That is the question that faces many Christians, especially those who from my sort of background. I have in mind a short conversation I had with an elderly lady from the church I had attended for much of my life. It was while I was “telling” for one of the candidates at my local polling booth in May’s local elections. She commented that her father, one of the stalwarts of that church, never voted and neither did many of its members. The reasoning went along the lines that we were essentially citizens not of this world but that which is to come, and while we should play our part as good citizens of this world e.g. pay our taxes, obey the law, voting wasn’t the proper thing to do.
In my theological evolution, I discovered many Christians, whose theology was essentially sound, who did not subscribe to such a view. One such is Franklin Graham. who recently wrote on his blog: “WikiLeaks is giving us a much clearer picture of the depth of the corruption that is thriving in our nation’s capital. It truly is a swamp that needs to be drained. And it’s not just in one party, it’s widespread. The pervasiveness of this is unbelievable. Our political system is broken, and it will take strong, tough leadership to begin fixing some of this. I encourage you to give it a lot of prayer and get out and vote. I’ve heard of some Christian leaders actually encouraging people to boycott the election—and those leaders are absolutely wrong. The Apostle Paul was a citizen of Rome and exercised his right as a citizen of Rome to appeal to Caesar. We are citizens of the United States of America, and we need to exercise our rights by voting. We’ve got to let the Christian voice be heard at the ballot box before it’s too late”. Interestingly, he has not revealed who is voting for but, on reading his musings, there will be no prizes offered to any who might venture a guess as to who that might be.
In a recent article, John Piper, a well known Christian leader, and like Graham one I have a good deal of respect for, declared that Christians are under no moral obligation to vote. He argued: “God’s children are free! Free from human institutions. As citizens of heaven, we are not bound in every situation to participate in the processes of human government. We are not bound! This is not our homeland! We vote — if we vote — because the Lord of our homeland commissions us to vote, and he does not absolutize this act above all other considerations of Christian witness!” and particularly in the light of the US Presidential elections with its two wholly unsuitable candidates. “At some point, a vote can be a capitulation to an unjust system and a refusal to vote can expose the system’s absurdity. At some point, a vote can be a sacrifice to Caesar and abstention can be a witness to the Truth … Christians are indeed free to hear the voice of their Master about the best way to witness to His supremacy”, adding he “would not vote for either of the two leading candidates unless a supernatural intervention of cataclysmic proportions happens in the next seven days with profound transformation … Then I might consider it“.
I have in the recent past gone on record saying I usually always vote and if on the rare occasion I really can’t decide who to vote for I spoil my ballot paper (adding a terse comment why). Personally, I often find myself between party and person and if to vote tactically. When I study the Bible, there appears little said about how we are to operate in a democracy. Such a system was mostly unknown in Bible times. I often remind myself of Churchill’s comment that democracy was a bad form of government yet better than any other form and that we are obligated to be good citizens. That might mean deciding which candidate will likely deliver better when it comes to the good of the people. But these are difficult decisions, and while I will continue to encourage people to understand the issues and reflect on who best will implement those values and policies they consider important, and then go out and vote, I am also mindful others may think differently and realize voting (whether / who / why etc.) will be a personal decision and one that should not divide us as we contemplate, as indeed we must, living as citizens of heaven.