This post is part of a series, Considering Government, in which I am trying to think through my responsibilities as a Christian and a citizen. The first post can be found here if you missed it.
In this country, citizens elect representatives at local, state, and national levels to represent them in making policies and laws. When I vote for Person A, I am essentially saying that I want Person A to make decisions for me at that level. I cannot personally vote for or against a law or policy except in the rare referendum situation, but my representative represents how I would vote if I were there.
In considering for whom to vote, I think Christians therefore need to carefully weigh each candidate’s stated position and history on issues that the candidate, if elected, would be in a position to influence. Why? Because that person will be voting in your name, you have empowered him/her to represent you.
As Christians, we are called to account for our decisions. The Westminster Catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God” (see question 14, with Scripture references Lev 5:17 and 1 John 3:4). If I vote for any person to represent me and I know in advance that person is going to advocate and vote for policies and laws that do not conform to, or which actively break, the law of God, I bear part of the responsibility for that action. Again, the point of a representative system of government such as ours is that our vote is our consent for that person to act on our behalf. To be plain, if I vote for you knowing that you are going to enact or support policies and legislation that goes against God’s law, that’s on my conscience too, not just yours.
Voting is a heavy responsibility, and not just because you have to stand in long lines at your local polling station in your uncomfortable shoes. We need to give at least passing thought to the issues at hand. Clearly, Christians can disagree on some of these things. What is a godly response to the threat of terrorism? What does a godly foreign policy look like? Is it godly to raise taxes, and if so, by how much and for whom? Is welfare godly? How about universal healthcare? The Bible can and should inform our perspectives on those and other issues. At the very least, though, we must not turn away from blatant and egregious flaunting of God’s law. For example, God says taking innocent life is sin, and to me that means that if a candidate is going to take a pro-abortion stance on the job, he or she is NOT a viable candidate for me to elect. I can’t vote for a representative who will transgress the law of God in my name.
What if the representative makes a mistake and I didn’t know in advance that he was going to do it? W. H. Chellis recently made an argument on the De Regno Christi blog that nations bear “corporate responsibility”for moral failings. To that extent, we are all culpable for decisions made in our centers of government. However, we do not make it all better by refusing to vote, or by resigning ourselves to vote for the lesser of the two evils (which, I would point out in a blinding flash of the obvious, still results in voting for evil). In addition to praying for national repentance, we bear responsibility to vote for individuals who will NOT move our government into direct opposition with God’s law.
In an effort to stay within the scope of this piece, I will stop there. In future posts in this series, I hope to address the following topics, but if you have objections, comments, or suggestions for other topics, please feel free to comment:
-Is it right to expect representatives to abide by biblical principles of government when we live in a pluralistic and not explicitly Christian nation?
-If Christians should vote for people who will govern biblically, are we trying to usher in a theocracy? If so, what would that look like and would it be bad?
-If I don’t want to vote for the lesser of the two evils, and yet there is no alternative, should I abstain from voting, or what?