To Vote or Not to Vote?

28 Jul

I was recently at Shane Claiborne’s Jesus for President tour in Fresno. See picture below. My friend Stan went up and shook Shane’s hand beforehand. It was kind of funny because we think he was praying and Stan interrupted him as he was preparing himself to come up and speak.

Shane and Chris (co-speaker) basically did a recap of their book entitled Jesus for President. It was actually a 3 hour presentation if you count the thirty minute break we had in the middle. Reading Shane’s book you have no doubt that he has a “prophetic suspicion” of government and the danger of power. You would even get the strong feeling that he doesn’t approve of President Bush. However, you didn’t catch wind that he was pushing for anybody on the other political party (aka. Jim Wallis). He didn’t end the talk promoting anyone but closed with these words:

We will not be endorsing any candidates. Rather, we will invite them to endorse the political manifesto of our Commander-in-Chief and to join the peculiar upside-down Kingdom that blesses the poor and the peacemakers…

Something that I am hearing more and more that catches my ears is people (not Dobson or Wallis, two ends of Christian Politics) but voices like Claiborne questioning whether Christians should vote. DISCLAIMER: This is just stuff that I am processing as I hear what people are saying on the issue.

David Fitch chimes in on the conversation raising three issues as to why Christians might decide to vote or not to vote:
1. The State is an (Preserving) Order of Creation – Most Christians fall into this category. The state plays a role in God’s providence in ruling over the nations (Romans 13) and so we need to play a part in the rule of God. In this case the Christian would feel the need to vote.
2. Voting is Violence – At first I thought this one would be a weak argument for not voting. For example he cites Stanley Hauerwas’s illustration that it isn’t fair for 51% of people to be able to tell the 49% what to do. But he makes the connection that not voting takes power out of the governments hands. What if I am the 49% that is against war but 51% voted for a president that is pro-war. I have no choice but to go along with a government system that I played a part in voting in. Because so many people vote it gives government the representative power of the people. But what if only 10,000 people voted in an election. With such a low buy in from the people would a person be able to make or have such power whether to go to war or not since so few people have bought into the system. (I realize that this idea takes a lot of fleshing out and raises more difficult questions than provides easy answers.) If you saw voting as violence you would probably say no to voting.
3. “The Christian Nation” – This is where you try to enforce Christian values through government. Again this is the Dobson route (Focus on the Family: sexual ethics, marriage) and Wallis route (Sojourners: poverty, justice). In this case you would vote. Although you would be torn because neither party really supports the biblical position but just slices of the biblical vision.

Brian McLaren chimes in here as well.

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