I’ll never forget the first time a person came up to me in church to tell me how I should vote in the upcoming election. Yes, the way to vote had been suggested before and it was quite obvious growing up in the South as to who the “Christian” party was. But while I was pastoring in Michigan I actually had a congregation member approach me and tell me that they had felt that God wanted them personally to tell me not to vote for a specific Democratic candidate in the upcoming election. Now there’s a lot going on in this scenario that is a bit off. First, you felt that God told you, a parishioner, to tell your pastor how to vote. Seems a little backwards. Secondly, God isn’t a democrat or a republican, so to invoke God’s name in order to elicit a specific vote is actually a violation of taking God’s name in vain (Trust me this is what the commandment actually means. I’ve written papers on it). And thirdly, just no. It was weird and definitely not that persons place for a variety of reasons.
But it brings to the forefront the ultimate question, how should a Christian vote in elections? More specifically, how should a Christian vote in the United States of America? I’ll answer this really quickly: I have no idea. I have never voted for a candidate that came close to representing my values as a Christ follower one hundred percent. Oh sure, there have been plenty of candidates who have claimed the name of Christ and there have been candidates that the evangelical church has endorsed (see story above), but very rarely have these same candidates embodied my values as someone who has embraced the way of the Cross.
I think that’s what we forget when we head to the polls. Our faith, as Christ followers, is not about power or control. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s about dignity. It’s about seeing every person for who they are and loving them as they are. Not about trying to take away their ability to live and love as they are. Our faith is about feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, eliminating debt and oppression and lifting up the poor and needy. It’s not about protecting mine and hording resources at the expense of our neighbors who are literally dying from lack of resources or our weird national gun fetish. Our faith is about laying down our needs and wants for the sake of others so that they see Christ in us. The apostle Paul said in Philippians 2, “You should not look to your own interests, but to the interests of others” and then writes for us the most beautiful example of how God himself forsook all power and prestige for the sake of us who knew only what it meant to chase after these things.
Yeah, but what does this have to do with my vote? Everything. Your vote should never be for yourself. Look around at those who are being oppressed or used as political props and vote for them. Look at those whose rights (the very rights you would die for) are being stripped away and vote for them. Look at those who can’t afford housing or medical care because of corporate greed and political oppression and vote for them. Look at those who are in prison because of racial disparity in our justice system and vote for them. Look at those who you love the least (notice I didn’t say like. Love means action and those who we do nothing for are those we actually love the least) and vote for them. Maybe there is a way to vote Christian, but once again it might mean we lay down our lives for the sake of the others. Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you…even at the polls.