On Christians and Politics: Some Thoughts for Election Day

It’s election day, and I just returned from voting. In the months leading up to this day, I’ve heard and read plenty of arguments from other Christians about what to do today. Some have made appeals for Obama, some for Romney, and some for not voting at all. Almost all of these appeals, when they’ve been from Christians, have been on the basis of faith. A few arguments, from both Christians and secularists, have tried to convince that our faith should not play a part in our political decision making. In pseudo-response to all that I’ve read and heard, here are some of my thoughts about what it means to be voting as a Christian:

1. Jesus tells us to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.” As citizens in a democracy, we live in a context in which “Caesar” has asked us for our participation and input in determining our leaders. Our vote may be just a drop in a bucket, but our participation in an election is part of our calling as followers of Christ.

2. We should never shy away from allowing our faith in Christ to influence, or even determine, our vote. Our faith is not merely a hobby or a private opinion. It’s a gift from God, and a gift not merely to ourselves personally but to the world. Our faith is an invitation to see our country and world from heavenly perspective, and that perspective blesses our society (even if that blessing is unacknowledged or denied).

3. Even as we vote according to our faith in Christ, we should fully expect Christians to make different decisions in the voting booth. Our system of government is complex, and the application of our beliefs to our voting will differ depending on how we understand our government. I know Christians who are deeply concerned for the unborn, but believe that Obama’s economic policies are more likely to create a culture in which abortions are less desirable. I also know Christians deeply concerned for the poor but who believe that the poor will ultimately be better served under Romney’s plan.  I also know Christians with an orthodox understanding of marriage who nevertheless oppose any federal legislation on the topic, thinking that it’s a matter best left to individual states. Any of these decisions may be incorrect in terms of their logic and how things will/would actually play out, but poor logic is different from unfaithful.

4. For Christians, voting should never be motivated by desire for power. I’ve heard plenty of evangelical Christians this year lament the lack of an evangelical candidate. (“Am I OK with voting for a Mormon?” “How Christian is President Obama really?” etc.) Our calling in Christ, though, is not to strive after power for ourselves, but to bear witness to God’s Kingdom. Whether or not our president is “one of us” is not our operating question. Rather, the questions we need to ask are, “How do we live faithfully in the context of the person’s administration?” and “How do we bear witness to this person about Christ’s concerns for his world and this country?”

5. For Christians, our participation in politics is an invitation to humility and submission. A victory for the candidate we support is not equal to a victory for Jesus. The candidate we opposed is not the incarnation of evil. If Paul can say that the Roman empire that was persecuting him and the church was established by God, we can say the same of our president. Whether we’re pleased or not tomorrow morning, our calling remains the same: bear witness to the cause of Christ, and submit to the authorities in place, even if the combination of those two things leads to a cross.