiliar with this peculiar American custom, it’s a biannual tradition where political candidates spend enormous amounts of money on television commercials to educate the general public on how truly awful their rival candidate is. This goes on for months, gradually increasing in intensity until finally culminating in Election Day, that magical day where American citizens descend on the polls to collectively elect their leaders—which, if you’re familiar with the average American citizen, is absolutely as terrifying a concept as it sounds.
One of the other things you can count on during this time is for the debate on Christians and voting to rear its head in some form or another. I usually don’t weigh in on it, because I feel like the Bible’s stance on the subject is pretty clear. And yet, like clockwork, I’m shocked every election season to find people maintaining it is not only every Christian’s privilege, but their absolute responsibility to go out and vote.
Alright. So let’s talk about that.
In defense of voting, a lot of people like to throw around the Edmund Burke quote, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” The argument is that, as Christians, it is our duty to pick the candidate most aligned with God’s morals and thereby take a stand against evil.
Okay. But here’s another quote to consider, this time from Jerry Garcia: “Constantly choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.”
Or have we deceived ourselves into thinking that if we can identify one candidate as the villain, the other must be the hero? Do we truly believe any political candidate is striving to develop God’s holy, righteous character…or should our goal be simply to vote for whoever is “least farthest” from God?
Because let’s clarify something: No election is ever about abortion. No election is ever about gay rights or health care or national defense or whatever hot topic happens to be the battleground of the day. The only thing an election is ever about is whether Candidate A or Candidate B gets to call the shots—and I think we’ve all seen just how easy it is for both Candidates A and B to change their minds after winning. If you choose to vote, you’re not balloting on issues. You’re balloting on people—people who aren’t showing the fruits that come from actively following God’s Spirit.
And, hey, as long as we’re throwing around quotes, I can’t help but throw in one of my favorites from Douglas Adams:
The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.
To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.
(The Restaurant at the End of the Universe)
My point is this: voting in an election isn’t about choosing good over evil. It’s about taking a wild shot in the dark at the lesser of two evils, and that’s still choosing evil.
But enough with the quotes. Any argument built with pithy axioms can only hold so much water—the quotes we really need to be concerned with are the ones from God’s inspired Word. So let’s see what God, not man, has to say on the subject.
The Bible never explicitly addresses the subject of voting, but we’re given a lot of principles to work with. In the book of Daniel, we find again and again that God “removes kings and raises up kings,” that He “rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men,” and that “the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses” (Daniel 2:21; 4:17; 5:21). It is God’s prerogative to establish the leaders of this world, and our democratic elections certainly haven’t hampered His ability to do so.
If we vote, it’s with the intention of electing whoever seems most competent from our vantage point—but that means overlooking two key facts. First, our vantage point is much more limited than God’s—and second, God’s criteria for selecting leaders is not our criteria for selecting leaders. It’s easy to forget that the land of the free and the home of the brave is also a land that has rejected God and a home of those who resist His will. The consequences for our actions are real, and we can’t hope to outrun the destruction we’ve heaped upon our own heads. The point being, God isn’t always looking for the best leaders in secular politics, but for the leaders who will best further His plan for all of humanity.
Here’s what we can be certain of: the leaders God wants in positions of authority will be the leaders who find their way into positions of authority. He isn’t depending on your ballot to make that happen. In the best case scenario, we get to say we voted for the individual God allowed to take office. In the worst case scenario, we voted against God. Neither case requires our vote for God’s desired outcome.
At this point, it’s good to consider Gamaliel’s advice when his fellow Pharisees were planning on murdering God’s apostles. He warned his brethren, “keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God” (Acts 5:38-39). Sound advice. But what about us? Are we comfortable voting against the will of God? Are we that confident in our ability to discern the exact path He intends to take with His master plan?
I’m not. I’m not okay with either of those things. But honestly, there’s something far more important at play in all of this:
We don’t belong here.
Shortly before dying on the cross, Jesus Christ explained this concept to Pontius Pilate. He told the Roman prefect, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). Later, in the book of Hebrews, we’re reminded of our spiritual forefathers, who “confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
We are strangers and pilgrims on this earth. Our citizenship rests with a heavenly kingdom that has not yet been brought to the earth. Our passports and driver’s licenses may tell a different story, but we can never afford to forget that, when it comes to this life, we’re just passing through. And if we truly are strangers and pilgrims on the earth, what possible reason could we have for getting mixed up in the politics of this present evil age? Are we hoping to fix or improve a world that God has repeatedly shown to be broken beyond repair? It’s going to take much more than a few good elections to bring humanity the healing it needs. It’s going to take God’s Kingdom—the heavenly country that we call home. That’s what the world needs, and that’s where our focus needs to be.
A lot of people are going to be at the polls this Tuesday. I won’t be one of them, because I don’t believe God needs or wants my vote to accomplish His will. If you still feel some burning sense of duty to cast your vote, then don’t let me stand in your way, but remember: “if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”
If nothing else, consider what James had to say on the subject of pure religion. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).
If there’s a way to be involved in the politics of the world and still remain unspotted from it, I don’t know what it is. It’s a much safer bet to be keeping our focus on the Kingdom of God—not the kingdoms of this world.
Until next time,