Paul's Ponderings

Thoughts about following Jesus

Not Voting is a Legitimate Option

In the United States voting is viewed as a patriotic duty and a sacred right. We are taught about the importance of voting starting in elementary school and we are told that it is the way for us to have a voice in our government. Therefore it is not surprising that many of us have equated voting with freedom. A free people are able to able to elect their leaders.

To even suggest the idea of not voting seems like heresy to many patriotic Americans. When so much seems to hang in the balance not voting can seem like the wrong thing to do. Yet, for me, I can no longer, in good conscience, vote.

Understand that I believe that it is through the protection of personal liberty and adherence to free markets that create the best society this world can offer. This has led me to study things like Austrian Economics, the philosophy of liberty, and the meaning of the Constitution. I have been a regular reader of Mises.org and LewRockwell.com and I supported Ron Paul through the primary season. I also participated in the Minnesota caucus and voted in the primaries in August. I have been intentional about being part of the political process in the past. The choice not to vote doesn’t come from laziness, not knowing the issues, or sour grapes because my guy isn’t on the ballot, but it is a matter of conscience.

Since I am not going to vote I think it is very important for me to explain my reasons for not voting. What follows is a quick summary of my thoughts.

  1. I don’t want to endorse the actions of another person. One of the fundamental beliefs of my life is that everything is spiritual. When I vote for some one I am giving that person authority, both politically and spiritually, to act on my behalf. That means when the candidate I voted for supports an illegal war then I am supporting that illegal war. When the President I helped get into office uses drones and kills innocent people, even accidentally, that blood is on my hands. Then there are the unintended consequences of government action that lead to real life tragedy. This is often seen in economy policy, for example how government intervention was responsible for the housing crash. Too often politicians, and thus government, act as if they have the answers to all the world’s problems, and their actions lead to more hurt and suffering.
  2. All governments are under the corrupting influence of Satan. As Americans it is easy to think that some how God has uniquely blessed our country and that our system of government is the best. I no longer think that is the case, rather I think this belief is a satanic deception. C. S. Lewis in his essay Screwtape Proposes a Toast has the older devil, Screwtape, addressing the newest graduating class of devils before they are given their first mission. This is what the old devil tells them to do with the word democracy; “You are to use the word purely as an incantation; if you like, purely for its selling power. It is a name they venerate” (The World’s Last Night and Other Essays; p. 60). As a nation we do venerate the word democracy. In fact we have even come to believe that democracy should be forced on other nations through war. That is partially what the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were about. Since we find our form of government superior we don’t  even consider that the very process of our political system could be under the influence of Satan. This isn’t about electing the right candidates, rather it is about a worldly and corrupt system. Electing the right people to office won’t change that reality. In Revelation 20:2-3 we discover that Satan is the deceiver of nations. Is it not possible to think that he has deceived us a nation? In John 12:31, 14:30, and 16:11 Jesus identifies Satan as the ruler of this world. Isn’t it possible that Satan uses our politics and our government to prevent us from doing what God has really called us to do? Maybe we should rephrase what Jesus told the man who wanted go home and bury his father before following him: “Let the dead govern the dead.” We don’t need politics to bring God’s Kingdom into this world.
  3. Jesus consistently rejected the way of politics. In Luke 4:5-7 we read that Satan tempted Jesus; Then the devil took him up and revealed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. “I will give you the glory of these kingdoms and authority over them,” the devil said, “because they are mine to give to anyone I please. I will give it all to you if you will worship me” (NLT). Satan declared that the kingdoms and the nations of the world are his and he use them any way he wants to use them. Jesus did not challenge his declaration, rather Jesus rejected the way of kingdoms, the way of politics, as the way to usher in God’s Kingdom. Again in John 6:15 Jesus slipped away from the crowds when they came to make him king. Later on in the chapter Jesus told the crowd that in him alone would they find satisfaction. The satisfaction they longed for, the satisfaction that we long for, cannot be found through a form of government or the policies of government. Instead of the path of political power Jesus chose the path marked out for him by his Father and that was the path of sacrificial love. It is seen in the lion who became a lamb and who was slain (Revelation 5:5-6). I would suggest that the way of the Kingdom is ultimately found when we reject political power as the way to change the world.
  4. Politics are of this world. Politics relies on two things: propaganda and force. We know that politicians and governments never tell us the whole truth, they always put their own spin on it. Spin and propaganda are meant to deceive people so we will continue to support what politicians do through the government. Force comes down to the consequences of not obeying what the government says is right or wrong. Yes, God has allowed the government to carry the sword, but often government goes to extremes. Because the government carries the sword it can force you to do anything it wants. The apostle Paul taught that we should take a different approach; We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do.We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; NLT). What are those mighty weapons? They are things like unconditional love and uncompromised truth. In short it is following the way of Jesus and it is the way the early Church brought change to the world. For a detailed account of this you can look at Rodney Stark’s book The Rise of Christianity. The way of Jesus certainly can change the world.
  5. Politics distract us from our true calling. Paul told Timothy; Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them (2 Timothy 2:4; NLT). The task I have been called to do is to make disciples and I cannot do that effectively if I am concerned about the politics of the nation. One reason is because my attention is divided and time that I should devote to study, prayer, teaching, and serving is spent trying to understand the in and outs of the political landscape. A second reason, and one that I know all too well, is that politics divide. One of the goals of the Kingdom of God is to bring people together, and time and time again we see that politics divides people. I don’t want anyone to remain outside of the Kingdom because of a political stand I took. I like what Alexander Campbell wrote; “To compel men destitute of faith to observe any Christian institution…is commanding duty to be performed without faith in God’ and therefore ‘anti-evangelical’ or contrary to the Gospel” (The Political Ethics of Alexander Campbell; p. 46). If we are to please our commanding officer and be true to the Gospel then our main responsibility is not to get the government to support a certain standard of morality, but invite people into God’s Kingdom. As people mature in faith and learn how to be led by the Spirit then the need for laws and governments disappears (Galatians 5:22-23).

I am not asking you not to vote, because I have no idea what God has laid upon your heart. What I am asking is that you understand that not voting is a legitimate stand for a Christian to take.

This post also marks a new beginning for me. In the past I have allowed politics to be a divisive issue in my life and I have lost friends because of the political stands I have taken. No more. I am not going allow myself to be entangled in the affairs of politics any longer, but I am going to seek to do the will of Jesus. I want nothing more than to come to the end of my life and have him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

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2 Comments

  1. “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens… Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education… reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” George Washington (Farewell Address)

    A REPUBLIC, which our country was founded as not a democracy, requires a morally sound and virtuous people to elect our officials. Our founders realized the great importance religion would play in the success of this country (even the non-Christian founders realized the importance of virtue). John Adams stated “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government if any other.”

    Knowing the principles this country was founded upon and the Divine guidance our leaders sought when eat lashing her, I do think it shows a moral obligation for Christians to vote.

    I highly recommend reading “The 5000 Year Leap” by Dr. Stephen R. Covey to get a better understanding of the foundation out great nation was built upon. Our classrooms have done a very poor job teaching us the background of our country and have really painted an entirely different story. I think if you see the true purpose of our founders you might have a different take on the importance and obligation of Christians in our political realm.

  2. Thanks Kelly for your comment. It is obvious that you are passionate about your views, but you did not address one of my five reasons for not voting. Four of those five reasons are taken out of Scripture, and one (the first one) is an implication I have made from my understanding of the Bible. If you are going to convince me that my stance on voting is wrong you are going to have to do it Biblically.

    You are operating under the assumption that if I just read the books you read then I would see the issue as you do, but that it not the case. I have read The 5,000 Year Leap, which was written by W. Cleon Skousen, and I thought it was an important enough book that I gave it as a Christmas present to my siblings 2 years ago. I agree that Biblical principles, along with Anglo-Saxon Law, influenced most of the founders. That does not equate into divine guidance for the founding of this country. In fact a case can be made that the founders ignored the apostle Paul’s instruction in Romans 13 when they rebelled against the British Empire.

    The question we need to concern ourselves with is: What role does God expect His people to play in the government? It is my opinion, given my study of Scripture, that God has no moral expectation for us to vote or play any part in governing. What matters more is that the Church establishes herself as a holy nation and a kingdom of priests

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