If anything I say here offends you, I wasn’t trying to. There are two things you don’t talk about over dinner, but if that extended to newspaper columns, I wouldn’t have much to write. Religion and politics offend easily, and taken together the problem is even worse. Actually, this is my point, that under no circumstances should we put either at risk by mixing them.
Read no more than that, and you’ve read enough.
In 2004 I saw bumper stickers around town that read, “Christians remember November.” And this agitated me to no end.
Imagine the uproar you’d see if “Christians” in that phrase were replaced with “Hispanics” or “Pro-Choicers.” If you are the thing, vote. If not, never mind. The implication is insulting and divisive.
Jesus didn’t come to bring peace, but division, this is true, but that sort of divisiveness benefits nothing, least of all Christianity.
Yet November has come, and most people, at least in this area, are Christians. If a follower of Christ should aspire to imitate him in everything, the question of WWJVF – who would Jesus vote for? – is indeed very important.
In his 2004 campaign for the U.S. Senate, Alan Keyes rightly claimed were Jesus Christ alive today, he wouldn’t vote for Keyes’ opponent, Barack Obama. But neither would he vote for Mr. Keyes. Neither, I argue, would he vote at all.
I once read a biography of the radical abolitionist editor William Lloyd Garrison. It gets downplayed somewhat, but he was also highly religious and refused to vote or use his newspaper to support any party because he felt the requirements of public office were inherently immoral. When asked if he thought it a sin to go to the polls, Garrison would only reply, “Sin for me.”
Now Garrison isn’t Christ, but I see a much closer resemblance there than with Jerry Falwell. In the days Jesus spoke, you could count on pagan, downright-rotten Romans to take care of you and not have a guilty conscience since you had no voice in how the empire went about things. God placed rulers and masters there for a reason, you rendered unto Caesar, and that was that. Once Christians got some standing and had to serve in the military, the doctrine of just war and like things had to be formulated, and really, Christianity changed forever. Not for the better, but it had to.
Governments must rule practically and with the threat of force. Christianity is exceedingly impractical.
Politics are the art of compromise; they need flexibility on values and truth as much as issues. In these things, Christianity is uncompromising.
Laws are coercive, and at least ideally, Christianity’s truth should be so self-evident it persuades. A kiss is no longer beautiful when compulsory.
I am, I suppose, a “fundamentalist” Baptist and believe in the traditional values of Roger Williams, Isaac Backus and John Leland in respect to church and state. “Liberals” like Pat Robertson and James Dobson who want to mobilize Christians to pull the sublime down to the material set my blood boiling. They would drag heaven through a sausage factory and boast. What greater blasphemy is there?
As Garrison said, voting was a sin for him. I’m not convinced it is itself a sin. But I am convinced no person can be a good Christian and a good citizen both when inside the voting booth.
Religion informs political principles, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but neither of the major parties are Christian, even more Christian than the other. One of them likely agrees with your political principles more, and that is how you must vote if our democracy is to survive and be healthy. So long as everyone acts this way, we have no reason to fear any religious majority – Baptist, Catholic, Hindu, Muslim.
Who would Jesus vote for? He wouldn’t have to. He’d persuade people’s hearts. This is the mission of all churches. Church members are also citizens and within all of their rights to vote, but when they vote to publicly coerce others into following private revelations, they have sinned greatly, and we all suffer for it.