Throughout the day, I’ve had countless Christians and particularly Christian leaders urging me and all their other social network connections to vote. It’s left me wondering, is voting our Christian duty?
Surprisingly, theologians differ. Some, characterized by the hard religious right (e.g. Dobson) and the progressive Christian left (e.g. Wallis) believe so. They see voting, and political involvement more generally, to be one of the primary ways that Christians are called to transform the world. Whether it be abortion legislation, gay marriage, poverty, or war, these groups ardently believe that Christians under under an ethical imperative to vote. This is the way we influence and shape society, they argue. We vote those into office who will enact the sort of laws that makes America a more compassionate and just place to live. Others, like Stanely Hauerwas, argue for a sort of withdrawal from politics because the church should influence the world (and politicians) by living out a Kingdom of Heaven reality in the hear and now. We shape the political process by exemplifying a better way. Abstaining from voting for Hauerwas is a thoroughly political statement.
In his book, To Change the World, James David Hunter argues that all three are misguided. They underestimate the power that ordinary people have outside the political process. Hunter urges us to embrace the social power that we all have by following in the footsteps of Jesus. He exerted tremendous world-changing power and influence without being dependent on the political process.
I’m with Hunter. Voting isn’t our Christian duty, but I would still urge Christians to vote. Voting communicates a fundamental Christian truth that every human life has worth, and every human voice should be heard.
Traditionally, voting has been a means of oppression. Women, slaves and other ethnic outsiders have been denied their right to vote as a way of discounting their place in society. Now that most of these barriers have been removed, voting is an elemental way we can celebrate the inherent dignity and worth of every person regardless of race, gender, class or any other societal barrier that usually differentiates people. The wealthy business man’s vote doesn’t count any more than the homeless woman’s vote, and the Ivy-League educated professor’s vote counts just the same as the factory worker’s. Voting is a beautiful expression of the intrinsic value of every human life.
And that’s why I voted today. I didn’t vote because my hope for a better world lies in the hands of some politician or the political process. My hope is in Christ alone. But I still voted, because in voting I celebrate the privilege our country affords every individual. I celebrate the equality of every life represented in every vote. I hope you voted too.
Image from flickr.