THE SACREDNESS OF VOTING

Whereas strong consensus exists among thoughtful Christians that the church ought to inform the state’s conscience concerning social-ethical matters such as the plight of the vulnerable and poor, the sanctity of human life, racial reconciliation, the traditional family, the stewardship of the planet and the promotion of justice, freedom and peace, disagreement exists among Christian communions as to how the church ought to practically respond to her prophetic calling.

        The source of the Church’s disagreement centers in its uncertainty of its prophetic calling in the midst of a deeply divided nation.

A DEEPLY DIVIDED NATION  

Americans are in crisis, for “… at this juncture,” observes Os Guinness, “… the West has cut itself off from its own Jewish and Christian roots —the faith, the ideas, the ethics and the way of life that made it the West. It now stands deeply divided, uncertain of its post-Christian identity….”[1] The public square has increasingly become more hostile; nothing is sacred anymore, especially human dignity. Civility has long since faded from American cultureIdeologically opposed sides are no longer capable of civil dialogue with one another in the public square.[2]    

Leading up to the mid-80’s and preceding decades, the bell curve defined normal (norms) as centralized rather than to one extreme or the other—most people [were] average regarding life skills, academic performance, athletic ability, professional achievement, personal appearance; and as having a small or large family — most people [were] more “centered,” albeit, left or right centered, regarding social, religious or even politically ideological issues. 

        The emergent culture in the mid-80’s and into the 21st century ushered in a new phenomenon — an ideological pluralism. “Normal” was redefined by an inverted bell curve or “well-curve.”  The well-curve sees the majority population gravitating to the extremes, resulting in the political, ideological and social polarization of American culture.

On the left are progressive secularists, socialist Democrats, the liberal church, “Occupy … Washington D.C., L.A., Seattle, Minneapolis, etc.”; pro-choice advocates, pro-active euthanasia (doctor-assisted-suicide), same-sex marriage, #Black-Lives-Matter, anti-gun rights, open borders and a seemingly endless array of enigmatic forms of “spirituality” to include pantheistic environmentalists.  

And on the right is free-enterprise, capitalism; traditionalist Independent conservatives, the Tea Party, a lot of angry Republicans —and a lot of people, to include angry Republicans, who now view the Republican party as a soon-to-be extinct species; pro-life advocates; traditional male-female marriage, closed borders, cultural assimilation, advocates for the Second Amendment and much, certainly not all, of the evangelical (conservative) church.[3]

Our nation politically, ideologically and socially is polarized to the point of breaking; confusion dominates every layer of our culture and with each passing day, the sentiment on both sides becomes increasingly more intense: “It’s between ‘us’ and ‘them’ and we hate the other side!”

Why has the evangelical church chosen sides? A significant portion of evangelical (conservative) Christians have been misled into believing that politics are capable of solving pre-political cultural problems.[4] James Davison Hunter gives stark clarity— The culturally conservative side of the Evangelical Church bets “on politics as the means to respond to the changes in the world, but that politics can only be a losing strategy. What political solution is there to the absence of decency? To the spread of vulgarity? To the lack of civility and the want of compassion? The answer, of course, is none— there are no political solutions to these concerns, and the headlong pursuit of them by conservatives will lead, inevitably, to failure.”[5]

Politics, for “all its gritty realism is the proper calling of lay people…. Christians should be engaged in politics, but never equated without remainder with any party or ideology.”[6]  By choosing sides— that is, by becoming “equated without remainder with any party or ideology” — a significant number of evangelical (conservative) Christians have actually created an environment counter-productive to their otherwise sincere cause to rescue the culture by means of a political solution— That is, the hope of restoring the West, and particularly America’s recovery of its Jewish-Christian roots or at least the church’s post-Christian identity.

The Religious Left initiated the unsavory practice of “politicizing” the faith in the 1960s. And in the late 1970s, the Religious Right followed the Left in this grave error of “using faith to express essentially political points that have lost touch with biblical truth.”[7] 

The result of the “politicizing of the faith” has been the subordination of Christian faith to a particular political party— “Christian faith becomes an ideology in its purest form: Christian beliefs are used as weapons for political interests.”[8]

 THE CHURCH’S ‘POST-CHRISTIAN’ IDENTITY

President James Madison (America’s 4th President) was a rare statesman. Madison’s insightful link between faith, civil society, and republican (representative) government laid the foundation for a secular democracy that nonetheless depended on the integral role of religious faith and the church. Whereas government ought to be secular, this is however, why the state needs a transcendent moral-ethical referent— that is, faith (the religious source) and virtue (the seasoning presence of the church) is absolutely necessary for freedom to be sustained.

Therefore, our 2nd President, John Adams stressed: “We have no government armed with powers capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”[9]

        The church then, especially in the context of a democratic republic, is divinely called to be the prophetic conscience of the state (Romans 13:1-5). Martin Luther King Jr. wisely asserted: “[The] church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool.”[10]

        However, the prophetic conscience of the state, the church, has become a tool of right-wing partisan politics and consequently, the evangelical church has contributed to the political and social polarization in the nation instead of acting as a peacemaker. The church is to be for the political sphere (and culture) what it cannot be for itself The church is to be salt and light, that is, the church is to be the conscience (the moral-ethical guide) for the whole of the political sphere.

        God’s calling of the church to be the prophetic conscience of the state begins with the church’s recognition of the need for change in the culture beyond the passage of mere legislation; the entire political moral/ethical context in which politicians and society function must be reformed.[11]

        How does the church’s divine calling to be the prophetic conscience of the state relate to a mid-sized church located in a tiny community in Kitsap County? Three things required of any local church of any size that would contribute significant salt and light to American culture are as follows:

(1)         PrayPray for political unity in America; this ought to be an all-consuming priority for the church. Indeed, a unified nation is more likely to reverse and/or write into law the great social-ethical concerns of the church than is a divided nation.

(2)         Be Salt & Light— “Wherever you go, whatever you do, preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words” — St. Francis of Assisi.

(3)         Be PropheticThe church needs to hear God’s prophet with hearts inclined towards righteousness and obedient determination to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God” — Micah 6:8.

 WHY SHOULD YOU VOTE?

Finally, you and I ought to vote for three simple but profoundly Christian reasons:

(1)         Thankfulness— Acts 17:26 says, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.” God determined when you would be born and where you would live!

Are you thankful to God for your life and where you are so privileged to live it? You and I live in the greatest nation on earth! We don’t have to risk our lives to vote! And for goodness sakes, the ballot is delivered to our home where we live!

(2)          Believer’s Moral Responsibility— Whereas the church, in each local community and nationally, is called to be the prophetic conscience of the state, individual Christians are free to vote according to their own conscience— “Religious Freedom” (the 1st Amendment) does not originate with the state; the introduction to the Declaration of Independence recognizes our special creation in God’s image as the basis for certain unalienable rights.

Therefore, the state did not give us our unalienable rights, God has and our founding fathers, with gratitude towards God recognized this. How could any believer ignore this great and precious blessing? This is why I entitled this blog, The Sacredness of Voting.

(3)         Loss of Voting Rights? — What if you woke up one morning and turned on the news and heard that your right to vote was taken away? What would that mean to you as an American? It would mean that we no longer live in a Democratic Republic. We would be living in some form of totalitarian government— Our loss of voting rights would most probably point to the loss of all of our rights as Americans!

Therefore, when a Christian prepares themselves to vote, they should be overwhelmed with how sacred this right is. A Believer ought to bow in prayer and through tears give thanks to God and then ask for his guidance in how they ought to vote.  

 

         

 

 

[1]  Ibid.

[2] Os Guinness defines the Public Square as “… simply a metaphor for all forums in which citizens can come together to deliberate, debate, and decide the implications of their common life. As such, it covers both the formal expressions of the public square, such as the … American Congress … and the informal expressions of the public square, such as the op-ed pages of our newspapers, the radio talk shows, coffee-shop discussions and the burgeoning Web logs” The Case for Civility, And Why Our Future Depends On It (New York: HarperCollins, 2008), 14.      

[3]  Whereas many Evangelical Churches (theologically conservative churches) are blessed with the presence of Democrats, Republicans and Independents, some members are uncertain of how to relate to one another. This is an extremely sad circumstance, not unlike the racial divide discussed by Paul in Ephesians 2. Jesus, who is neither Democrat, Republican or Independent, ought to be at the center of our unity but some (perhaps, many) or either resistant to unity or simply uncomfortable. This is a discussion for another blog and I will not take up space here for it; suffice to say for now, the politics of the kingdom of God under the reign of the King, Jesus, should be shared by all Christians in unity regardless of their earthly political alignment.   

[4]  Os Guinness, The Case for Civility and Why Our Future Depends On It (New York: Harper-Collins Pubhishers, 2008), 100. Guinness asserts, in the context of my quote, that the “politicizing” of faith has been characteristic of the Religious Left since the 1960s. 

[5]  James Davison Hunter and Alan Wolfe, Is There a Culture War? A Dialogue on Values and American Public Life (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2006), 95. Quoted in: Os Guinness, The Case for Civility, 101.

[6]  Os Guinness, The Case for Civility, 100.

[7]  Ibid.

[8]  Ibid.

[9]  John Adams, “Address to the Military,” 11 October 1798, in William J. Federer, America’s God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations (Coppell, Tex.: Fame Publishing, 1994), 10. My quote taken from: Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide, Sustainable Freedom and the American Future (Downers Grove, IL.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2012), 117.

[10]  Martin Luther King Jr., Strength To Love (New York, N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1963).

[11]  Development of this point would require a book. I am writing a book that includes this discussion.