After a great deal of conversation, reflection and observation it has become apparent a great diversity exists within the American Christian culture in relationship to voting.
Here are a few things I have noticed in my own response and the ideas of others. I felt others might find it beneficial.
Reflection 1: The Church has almost always struggled with the question of proper relationship toward government.
We tend to idolize parts of Church History as these periods of serving the poor, reaching the slave and restoring the dignity of the orphan and widow. While this has certainly happened even from the beginning there were political problems of favoritism, nepotism and classism. From the time of Constantine, to the Holy Roman Empire, to the Magisterial vs. Radical Reformers, to American Liberalism vs Fundamentalism to present issues. The Church has been divided and struggled with the questions of government power, influence and civic duty. My first reflection is this, for the young believer there is rarely something new under the sun. Being a part of the Church ought to create some desire to study the history of the Church and knowledge on a basic level of this history would greatly increase your ability to winsomely navigate the world you find yourself in.
Reflection 2: Voting is neither a waste of time or the ultimate solution.
Either my eyes are simply more aware or it is actually true this year more people than ever are advocating, incentivising and imploring their fellow man to vote. Ads, articles, instagram, sports, and everything in between seems to be telling us to vote. There are two main responses I see. Either someone accepts if they do not vote the world will literally disintegrate before their eyes or that voting is pointless because the chance of having their vote be the one which changes the outcome of an election is as likely as getting elected to public office. My second reflection is this, civic duty seems to be a shared responsibility of believers and non believers however universally what this means is fluid so be gracious and allow others to see their duty differently than you.
Reflection 3: Choosing your candidate, position or hope based on negative emotions is unproductive.
I experience almost everyday it would seem an individual who has simply come to the end of their tolerance for something or someone and their primary duty in political activism is to end the perceived regime of x, y, or z. It seems most of our activism is gone from the seat of hate and not from the throne of love. My third reflection is this, Jesus constantly spoke in the language of blessed are those who are or those who become. Spending all your energy in the mindset of “I hate x, y, z so much I have to support a, b, c,” has so little power to create meaningful change. Even if it means moving away from a majority position which has the perceived power, align yourself with something you actually support, or an idea you love.
Reflection 4: Conforming to majority positions for the purpose of evangelism or ministry seems to be a dangerous thing.
I went through a season where when talking about the current climate in politics I would begin by saying a primary motivation for not voting is that if I voted for “x” candidate I would not be able to interact positively with non-christians. I would even say things like not deciding to vote for “x” had a positive impact on my ministry to others. I now find this position to be both untrue and dangerous. Rarely in conversations of evangelism does the question who you are voting for or who have you voted for come up. If it does, simply to assume someone would abandon the relationship which has led to this conversation is pretty jaded. The dangerous part is not how it impacts our relationships but what it does to our courage. The Gospel of Jesus is counter to the way of the word and often to faithfully represent Him one must stand against the culture, modeling our behavior in a way that teaches us to swim with the current could have negative impacts on our faith. My reflection is this, in all things we should seek to align ourselves with Christ, to adopt a political mantra or party to put yourself on the inside of a group or community seems to be missing this important goal.
Reflection 5: Voting and not contributing to society is a massive misstep.
This observation is almost trivial to most I would hope. Voting is nothing more than a cog on the gear of a functioning society. If you are passionate about voting and political involvement but do not contribute to your community by volunteering, working and paying taxes, tipping at small businesses, supporting strong local leaders, seeking justice for the oppressed and others your vote is nothing more than an attempt to subjugate yourself to the power you feel most benefits you. My reflection is this and can be linked to Paul’s ideas in Romans 13, be a good neighbor, pay your taxes, seek justice and also vote. One without the other negates the effective witness and ministry of the others.
Reflection 6: Be careful what you wish for.
My final observation deals with how we relate to power. I have been reflecting on 1st Samuel 8, the people of Israel ask for a King to rule over them. They ask for a king so he can lead them in battle and because they wish to be like the nations around them. God grants this wish but in verse 18 says this “When that day comes (a reference to the suffering He tells a king will create, see the chapter), you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you on that day.” It seems to me this verse presents God making a claim,(my articulation of the perceived claim) “when humans place humans over them that power will create suffering not safety, security and belonging the values desired by the appointment of a king.” It seems to me we do the same thing the people of Israel did thousands of years ago and are surprised when suffering is the result. My reflection is this, maybe we should stop thinking so much about who our past, current, or future leader of country is and seek to establish the kingdom in our communities by being advocates for edifying values in our homes, neighborhoods, cities, and states. I feel that we have much greater influence beginning with home and slowly losing immediate actual impact. The place our actions have the least impact is federally and yet it is the easiest power to obsess over, I think because we like to feel close to what we perceive as powerful. Activism is important but if the end goal is simply to place a man or women with consolidated power over us the end will most likely be suffering. Take stock of your abilities and passions and begin making them a reality starting in your home, moving into your neighborhood, then to your city, state and finally national powers.