Thursday, June 7, 2012

For Whom Should I Vote?

Let me disappoint you early. I am writing neither a diatribe against any candidate (incumbent or otherwise) nor a letter of support for any candidate. Instead, I want to think a bit about how and why we should vote (and yes, I believe every Christian eligible to vote should vote).

First, beware of three lines of faulty logic about voting (I’m sure there are more):

(1)    “I am not going to vote because…” I’ve heard Christians give two different reasons for this conclusion. First some say,” we are “only passing through this world, so it really doesn’t matter”. Second, some say, all the candidates are “evil” so they would only be voting for the lesser of two evils. Here’s the problem with these conclusions. While it is true we are “only passing through”, we should still be good stewards of this world while we are here. None of us knows when Jesus is returning, so we need to care for our world as if He is not returning soon. I want my grandchildren to enjoy the same freedoms I enjoyed. And it may be true that we perceive our choice as “the lesser of two evils”. The error in choosing not to vote if I perceive all my choices as bad is that I have indirectly cast a vote for the greater of two evils. If I vote for the “lesser” I at least offset a vote someone else cast for “the greater” of the two evils. I must admit that sometimes I have voted against Candidate A more so than for Candidate B. So, in my oh-so-humble opinion, neither reason to forgo voting holds up logically.

(2)    “My vote doesn’t count.” I don’t know how many times I’ve heard this. And in many elections, that may be the case, but sometimes a single vote does matter!  In 2011, a coin flip decided the winner of a council seat for the small town of Rock Hall, MD, after two candidates tied in the election. In 2004, only 133 votes separated the winner and loser of the Washington gubernatorial election – roughly four votes per county. The ballots were counted three times. The first and second count showed one candidate the winner; the second recount resulted in the other candidate being declared the winner. So, your vote might not make a difference, but then again, it might! (Want to see more close election results? Visit

(3)    “The government will / should _______” (you fill in the blank). I’m not sure where the thinking originated about the government giving money and I don’t know why anyone would think a government-run program will be fiscally sound. As I write this, the national debt nears $16 trillion dollars – or over fifty thousand dollars per citizen. They government spends more each year than it takes in, meaning, the deficit is getting larger. Try that with your personal checking account! The vast majority of federal revenues come from taxes – money out of our pocket. You might argue, “Raise corporate taxes!” – but that just takes money out of our pockets indirectly – the corporation must pass on its costs to the end-user. The bottom line is this, no government can supply “free” anything; the only money it can spend comes from revenues it takes. I’m not denying we have problems like poverty, college education costs, medical care, and a host of other issues that need to be addressed (which I won’t address here). Just don’t get sucked in to the line that “the government will provide / fix” because to do so, it must take from its citizens before it can “give” anything.

Second, remember that as Christians, we have dual citizenship – and our primary address is not this world. While we are to be a good stewards of this world, our greater purpose is to be “ambassadors for Christ”, representing and promoting God’s purposes first and foremost. Back in the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan asked the question, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” I would change the question today to “does our country (city, county / parish, state) promote morality, justice, mercy (defined biblically) more than four years ago?” I’ll admit different people will define and weigh aspects of morality, justice, and mercy differently, so I’ll leave the terms vague for my purposes here. Ask, does the candidate promote biblical principles, even if he or she doesn’t know they are “biblical” (Prov. 16:12)? Keep in mind, someone who is not a believer can still promote biblical principles and someone who is a believer can promote non-biblical issues. And the primary issue should not be pocketbooks or tax rates.

Third, Paul write “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1–2). I think a “quiet and tranquil life” includes the freedom to practice our faith without interference. On a grander scale, is the government keeping its nose out of places it should not be? Again, I’ll leave this undefined here, but, government bureaucracy tends to be less efficient and compassionate than other means for those tasks outside the government’s legitimate roles.

So, vote – even if you feel your best options is for “the lesser of two evils”. Even if you don’t think your vote matters. Vote for the candidate that best promotes morality, justice, and mercy – based on his or her track record, not based on campaign promises. Vote for the candidate whose policies best promote the freedom to practice our faith. Take advantage of the privilege we have to influence who occupies governmental seats, with a view towards kingdom purposes.