I voted today. I always do. Every time I go to the polls I think of those who died to preserve my freedom, and I figure participating in elections big and small is the least I can do. Taking part in the election process is also how I express good citizenship, as I am commanded to do in God’s Word (Romans 13:1-8).
When I hear followers of Jesus say they aren’t going to vote because they are disgusted with the system, or to uphold a lofty spiritual principle, I cringe. We might not always make it to the polls, for one reason or another, but blatantly ignoring the process is just wrong. If we can’t support a candidate, we can vote for a write-in. But we should vote.
The historical relationship between the kingdom and politics has been strange at best. You are probably aware the first century church was ostracized and persecuted by its government. Roman authorities resented Christians for their views toward the gods of the Empire, and the church became a convenient scapegoat when things went awry.
In the 3rd century the climate changed when Constantine became a patron of the church. This led to an incredible advancement of kingdom work, but it also signaled the beginning of moral and spiritual corruption. Once leading in the church became lucrative, its mission became secondary to selfish ambition.
Faith has always played a prominent role in American politics, from the spiritual life of the first colonists to the present day. I believe it is safe to say this role has been greatly diminished, but it still seems nearly impossible to get through an election without some mention of a candidate’s religious views.
Perhaps this is because we know one’s faith can’t help but influence government policy. This is especially true when it comes to an administration’s stand on national issues of morality, and its dialogue with foreign leaders. If a political leader has a particular eschatological (“end times”) belief, it may influence how he or she approaches some of the major players in the Middle East. The same is true in the areas of justice, peace, and prosperity. Perhaps you are old enough to remember when Jimmy Carter, who is a god-fearing man, told Americans they were living above their means. Later, another god-fearing man named Ronald Reagan told us the problem wasn’t that we were living above our means, but rather that the government was living above its means. Both were right in some respects, but each was driven by a political ideal filtered through the biblical truth that we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the things God has given us.
I agree with those who say our kingdom is not of this world. If we have given our lives to Christ, He is our King of Kings, and we put His interests above those of our government. However, although the Lord’s kingdom is not of this world, it is in the world. In fact, it is ever-expanding. Everywhere we go, we are kingdom pieces, pointing the world to our Savior. In Jesus’ long “priestly prayer” in John 17 He prayed, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15). Therefore, we can’t turn our back on human governments, even if they are temporary.
As far as politics, I do have some strong opinions, and I have an official party. Which one, you ask? Sorry. You can ask me in person. I will say I can understand why conservatives are concerned about liberals who disregard the constitution and use their positions to diminish its authority. I can also understand why liberals fight for justice and equality. And I think both have perspectives and actions that are deeply rooted in faith. Both also have adherents who are thoroughly self-seeking.
I encourage you to care about politics. Sure, God’s kingdom can survive regardless of whether we are persecuted or protected by our government. One might even make the argument the church would be better off with a little persecution. While this may be true, I am all for disciplining ourselves to be passionate about our faith, while participating in our communities to build good government and a moral foundation.
I’ve got to go now. The election results are rolling in.