I don't usually like to put my political cards on the table, but ...

...reading the responses to Abraham Piper's question about not voting over at 22 Words got my dander up a bit -- of course, this isn't the first time. :-)

Abraham's question was:

"Generally, a person’s vote shows whether they’re more conservative or liberal, but not voting isn’t so clear.

"What can a non-vote communicate?"

Some of the answers were

"It communicates a misunderstanding of what voting is."

"I would consider those who didn’t care or didn’t vote is not a true American for the Lord."

"To vote for anyone other than McCain, or to not vote, is a vote for the Freedom of Choice Act."

"I think someone who doesn’t vote is misguided at best and apathetic at worst."

"I don’t think there’s ever a good reason not to vote."

Here was my position, cards on the table, where I usually prefer not to put them, to the question, "What can a non-vote communicate?"

It could mean you were sure planning on voting — a little bit concerned about what seemed like an inordinate attachment to the political process among your evangelical friends, but planning on voting — then became convinced as recently as several minutes ago that Christians (particularly evangelicals) living within the geographical confines subject to the earthly power of the United States government have become so devoted to the American political system as a civil religion as to make their devotion idolatrous.

And you could reason that opting out of such a system is a prophetic, symbolic act of protest against that particular idolatry — not unlike Jeremiah cooking his food over a dung fire or John enacting the cleansing for sins based up repentance outside of the temple.

You might hope that by such in-action, proclaimed with the reasons behind it, might woo some back from their idolatry to a rightly ordered hope and a rightly ordered understanding of "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and unto God what is God's."

America is not a religion. Voting is not a sacrament.

Saying that not voting communicates apathy, indifference, laziness, sin, insufficient devotion to Christ or lack of concerns for the unborn is either uninformed or uncharitable with the likes of people like
Stanley Hauerwas and John Howard Yoder out there. (Well, Yoder's not out there any more, but his legacy lives on.)

No one who has not seriously considered their position on participation in the political process (even if arriving at points of disagreement with them) should accept uncrticially that such participation is a Christian responsibility (let alone participation in the two-party system).

It is fine to call a principled position with which you disagree "wrong." But to use the ad-hominem argument of calling it apathetic is a problem.

My decision to vote or not to vote come November-whatever will have come not as the result of apathy one way or the other but as the result of a principled consideration not only of my 2, 3, 6, or 8 choices of who to vote for but also of my decision, in Christ, whether or not to vote at all.


Now, here on my own site, I will say that I am very likely to vote for a candidate for President as well as in my local races. I am most bothered by what I perceive to be a category problem leading to confused allegiances and disordered priorities.

But what do you think? Should voting can be transfered from the category of a 'civil right' to the category of a 'Christian responsibility'?

If so, how?

If it shouldn't be, than what are the consequences when it is?


Sheila said...

Personally, I am torn right now about whether or not to vote. I didn't vote in the last election, not because I didn't care, but because I did not feel I could support either candidate. As a side note, I feel frustrated when people put all of their passion into voting for whoever they think is the right candidate - and then do nothing else to change the world during the other eleven months of the year. I do think it can be important, since we live within this political structure, to make our voices heard there, but it's going to take each of us *doing* something, not just *voting* for *others* to do something, to change the world. I think the world is being changed not so much by Washington, D.C. as by Allendale and Southside Indianapolis ...

The Six of Us said...

We've has sever good political conversations around here lately and let's just say my political vies since the last election have changed significantly.

I believe that the church has placed her trust/responsibility in this "great republic" of ours rather than in Christ in the same way that many parents place their trust and responsibility on the schools to raise their children. The issues at hand such as abortion, immigration, welfare, etc, when addressed within the church often have a much different outlook under grace than when we are called up to debate and vote on them. Indeed, I find my "voting" record perhaps at conflict with my Christian reaction. (ie caring for illegal immigrants vs. voting on that issue).

CHristain service is NOT exercising a vote. It is service for CHrist to the last of these.

Jen said...

Hey, Jodi, next time try typing when you're DONE nursing! :-)Just kidding, I do the same thing!

Janine the Bean said...

I think you'd better stop reading Abraham Piper's blog. Your blood pressure is going to rocket. ;)

No, but seriously, I don't think voting is a sacrament. I don't think that it communicates apathy. I think you're right in that there are some disordered priorities.

I don't think that people who vote for Obama are voting for the Freedom of Choice Act??? Did someone really say that?

"American for the Lord?" Ah, hell....anyways.

It was funny, that as I was reading through Piper's blog comments the "render to Caesar what is Caesar's..." quote came to me.

I'll have to think this out more, but for now, I think that Christians ought to exercise their right to vote, but....is it "Christian responsibility?"....I'm not sure.

I thought of this verse though:

Proverbs 31:9
"Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy."

Can we do this by voting?

I liked Abraham's Papa's thoughts on voting that I read in a recent Desiring God e-mail.


Vote as though you were not voting....

What do you think of it?

The Six of Us said...

Jen, do you have a hidden camera on my computer? That is too weird.

Sometimes if I am going to comment, proofreading does not happen. The sad thing is that I am starting to talk like that. hee hee.

J.J. said...

Like Sheila, I left the "presidential bubble" unfilled in the last election because I didn't feel I could support either candidate. I've done a lot of thinking about this issue (the Christian's interaction with and responsibility for engagement with politics, culture, etc.) without much resolution that I could state concretely. I agree with most of what you said. Here are some observations and questions I'll throw out for discussion. They are necessarily and unavoidably subjective, but here they are:

1. In my experience, Christians take too many cues from non-Christian talking heads. What I mean by this is that the issues over which elections are decided in the minds of many Christians is too narrow and does not include all of the issues Jesus would be interested in. So if you're going to pick "your" issues, who will you listen to?

2. In my experience, Christians are too quick to name "God's man" (or woman). What exactly is Jesus' position on taxation? Immigration? War?

3. In my experience, Christians are not skeptical enough and place far too much confidence in the political system.

4. Can the church really tell the government what rights it can give to it's citizens? What do you mean by "the church"? Which church?

5. You should read this: http://www.upper-register.com/blog/?p=237. Think about it. Really think about it.

I don't have this figured out. Most of the time, pondering these questions leads me to a tangled ball of confusion. I think you have to look at all of the issues and make the best decision you can. No decision you make is perfect, and you will not elect or even vote for the perfect candidate. After having done this, I think we need to take a deep breath and be kind (loving, even) to those brothers and sisters who have decided differently. Jesus is Lord. No matter who wins the election(s), Jesus is Lord.

Jeff said...

Very interesting, my wife has just recently adopted this position. After much wrestling and no good options, she felt comfortable.

I think she is actually "voting" her conscience, by not voting.

I feel that a discussion about what it actually means to be pro-life is long over due among well intentioned voting Christians. The more i think about the term pro-life, the more i am convinced that most of the people i see wearing this label and most of the arguments i hear would be more accurately labeled "anti-abortion", or more accurately "unconditional anti-abortion". I know it doesn't role of the tongue. But the rhetoric of "pro-life" politics is far too narrow for me to take them, or at least the term seriously. I am not trying to start any semantic arguments or to be controversial or glib. I find the right extremely hard to identify with anymore and others who share this skepticism might find not voting an alternative. If we concerned about being lazy, we could make "I didn't vote as a form of social protest" stickers to be industrious.

So much of what you all have said is true, particularly J.J.'s #1,2, 3. Sheila's point about actually doing something to change the world is straight to the point. I cringe when I think about how much time i have sat reading and thinking about politics (what time is it?).

One closing thought,
If spending money on campaigns is free speech, what are we saying?

Are we saying more with the simple action of not voting is interesting, but it does not have that subversive bite i am looking for.