SHOULD CHRISTIANS VOTE?
-A. Ralph Johnson
"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing." -Edmund Burke
We often feel a sense of futility in attempting to have any effective say in government. We are so few and the world has so many. What is our one vote among thousands or millions? It seems like the whole world around us is pell-mell bent on depravity and self-destruction. We are taxed to pay the school system to cram evolution and humanistic materialism down the throats of our kids. Books reeking with foul language, rebellion, filth and blasphemy are required reading. Social Science classes brainwash students to believe that homosexuality is a socially acceptable "life-style" and those who disagree are discriminating “homophobic bigots." Sex education classes encourage masturbation and the use of contraceptives apart from any parental right to know, and minimize the moral issues involved in pre-marital sex. Religious influence is studiously put down and the history classes teach that Christianity is a purely superstitious primitive fear of the unknown. Television spews out ungodliness into our living rooms. Every grocery store and most restaurants are becoming pushers for booze, tobacco and depraved magazines.
On and on it goes, little by little, creeping insidiously around every corner, pressing relentlessly forward, gnawing away at everything that is right and good, reducing societies values to the level of beasts. A survival- of-the-fittest, dog-eat-dog, tooth and claw philosophy without a pinge of conscience at butchering millions of unborn babies to avoid "inconvenience" to their preoccupation with their own pleasures and lusts is touted as a “woman’s right over her own body.” A humanistic society is created where only Christians are considered as being without the right to be heard. The courts legislate ungodliness. The lawmakers support it. The executive branch executes, and Christians are nothing and do nothing. "Let us crawl away into our cold dark caves of isolationism, content ourselves with the illusion that we are `faithful,' and resign ourselves to our fate. Let us pray. God will care for us."
I doubt that this is much better than the wild-eyed paranoid fanatic who declares he intends to "fight" to keep this a "Christian nation" as God founded it when He inspired the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. "Christians arise! Join the crusade to take over this nation in the name of God and stamp out the humanistic scourge which has corrupted the Supreme Court and is set on turning the world over to the Jews and the Communists! Hoard up silver! Store up a year’s supply of food for the coming crash! Refuse to pay taxes! Arise, and fight for the survival of the superior Aryan peoples and save God while we still can."
The scriptures warn of the danger of turning either to the right or to the left. (Deut. 5:32) The ditch is just as deep on one side of the road as the other.
What, then, is the right course for Christians? Is it wrong to vote, call your congressman, write about issues that effect Christians, inject our influence into the choice of textbooks or serve in public office? I must urge that Christians not only have these rights but they are essential in promoting good.
As citizens, we certainly have as much right as others. The mere fact that we are Christians does not disenfranchise us, in spite of all the propaganda to the contrary. The idea that religion and politics can be totally separated and nothing Christian is allowable in law is unrealistic and obtuse thinking. Every good thing in law will find a basis in Christian teaching and every bad thing a corresponding evil in scripture. It would be totally impossible to establish a set of laws for any nation which would never be in agreement with anything taught by the Bible. Killing is a crime against God. Stealing is a crime against God. Rape, slander and reckless endangerment are all crimes against God just as much as against the state. But homosexuality, harlotry, obscenity and pornography are also crimes against God, in spite of the vacillation on these issues in law.
I defy anyone to establish a clearly distinguishable line between politics and religion, barring a totally arbitrary judgment being granted to some privileged individuals. The charges that we should not impose our religious moralistic concepts on others is a perverted ignorant attempt to intimidate us into relinquishing our right to share in decisions which may adversely effect our lives and those of our children, -- and we are just as ignorant when we swallow such garbage. The fundamental basis of law is not the religious or non-religious nature of the issue but whether those who hold the power to enact and uphold do so.
My concern is not with establishing some sort of "Christian voting block" or to turn this nation into a theocracy, as some have charged. Nor do I accept the passive attitudes and rationalizations I see some drifting into. When we abdicate responsibility for speaking out on issues of right and wrong (cf. John 16:8-11), we surrender what adversely affects ourselves, our children, and God's kingdom. The enemy then dictates what is taught in schools. He determines whether we can have a Christian school. He decides whether drugs, alcohol and pornography are legalized and pushed at our kids. Why should we sit on our hands while the Devil has homosexuals, harlots and Communists teach our kids to ignore the "old fashioned ignorance" and authority of parents -- whether we can spank our children, whether children are to be taken from parents to be brainwashed by the state, or whether a house of prostitution or tavern shall be next to your home, your school or the church, or indeed, whether you shall even have the privilege of attending church. Don't tell me it can't happen. It is happening every day in countries, cities, and communities where Christians have failed to stand up and be heard.
I am concerned with the ultimate rationalizations and self-justifications which abdicate responsibility and degrade Christian concepts of judgment. Some have even defended the concept of those who are the most depraved influencing children in schools, under the delusion that "if we just trust the Lord and pray, it won't hurt them." Sometimes we may have no choice and have to do the best we can but I can't think of anything which could be any farther from reality. We certainly have some ways to counter evil but God's word is still right when it warns, “Be not deceived: Evil companions corrupt good morals." The idea that we can sit on our hands and pray is no better than saying, "Be thou warmed and filled." Prayer is a partnership with God and unless we do what we can, we have no assurance that God will do anything. My voice and vote in the schools is important. If I won't do my part to be heard against wickedness then I deserve everything that results from it. Why should God help me? He won't if I sit down and just pray for bread.
However, some argue that Jesus and the Apostles never voted or ran for public office and therefore neither should we. No, and Jesus never sent his kids to public schools, had a home, used a car or read by electric lights. They didn't have voting rights in those days. However, there is nothing that indicates Christians should not participate in shaping society's laws and thinking, and they certainly got themselves heard throughout the world.
Some would use the passage in Timothy, which is dealing with the total dedication which should be given in preaching, to argue that Christians are not to be "entangled in this world" (2Tim. 2:4). But, when is the ordinary Christian "entangled"? When he holds a secular job? When he joins a health spa? When he buys a house? When he invests in securities or insurance? When he sends his kids to public school? Does voting or speaking at a parent- teacher meeting "entangle" him more than these? It appears to me that he is speaking of those things which hinder one's leadership role, not voting for what he sees as being best.
Again, it is argued that we can't know what is best and Christians contradict Christians on these things. My answer is, if I couldn't do anything that some "Christian" didn't contradict, I couldn't survive. The very people who make such arguments do multitudes of things with which others would take exception. I am to pray for wisdom, seek it and then use it, whether in deciding where to live, where my children should go to school, which job I should take or what church to attend. If you aren't willing to trust that God can provide wisdom, and are unwilling to use the wisdom He gives, then why should He resolve problems which you could have resolved but won't?
On the contrary, early Christians DID vote, insofar as voting was possible. A "vote," reduced to its fundamental nature, is any influence we exert to effect the course of decisions. It is merely a matter of expressing what we feel should be done. The apostles many times appeared before political officials and expressed the will of God on issues relating to Christ and his people. It matters not whether it is a piece of paper in a ballot box, a raised hand in public, a privately expressed opinion or a legal challenge before a magistrate.
Paul voted when he appealed to Caesar (Ac. 25:10-11). He was not satisfied with the way the local yokels were determining his future and voted for a change. Granted, this was God's way to get Paul's influence into the households of the heads of state (Ph'p. 4:22), but for what purpose? I can only think that thus Christianity might gain freedom of access to the world. How, can it be bad to seek to provide influence in the lives of those who have access to speak, whether in public or in private, to influence people's direction towards God? Paul appealed because he "had done no wrong."
God has invested the Governmental authorities with the responsibility as "ministers of God" to attend continually on the job of being an "avenger of wrath to him that doeth evil" and to be "a minister of God to thee for good." (Romans 13) Why, then, cannot a servant of God serve in such a role? If we can appeal to those authorities to do their jobs then why not vote for those who will do it and for laws which expedite that objective?
Some will respond that Paul only appealed for a judicial decision, not an act of legislation. That is lack of understanding the situation. They had no distinction between the three functions of government. All were invested in one. When Paul appealed to Caesar, he addressed all three. Whether the law was against righteousness or the administration was against righteousness is irrelevant with God. The ultimate appeal as to what is righteous rests with God, not men. Government is not exempt from the will of God.
John the Baptist rebuked king Herod for his sin, just as he did others (Mt. 14:4). God said that Paul was to speak before kings (Acts 9:14). When standing before Felix, the governor, Paul "reasoned of righteousness, and self-control, and the judgment to come.... " Paul spoke to a politician about (Ac. 24:25) "righteousness"-- right living and "self-control". Did that not apply to his political decisions as well as his example? Jesus likewise reproved abuses (Lk. 11:45-52).
Some early Christians were government officials. Nicodemus was a "ruler of the Jews" (Jn. 3:1; 7:50-51). Joseph of Arimathaea was a "counselor," which we are told was probably a member of the Sanhedrin which ruled the Jews. Cornelius was a Centurion (Acts 10), which at that time in Palestine functioned as the police force. The Jailer at Philippi became a Christian (Ac. 16:34). Nothing is said of any of these being told to get out of their professions.
If it is protested that we cannot know they continued in those professions, we note that Erastus, after becoming a Christian, was city treasurer (Rom.16:23). That was a city official who collected the taxes and paid the bills of the city. Is it wrong to run for office of city treasurer? Would it be wrong to vote in the election?
Zenas was a lawyer, and such practice brings one to appeal to the government (Tit. 3:13). What is the material difference between appealing to "Caesar," and appealing to the School board? What is the material difference between voting for the school board, serving on a school committee or voting for a school levee? A letter, a phone call or a personal statement are votes. If it is wrong to not speak up when our word is needed for right, it is wrong to not vote. To be sure, it is a matter of judgment but God calls us to, "Judge righteous judgment."
The laws of God are for everyone, whether ruler or subject, great or small, whether for kings as supreme or those sent by them for good (I Pet. 2:14). We must make the word of God known to all. The purpose of the Holy Spirit's coming was "to convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment..." (Jn. 16:7-11). This is definitely important in preaching the gospel which begins with the principle of Jesus having "died for our sins" (1Cor. 15:3). Repentance is essential to conversion (Ac. 2:38; 3:19; 8:22; 17:30; 26:20).
John the Baptist preached repentance and told the Pharisees and Sadducees, who ruled the Jews, to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance (Mt. 3:1-8). In fact, in some cases, repentance was placed before faith (Ac. 20:21; Mk. 1:15), probably because sometimes the heart has to be changed about a man's sin before he will be open to a solution for his sin (Jn. 7:17; Lk. 8:15; Mt. 13:10-15). It is simply not true that preaching Christ does not include preaching about sin. We have a responsibility to prick the conscience of every person in whatever role of life, public or private. Someone once made the astute observation, "Good preaching includes preaching on sin. People have to know they are lost before they will do anything about getting saved."
Stephen's sermon is an excellent example of what ought to be said to rulers. The Holy Spirit, speaking through him, openly denounced them for their sins (Ac. 6:12, 15; 7:2, 51-53). People may rationalize that it is useless to speak to politicians but the Holy Spirit thought otherwise. Sin is sin, no matter who does it. No one is above the message of God. All are accountable. If they won't hear, God will deal with them, but, if we don't speak, we will be held accountable. In our nation, God has provided opportunity for us to speak and be heard. To me, that is a stewardship for which I am accountable (Luke 16:10; 1Cor. 4:2).
Too often, Christians have been like the men of Shechem who permitted a "bramble" to rule rather than voting for sound leadership (Judges 9:7-18). Yes, God is the one who determines the destiny of nations but he may choose to do so through Christians, just as he has chosen to take vengeance though rulers (Rom. 13:4). Giving us the vote provides a means within the Christian's liberty to guide sound government by God's "ministers". We should seek God's wisdom to use that stewardship.
Can God do things without me? He sure can. But, in His wisdom he has chosen for us to serve with him in providing for the needs of the poor, preaching the gospel and providing for our families.
Those who compliment themselves for not voting are greatly mistaken. They have voted with the seat of their pants. They have voted for the heathen, the ignorant, superstitious and the perverted to make decisions over their lives, their children and the church! When our vote could keep homosexuals, who God says are "worthy of death" (Rom. 1:24-32), ("Not only those who do these things but also those who give consent with those who do them.), from posing as role models for our children, and we fail to vote against it, shall we be held guiltless? When we fail to vote for right, will we be considered for or against our Lord?
I am persuaded that we should not cop out on responsibility with, "be thou warmed and filled" but rather, address ourselves to doing something for the need. Nothing is much more pleasing and helpful to totalitarian and depraved forces of this world than for good men to do nothing. One of the greatest ills which has been sapping the moral quality of our nation has been that the churches, that are supposed to use the sword of the Spirit to "convict the world in respect of sin, righteousness and judgment" have abdicated their responsibility or even supported the forces of evil.