Fourteen states have primary elections in August. My state of Michigan’s is tomorrow. Voting is on my mind tonight.
When I was growing up my parents always voted. My mom waited until my dad got home from work and they went to the polls together. That made an impression on me. Later my mom was a poll worker, back in the day when ballots were hand counted.
As a citizen, I have always thought elections were important. But what should we do as Christians? Certainly various Christian public figures have had opinions. Denominations also have opinions about issues. And, as with everything else, there is not a consensus about Christians and voting.
Here’s what I think.
I think, as a Christian, I must use my vote to help the marginalized and the poor. When I consider my vote, on a referendum or for a candidate, I must consider what will benefit the marginalized, the poor, and the oppressed the most. I need to consider the common good when I vote. I need to do my best to not harm others through my vote.
This means I may vote “against” my short term best interests. Is it right for me to vote for a proposal or a person who will lower my taxes if others are harmed by tax cuts? Should I vote for someone who will make it more difficult for people to receive assistance?
Democracies were not “invented” in Jesus’ time. We don’t have Biblical instructions for how to vote, just like we don’t have Biblical instructions for how to drive a car, or use social media. But that doesn’t mean we should vote without serious prayer and reflection.
We know Jesus cared about the poor and the sick and the hungry. We know Jesus valued peacemakers. (Reread the Sermon on the Mount -Matt 5-7 -before you vote.) The prophets tell us God’s vision for the world, where swords are turned into plows, where nations no longer train for war. (Isaiah 2:4)
Politics is talked about as if it is a bad thing these days. And if it is a bad thing, we have our rationale for ignoring it and no voting. But politics, at its best, is the way we work out how we are going to live together. Our word “Politics” comes from the Greek words for citizen and city.
Torah is about politics because it is about how Israel was to live together as a nation. Jesus is the fulfillment of Torah, its culmination. By looking at Jesus we see how we are to live together as πολῑ́της –polī́tēs, citizen.
Who is my salvation for? Is it only for me? Or is my salvation tied into the life of the world?