The 2020 election is a big deal. It’s the most important election in American history, just like every other election. American democracy is resilient; we’ve survived moments of terror that turned out to be nothing. Remember all the people that moved to Canada when Trump was elected? Of course you don’t. It seems reasonable to expect our country to move forward at least relatively smoothly, just as it always has, right?
Maybe. Let’s face it: whatever 2020 has been, it certainly hasn’t been normal. Everyone is tense, worried that the country is about to go off the rails. If the wrong candidate wins, most people think we’ll be in serious trouble—maybe we’ll even see the end of American democracy. This might be an overreaction. But maybe it isn’t. We can look back to other times in our history—the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression, both world wars, civil unrest in the 60s and 70s—that seemed frightful but we managed to survive—thrive, even. But surviving past turbulence hardly guarantees that the nation will always bounce back. We already know we’re at a point of crisis. At this point, it’s yet to be seen how much long-term damage we’ll suffer.
It’s impossible to be unconcerned. But how should this concern be appropriately channeled? Passivity isn’t a Christian virtue, so simply sitting back and watching seems like a bad strategy. For many, this means it’s time to get out and vote. How can we let such an important moment pass without playing a part? If the church doesn’t contribute to the direction of the nation, doesn’t this ensure things won’t end well? These are fair questions. There are two primary responses I have. First, I want to attempt a realistic view of where we are as a nation, including the choices in front of us. Second, I want to propose an active strategy for the church; we can all agree that we should be doing something, I think.
Where are we?
The nation is deeply divided. It’s difficult for either side to give any consideration to the other side’s perspective. What happens if one side points out a potential flaw in the position of the other side? (Hint: it’s not regular, rational dialogue.) “Wait, did you just say that my candidate is guilty of something terrible? That’s awful! That just proves how desperate your side is to make up stories, because obviously there’s no way that accusation could be true.” Perhaps not everyone is guilty of this level of silliness. But I’m afraid many are—probably most. It’s to the point that criticism from the other party is seen as validation. The other side is so terrible that if they don’t like what we’re doing, we must be doing something right.
I’ll be blunt: I don’t see how Christians can look at this mess and feel comfortable joining either camp. There are far too many issues with both sides to warrant anything approaching an endorsement of either. Are there individual points where one side makes a better case than the other? Certainly. Does one side pose more dangers than the other? Possibly. But I don’t understand how Christians can feel either side represents their values. John Piper put it quite well:
I remain baffled that so many Christians consider the sins of unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like, to be only toxic for our nation, while policies that endorse baby-killing, sex-switching, freedom-limiting, and socialistic overreach are viewed as deadly.¹
But if one side is more dangerous than the other, should we take a pragmatic approach and support the side that is at least not as bad as the other? That’s the argument you’ll hear from those who think we should vote.
What should we do?
Let’s assume that victory for one party would keep harmful new legislation from being passed and even roll back current bad policies. Would this change the spiritual climate of the nation? Would banning abortion or same-sex marriage—if remotely politically feasible—push the nation closer to God and revival? I don’t think so. In our current polarized environment, forcing our morality on others would only contribute to the tension. I don’t see any way around this. Such a victory would be doomed to be temporary and would make retaliation more likely. If we use political force to push our beliefs, what makes us think the same tactic won’t be played right back on us? The more we infuriate the godless, the less likely they are to willingly listen to us. Do we really want to alienate them?
We also can’t forget the example of Christ. When put in a perfect position to spark a political revolution, He flatly turned it down. He told Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world.² Jesus could have used physical force to prevent His arrest, but that was not His way. Christ’s kingdom would come not through force, not through governmental takeover, but by sacrificial love, a love so compelling that it would spread throughout the world despite concerted efforts to shut it down. Do we think this has changed today? Do we think our Christianity is dependent on political change? If God would allow persecution to hit our nation after centuries of freedom, this could serve as a catalyst for revival.
Do I wish for tragedy to strike? Certainly not. Paul tells us to pray that our authorities would allow us to live a quiet and peaceful life.³ I’ll be glad—and quite relieved—if the election doesn’t push us closer to the collapse of society. But if it does, we won’t be defeated. We don’t fear those that kill the body—much less a recession or minor restrictions on religious freedom.⁴ God forbid that we focus on a losing battle for temporal security when our central message is one that transcends our earthly concerns.
But merely abstaining from voting isn’t enough. It’s easy to hold a conviction against political involvement while being more concerned about our own economic well-being than the souls of others. If our nation worsens, it’s imperative that we are prepared to defend our faith. Difficult times bring increased opportunity to share with others. Christ set a great example by spending most of His time with a select group of men. While He influenced crowds with His teaching, it was the transformed lives of the disciples that became the practical means by which the gospel spread. It simply isn’t true that we can only influence others by operating on a large scale. America may collapse, but this will not prevent us from reaching individuals. This is our ultimate goal: the salvation and discipleship of lost souls. We can’t achieve this through political coercion—we’ll just hurt our case—but we can continue to work with individuals, no matter how difficult things become.
So no, I won’t be voting. But let’s avoid passivity. The antidote to bickering politics isn’t indifference. It is devotion to the values of a heavenly kingdom, seen now only in part, but with a promise of complete fulfillment that we expectantly await. I’ll decline the excitement of tenuous political hopes for the transcendence of a kingdom that triumphs either way.
² John 18:36
³ I Timothy 2:2
⁴ Matthew 10:28
9 thoughts on “I Won’t Be Voting Tonight. Here’s Why.”
I appreciate your thoughtful words and conclusions.
I have been conflicted for sometime over the believers dilemma in voting for either of the major presidential candidates. There are many who say: “Look at Policy & Procedures; but, Personality (Character) doesn’t matter. I say CHARACTER MATTERS!!
As I prayfully have considered what to do about my conclusion, I believe a “write in vote” sends a bit stronger message than not voting for any presidential candidate. I have identified a living person whose name I am comfortable to “write in”. So, I will vote today and trust all things to the sovereignty of God, Amen
Excellent! Timely reminder of the necessity to be an active member of Gods kingdom
Super good article! A very good read and spot on! Thank you for your faithfullness! Keep on keeping on!
Thanks Drew. Viewing the the american political landscape as a battle to “win” is irrelevant and antithetical to the cause of Christ. I’m trying to understand the anabaptist surge into national politics this election cycle. Yes, it’s something I’m very cynical about, but are its positive motivations? I think there’s a reaction to passivity, that should be directed into non-coercive, Christ-honoring outlets. Kingdoms, powers, aggression, and violence should be confronted with active love. I hope we are peace makers in the coming unrest, rather than either militants or priests and Levites passing by on the other side of the road.
Thank you for your time and thoughtfulness in presenting your message. I’m thankful that in America, we have the freedom to publicly express our views in these ways.
In a democracy, citizens vote because they are given that responsibility. If they didn’t vote, the democracy would soon crumble and tyranny would return. As a person who has always chosen to vote in local and national elections, I would fully agree with you that we must not expect a ruler to bring revival or attempt to change the spiritual climate of a nation. As you said, a ruler does have the biblical responsibility of providing a quiet and peaceable life to his citizens. He is described in Romans 13, three times, as being a “minister of God”, or “ordained of God”, for a variety of duties. (He was, amazingly, called a minister of God in a time when civic leaders were utterly pagan, when there was never an option between a “lesser of two evils”.) When a ruler does his job to provide his citizens with a quiet and peaceable life, the Bible says it is for the purpose that men may be saved. That is our guide for how to vote. Who would best provide us with the freedom to preach the Bible and spread the gospel? The ruler’s job is to give freedom and protection, and our job as saints is to avail ourselves, as you said, of that precious freedom to pray and gather together for worship and go and teach all other nations!
I would also agree on the point that Jesus’ mission and His kingdom was never to spark an earthly revolution. But there is a massively obvious difference between casting a private vote for the best leader available, and engaging in a revolution.
I have never been able to believe that if God ordains an earthly role of leadership how it would be wrong or sinful for a Christian to participate in a vote for one. God didn’t say that the only correct way for someone to be made a ruler is to be born into a dynasty or to take it over in a revolution. Having democratic elections is the most quiet and peaceful way for godly people to participate in something that God himself has ordained.
When God gave His list of expectations for an earthly ruler in Romans 13, He did not give the same expectations that He did later for church elders and deacons. The “two kingdoms” are indeed different. It’s important that Christians understand this difference and not feel guilty for voting for the best civic leader available, even if he is unsaved or flawed in his personal life.
God bless you!
Mrs. Joella Bradford
Drew, I’m curious to hear your thoughts about the legitimacy of using the term “our country” or similar pronouns with reference to the USA. I have some uncertainty here and have not set myself against such references but am cautious. My reason: I believe it could blur the lines of allegiance to the kingdom of Christ. Jesus Christ is my king, president, and lord. The church for me is “mine” and “ours.” I aspire to respectful interaction with governments the world over and refuse to take the side of one nation in cases of war or smaller conflicts of all kinds both past and present. I strongly affirm your call for the citizens of Christ’s kingdom to make a total effort for the will of God to be done on earth and use the means He has given to us to that end. Policy does not change people; love does. Christ does. In terms of real power (the means to effect eternal change), government is defunct. In my view, Christians who invest even a sliver of their resources in it risk the total loss of their investment, bondage to the terms, and an impoverished church.
I wandered off from the initial question. It’s a matter of implied possession and ownership. Do I belong to them or they to me? What do I lose or win if they lose or win? And more broadly, what does my US citizenship mean and entail?
I have always scratched my head at this philosophy. Most of those who hold such are descended from families who FLED socialism and fascism and tyranny; torture and slavery and death. Yet, have developed religious and “spiritual” reasons to neglect, yea, oppose seeing to it that the nation to which their ancestors fled remains a place to which others may also flee. All the while gladly and readily staying in and participating in and reveling in and prospering in the society that others vote to maintain.
What are those pictures in your wallet? Washington, Lincoln, Hamilton, Jackson, Franklin and others? Why do you not make your occupation an occupation of love and good works in stead of charging to fill your purse? When Jesus was asked about a Christians involvement in government He had one thing in mind. Those pictures. Jesus had more to say about those images and superscriptions than any other single subject. Yet, the “otherworldly” minded Anabaptists work so hard to gain them that they change the foundational economy wherever they go. If we are going to talk worldliness then lets get off the subject of voting and talk deep seated worldliness.
You talk love and good works. Can you name one person in the world who was saved from death by abortion because of your love and good works? I can name millions of babies who have been saved by the voters. Unfortunately your refusal to vote will not only contribute to the continued, unabated, wholesale shedding of innocent blood but peace through strength is undermine as well. You shrink from revolution, which well you aught, but just remember that all it takes for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Are you sure that you are permitting peace to happen or are you actually undermining peace through lethargic passivism.
Oh, and one more thing. I notice that this country is not “yours” but it doesn’t look like you will be finding anywhere else to live very soon.
Thank you so much for being willing to boldly share this perspective.