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
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 (sharrup.agblogger.org).
E-mail your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.