Someone just came over to my booth (morning of election day) at McDonald’s and said he’s going to vote. He said, “I’m on a mission from God to save this country.” OK? Evangelical political activist Charles Colson once said “it’s our duty as citizens of the Kingdom of God to be the best citizens of the society we live in.” For him it was our “Christian duty to be a good citizen and go vote.” Today, Christians react with intense (and I do mean intense) outrage at the mere suggestion it might be more Christian to refuse to vote
I’ve studied ideology long enough to know that there’s something here to be noticed in the outrage. The ensuing eruption of antagonism reveals just how much “voting” has become enmeshed in our Christian identity. There’s nothing quite so sacred among Christians as the “duty” to vote in national elections. God, it seems, has called us to work for societal change through voting. How dare you even think of not voting in this election. People died for this.
To which I say “yes” and “no.” Yes we are called to discern our participation in government and influence government for God’s purposes through our vote when appropriate to our calling. I just wish we could do it with a little less lustful enjoyment. But there are also times when such participation requires enmeshment in the rebellious powers turned against God. Here it would be good to consider resisting (maybe vote but write in PROTEST), perhaps even withdraw.
Voting seems to have taken such a turn, at least in terms of national elections. It has become the means to set people against people, Christians against Christians, and an attitude of I will take the other side down at all costs, even if it means mass deception. It is a process polluted with lies and vindictiveness. The system has taken over so it is impossible to vote out an incumbent (notice this). It is corrupted with money, literally billions. As Stanley Hauerwas says (here) “We do not vote for persons, we vote commericals.” And each year the vitriol in Congress/Senate just gets encouraged – recharged. The antagonism has become the driver for billions in profits at television networks. And it seems we Christians join right in and encourage the whole mess.
In the process we have become distracted by electioneering. We act as if democracy is God’s instrument in the world. We feel somehow convinced we are working for justice and feel better about our contribution to the world. We think God’s justice in the world depends upon us convincing other people on national politics. What does it say that we have become so vested emotionally? How much import are we putting into these elections? Is not Jesus Lord and not the governemnt?
Recently I put on my facebook page (to the disdain of many) “The same evangelical Christians who would rather die than NOT vote, think nothing of missing the Eucharist on any given Sunday.” I seriously proposed we should gauge our allegiances to Jesus as Lord versus the nation-state by looking at how much emotional energy we put in to two practices: participating in the Lord’s Table versus the voting booth. The truth is, and I am 100% serious about this, the majority of us evangelicals (I am an evangelical) would rather die than miss their duty to vote but give little thought to missing the Lord’s Table on any given Sunday. This dissonance between the two practices is a “tell.” It reveals much about how we see our presence in the world. The practice of gathering around the Lord’s table continually re-members us into the body (the political social realty) of the body of Christ in the world. The fact that little emotional angst is spent when the average evangelical misses this re-membering act into His political body, but such incredible vitriol is released to merely suggest don’t vote, reveals to me just how much Christians have migrated to a heretical identity.
So all I’m doing in this post is urging us all to vote seriously today as Christians. Vote, but don’t take it too seriously. The real place of political power is at the Table. It is from the Table that true justice is birthed, economic and otherwise. It is from here (in Christ’s death and resurrection) that God has changed the world and shall bring change to our neighborhoods. It is from here we can even discern whether to vote or not. This is why I like what Chris Smith and many other churches are doing around the US today (check this out). So, blessings on you as you seek to be faithful to the true imperium today – the Kingdom of God breaking in through a people who claim Jesus is Lord.
What about you? How do you discern voting? so as to be faithful to our calling to be ambassadors of Christ bringing reconciliation to the world.