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Every vote counts

By Scott Harrup

Swing Vote, Kevin Costner’s Aug. 1 film release, proposed a unique set of events that gives one man the opportunity to cast the deciding vote for the next U.S. president.

“What if your vote was the only one that counted?” asks Peter T. Chattaway in his review of the film for Christianity Today. “Would it affect your decision, or how you made it? And what if the entire world knew that it was you who was going to cast that deciding vote? What if you couldn’t share the responsibility with millions of other voters? What if the entire world was holding you accountable?”

These are compelling questions for Christian voters. A defining characteristic of the Christian life is to accept personal responsibility for one’s beliefs in front of the world. And casting a vote for the nation’s president should certainly connect with one’s beliefs.

That said, Christians should never equate a political candidate’s positions with biblical truth. Rather, followers of Christ must prayerfully consider a candidate’s policy array and seek God’s wisdom in lending their support. As the current presidential campaign draws to a close, the following points can help shape one’s voting decision.

• God’s sovereignty does not eliminate personal responsibility. Christians are right in affirming God’s direction of history. But Scripture offers many examples of God’s actions connecting with human action, and points to the consequences when people fail to act.

In the prophet Ezekiel’s day, God announced His impending judgment on the nation of Judah with this caveat: “I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none” (22:30, NIV).

This verse addresses prayerful intercession, not voting. Christians should make a point of praying, or standing in the gap, for their nation each day. But God’s statement to Ezekiel addresses the larger subject of personal apathy. Christians need to examine their motives if they choose not to vote. Do they honestly believe they have no role to play in an election? Or, perhaps, has apathy played a part in their decision?

“I think the bigger problem,” said John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, in a recent USA Today feature, “is not so much that folks abstain out of principle or to punish their party, but they just don’t have the same level of enthusiasm. Lots of people, whether they’re religious or not, need a lot of stimulus to get out and vote.”

• Committed Christians frequently vote for opposing candidates and issues. When followers of Christ act on differences of opinion, it doesn’t necessarily mean one group is right and the other somehow “missed God.” Candidates run for office representing party platforms that address a wide range of issues. A Christian who feels very strongly against a party’s position in one area may still feel it is the right thing to do to vote for that party in support of another issue.

The freedom to vote in either direction gives America’s system its vitality. The most effective national voting drives recognize this. Rock the Vote, for example, has been working in 2008 to register 2 million young people across party lines in preparation for Nov. 4.

Presidential campaigns are like ships, with blocks of voters giving navigational nudges that can impact future policy. When the election rhetoric dies down, Christians in support of the winning ticket have a unique opportunity to call for a moral examination of party positions with which they are in disagreement.

Believers should exercise caution in painting voters for an opposing party with a “worldly” or “un-Christian” brush. Members of the body of Christ are bound to each other in love before, during and long after any election. Whenever differences of opinion arise between Christian voters, those differences must be discussed with mutual love in place.

“This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:17).

• Whether or not your candidate wins, the winner needs your prayers and whatever support you can offer. Good citizenship isn’t based on which party holds the White House or controls Congress.

“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake,” Peter commands early Christians, “to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men” (1 Peter 2:13-15).

Similarly, Paul urges “that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1,2).

Peter and Paul lived in a society where political participation was limited to a privileged few. Yet they called for respect for those in authority, even though many leaders had little sympathy for Christian views and were appointed by Rome’s decidedly non-Christian senate and emperor.

Americans sometimes have the privilege of voting godly men and women into local, state and national positions. But when a candidate takes office — even a candidate who does not share a believer’s values — Christians across the voting spectrum must continue to follow the biblical mandate of respect and prayer in that leader’s behalf.

• Your vote counts, and needs to be counted. Prayerfully evaluate the stated positions and goals of each candidate this election. Ask yourself if one candidate better represents the priorities and moral authority our nation needs. Put your convictions into action. Drive to your local voting poll. Cast your vote.

Then determine that you will do whatever you can to promote those same values and priorities no matter who becomes the 44th president of the United States.

SCOTT HARRUP is senior associate editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel and blogs at Out There (

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