Yesterday, I reacted to the bullying refrain that a vote for anyone but Romney was equivalent with supporting Obama. My wise husband thinks it would be more helpful to walk through our decision process. The following 4 quotes are all from men we respect and have learned much from.
Our pastor laid out a case for “functional” voting. He lays the groundwork for working in a fallen world. The conundrum for Christians is always how do we strive for ideals while living here and now.
Prudence is no enemy of principle and incrementalism does not mean death to our ideals. There is no reason our consciences should be stricken by voting for imperfect parties and imperfect candidates.
What Am I Doing When I Vote?
We also found John Piper’s logic compelling. Similar to KDY, he takes a functional approach to voting in a fallen world and adds that most of the change is done in the discussion prior to election day.
So my suggestion to all who wonder if they should vote is: Tell as many people as you can the good reasons why you are disaffected with the whole thing; then go to the polls and take a burden-bearing, pro-active risk rather than staying home and taking a burden-dropping, reactive risk.
I Am Going to Vote
And then we read John Calvin on electing public officials. There is nothing new in 2012. His stance was very helpful and worth quoting at length, really you should read the entire post. As KDY and Piper point out, our vote does something; we need to think about it’s function and what we are doing when we vote. But, Calvin presses this further. He tipped the scales for us by stressing the privilege God grants us to be able to vote and weighs on us the responsibility that accompanies that freedom.
Albeit, for as much as without the fear of God all the virtues in man turn to evil, behold Jethro, who never heard one word of the Holy Scripture, nevertheless perceives full well that it is impossible for a man to perform his duty in governing a people unless he fears God. If a pagan man could speak this way, what a shame is it for us today that we should have less discretion than him? And yet a man may see with his eyes how the world goes. Do we consider it, when it comes to electing men who govern, that this must go in the first place, to wit, that the fear of God is there? True it is that men will profess so, and even nature compels us to say that we must have prudent men and virtuous men, as if there were any prudence or virtue if the fear of God does not reign. Again, to express the fruits of the fear of God even better, Jethro adds that there must be uprightness and truth, as if he should say that a man shall never be appropriate to govern unless he have soundness in him so the he is not doubting but proceeds with a good conscience.
Shall he that would not take a cowherd or a shepherd into his house upon bare hope, without knowledge or understanding of him what he is, shall he, I ask, go set a man in God’s seat, of whom he has no knowledge, and of whom he has no experience to judge what that man is? Now then, let us be well advised, when God gives this grace, or rather privilege, of electing men who govern (which is not common to all people), let us not abuse that gift of God in any way, or else we shall be amazed to see ourselves bereft thereof. And behold the reason why so many tyrannies have come into the world that the liberty was lost in all nations, that there is no more election, for which reason princes sell the offices of justice, and things are in confusion and it is a horror. And why has this come about but that when the people had the election in their hands, they abused it, and so were worthy that God should deprive them of the honor he had done them.
To be short, it should seem that we wish to expel God out of his seat when we set his enemies in it after that sort, and such as despise him, and such as seek nothing else but to tread his name and majesty under their feet. When this is how it is, is it any wonder that God sends such disorder into the world as we see? Now then, we could all the more stand to note well this doctrine, where it is said that when God gives a people liberty to elect officers, they must not abuse it, but must use discretion in choosing them. Yes, and for as much as we may often times be deceived, we must resort to God that he may give us prudence and govern us with his Holy Spirit, as though he had pointed out with his finger whom we ought to choose. And that is the cause why I said that elections shall never be well ordered except God preside over them by his Holy Spirit.
Election-day advice from John Calvin (on Deuteronomy 1:13)
Of course this begs the question, “how is Romney an enemy of God’s justice?”. Besides being a Mormon (which is no small ‘besides)’, Piper and Wilson point out his idolatry. In short, Romney wants to lead where we cannot follow.
But, that said, back to Piper’s observation. [“Obama: America, the only indispensable nation. Romney: America, the hope of the earth. This does focus our prayers for them.”] Both Obama and Romney are clearly civic idolaters — with the one significant difference between them appearing to be that Romney really believes it. Obama is willing to mouth the civic pieties during a campaign, but his actual idols are elsewhere. And so how did we get to the place where Christians prefer the idolater who actually believes in Baal?
But America Isn’t Jesus
Our question has expanded. How do we strive for ideals and live here and now, and 4 years from now, and 8 years from now, and how do our kids live here 64 years from now? At some point, we must function for the future, even if it means pain for us now. We want our vote for Virgil Goode to serve the function of “Wake up Christians! We will not keep swishing lukewarm water around in our mouths forever. It’s time to take a real stand for justice, against abortion in all circumstances, for financial integrity, for biblical liberty.”