Vote 2008 ????

logovote-full.jpgFor the last few of years, I’ve been wrestling with my level of participation in the current political landscape. To be honest I’m finding it more and more difficult to justify my right to cast a vote.  Am I compromising my alliegiance to God’s kingdom? Mark Steenwyk’s blog speaks to much of my own apprehension by providing Ten Reasons He is Not Voting. Whether you agree or not, his reasons are worth consideration. Here they are:

As much as I like some of the candidates, I’m not voting. Here’s why:

I don’t like being forced to choose the lesser of two evils. Voting is the biggest intentional way in which Americans affirm the current political system. To vote is to put faith in the change that can come through American Democracy.

Voting is always exercising power over others. And voting for president is to bestow a power that carries coercive force. I know, I know: by my status in the world (especially my purchasing power) I already have power over others). Just because I’m already wielding my power consciously and unconsciously elsewhere, doesn’t mean that I should just acquiesce to vote now. That is like saying it is ok for a professional thief to make that one, last, big score. It may make the act easier, but it doesn’t make it right. I think it is possible for a faithful Christian to vote. Whether we like it or not, we’re enmeshed within the system. We must make thoughtful attempts to live counter-culturally, thoughtful (and often strategic attempts) to extricate ourselves from the system, and thoughtful attempts to speak prophetically into the system. But must only do so AS Kingdom people. I think local-level voting is a good thing, because of the nature of political engagement at a local level, but it gets dicier the higher up the ladder you climb.

Even if I felt like I could vote with a clear conscience, I would still consider not-voting as a prophetic act. Before you dismiss that stance as a stupid one, let me say this: because of my odd stance on voting, I’ve had dozens (perhaps hundreds) of conversations about this. And it always leads to the same place: people may disagree with my position on voting, but they almost always agree that the Church needs to be more involved in direct action and take a stronger role in bringing systematic change. As long as I see the Church predominately trusting in Consumer-Capitalism and Liberal Democracy as the primary systems of change in the world, I will opt out of voting as a prophetic challenge to the church. The last time I looked, Jesus commissioned the Church to be his agent in the world, not governments.

It seems dishonest for me to vote for president. We get upset when immigrants vote. I am, fundamentally an expat. I wouldn’t vote if I lived in France either.

Voting divides Christians. I know that my stance could be seen as divisive too, but you’d be surprised. I’ve only ever gotten into arguments over my position a few times, and I found that it brought me closer to my “opponent.” You reading this dlw?
My candidate isn’t on the ballot. I suppose I could go to the polls and just write-in “Jesus of Nazareth.”

Voting reinforces the current party system. Alasdair MacIntyre says it better than I can: Try to promote the pro-life case that we have described within the Democratic Party and you will at best go unheard and at worst be shouted down. Try to advance the case for economic justice as we have described it within the Republican Party and you will be laughed out of court. … In this situation a vote cast is not only a vote for a particular candidate, it is also a vote case for a system that presents us only with unacceptable alternatives. The way to vote against the system is not to vote.I like this argument. People usually challenge my non-voting by saying: a no-vote is still a vote. Indeed. Not voting is a vote against the system.

Voting can indirectly support the killing of Christians by Christians. Related to #2 and #5: When you vote, you are electing a person who, as commander-in-chief, will use his military powers to kill others. In particular, it is likely that s/he will use military powers to send Christian troops to a place where Christian adversaries will be killed. I know that this argument doesn’t do it for everyone. But the truth that Christians have slaughtered other Christians for the past 2000 years because of their conflicting affiliations to different States is evil. And I, for one, would like to resist that as much as possible. Sure, one way of getting at this would be to vote for someone like Ron Paul, but another way would be for all Christians to opt out of military service.

Voting is often a waste of energy. And the amount of time and money that goes into campaigns is a waste that I wish Christians would forgo. We are ruled by an aristocracy. Since McCain–Feingold, it is even harder for an outsider to get elected. The presidential elections only give the appearance that we have a real choice. But the truth is, our choice is limited to the handful of candidates who make it to the primaries…and from there, our choices shrink. The alternative is, of course, to write-in your own candidate.

I don’t believe in America or its constitution. Sure, we have a better system than most (if not all) other nations. But I don’t believe in the American Dream or that American makes the world a better place. All candidates will only expand the American Empire. And even Ron Paul is interested in expanding the Empire economically.

I know that I come off as an extremist. But the fact that I sound like an extremist to so many Christians simply proves out enmeshed we are in Americanism. 100 years ago, my position wouldn’t have sounded as extreme. Even Mennonites–those Anabaptists who have long resisted the political system–have become increasingly politically active.

In the end, however, I don’t want to known as that-guy-who-doesn’t-vote, but as that-guy-who-wants-the-church-to-embrace-her-birthright. Vote if you must, but please be a part of making the church an active people who confront the Powers and problems of this world head-on.

I find a consensus in my soul with these reasons not to vote and a refreshing counter to my ever widening ambivalence toward our contemporary context.


3 Responses

  1. The first reason is the worst possible reason. There aren’t just two political parties in the United States. In fact, there are a great deal of political parties, and most put up their own candidates for president. I’m certain there is at least one party that would fit your beliefs.

    By not voting, you are indirectly supporting the two major parties, since you aren’t putting your votes towards a third party. The more people that vote against the Democrats and the Republicans, the more likely a third party will actually make a good showing. Unfortunately, all the people that would vote for third parties don’t vote because they’re under the false impression that there are only two parties worth voting for.

  2. I have been wrestling with weather to vote in this election. Not for the reasons you gave, but because I have become disillusioned with the whole process. My dad has always told me it was not just my duty, but a privilage as well, and so I find myself rather torn.

  3. Good stuff. I have been dealing with this very issue on my blog lately. I have been reading several books and other resources about Christians and their roles in relationship to the government.I would type a lot here, but have said many things that I think relate directly to your post on my own blog. So if you are interested then please check it out and I will come back here as well to see what is new. Blessings and Shalom

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