Why I Voted

I blogged about politics a lot this year.  Our Christian faith bears heavily on our ability to put much or any hope in earthly governments.  At one point, I believe I even said I wouldn’t be voting on November 4.  Well, here’s the shocker: I voted yesterday.

It basically came down to my desire to “give a voice to the voiceless.”  Specifically, I was thinking about the millions (perhaps billions?) of people around the globe whose negative view of this nation is shaped primarily by the “cowboy presidency” of the last eight years.  I was thinking about our friends’ friends in Tanzania (which we visited in September 2007) and Uganda who were just as invested in the outcome of yesterday’s election as anyone in this country.  I was thinking about the millions of marginalized people in this country who, for reasons we cannot imagine, face economic, physical, spiritual, and emotional obstacles that kept them from going to the polls yesterday. (like our good friend and neighbor Sylvia, whom I’ve blogged about, who is raising two young children by herself)

Ryan Bolger put into words my rationale for voting better than anyone had before:

We need to ask, for a particular context and time, is voting a liberating or an oppressive activity? Was voting a Jesus-like activity in South Africa when blacks voted for the first time in 1994? I would say it was. Is voting a Jesus-like thing when a one-party government has 99% support? Probably not — voting would reinforce the illusion of support that those in power hold.

So, the question must be asked — is this a time to vote, is it a liberating activity for those in our country or or not? Does this election offer a means by which those who have been shut out and lack a real role in the political process receive their voice?  I think for many in the country, voting in this election represents a turning of the tide. I believe we have, in this election, an opportunity to elect a person who represents voices that have rarely been heard, at this level, in the political process. Giving a voice to the voiceless is something Christians need to rally around. And back up with a vote. Today. (read the full post here)

We’ll see how this all turns out.  A lot depends on how Obama presides as president.  I just couldn’t go another four or eight years carrying the cynicism that I’ve carried the last eight.

(I will note that my lovely wife came to a different decision on whether to vote or not.  I support her in this.  Voting would have violated her conscience, and violating one’s conscience is never advisable)

One thing’s for sure: As I alluded to in my last post, we’re not off the hook in our responsibility to care for the least of these, love our neighbors, and join God in rebuilding our world.  Our government OUGHT to be equipping the American people to be the change they want to see.  When it fails to do that, we call it out.

—————-

I have read several pieces of election commentary written by conservative Christians in the last day that all have a similar tone.  Most of them touch on the idea that we as Christians belong first and foremost to the kingdoms of this world, but to the kingdom of God.  That we must not lose hope because “our guy” didn’t win yesterday.  That we must continue to preach and live like Jesus, fight for the cause of the oppressed, and enjoy our Christian citizenship over and above our American one.

Funny … I agree.

The irony is that maybe it takes a political disappointment like this to cause those on the Religious Right to get their priorities in order.  Let’s pray that left-of-center Christians do not begin to put unhealthy doses of hope in Obama to solve the major moral crises of our time.

The illusion of power is a cunning mistress.

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by stuffjourneymemberslike on November 6, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    Romans 13:1-7 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”

    Reply

  2. Posted by Chris on November 7, 2008 at 2:34 am

    Hamas praised Obamas win. Hey, you know you’ve made it when you get congrats from terrorists.

    Reply

  3. Chris – Are you referring to the fact that Hamas is now willing to hold talks with Obama? (after a two-way holdout under the last administration)

    link

    Reply

  4. Posted by Daniel Gray on November 7, 2008 at 3:28 am

    Posted November 6:
    “Well, here’s the shocker: I voted yesterday.”

    I have some bad news for you… your vote didn’t count. 🙂

    Great thoughts Steve.

    Reply

  5. Good point, Daniel. I meant to say Tuesday. =)

    My vote didn’t count for other reasons, though, but it was symbolic more than anything.

    Reply

  6. Posted by miller on November 7, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    please tell me you didn’t vote for obama!

    i know you were smart enough not to vote for mccain… just tell me you didn’t fall for the democrat schpeel!

    what about “the office changes the man more than the man changes the office!”

    why didn’t you give us a heads up as to what you intended before election day?

    obama will expand the war to include iran and step it up in afghanistan. he will leave forces in iraq… did your vote give a voice to the people in those places?

    please tell me you voted for someone who, at the very least would bring our military home…

    sorry, just had to needle you a little

    🙂

    Reply

  7. Posted by Kevin Williams on November 7, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    Steve, I also decided to vote. I was planning on staying home, but in the end I felt much the
    same way as you. Trickle down Justice has been
    on my mind alot the last week. Thanks for those thoughts as well.

    Reply

  8. Miller –
    Your assumption is that anyone who voted for Obama did so because they were “duped” by the Dems. This simply is not true, not in my case or many others’. People saw in Obama a radically different direction for our nation, one of humility, dialogue, and justice. (many would apply the antonyms of those virtues to the last 8 years)

    Already, we are seeing the world rejoice at this new direction. As I mentioned above, the terrorist organization Hamas has already agreed to sit down and talk with Obama. (assuming the US lifts the ban on talks with Hamas) And for the first time since 1979, the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, sent a congratulatory note to Obama saying, “We hope the new government can distance itself from present statesmen’s wrong approaches.” With any luck, Obama will sit down with Ahmadinejad early in his presidency and war will not be an option.

    So right out of the gate, it seems that the world — even the “worst of the worst” — now views the US differently with Obama at the helm.

    Will he cure all of our ills? Do I blindly accept the entirety of his platform? Of course not! But I cast a vote for him as a symbolic statement that at the very least, we can’t keep on with the careless “cowboy tactics” we’ve seen the last 8 years.

    Sorry if I disappointed you, Miller.

    (oh, and for the record, I still stand behind the “the office changes the man more than the man changes the office” statement. That’s why I still put the bulk of responsibility for social change on our own shoulders and have little hope that politics as usual will be overturned anytime soon.)

    Reply

  9. Once again, David Fitch echoes my sentiments to a T, and much better than I. His assessment of Obama?

    Cautious optimism for small changes. The need for prayer. Continuation of our own kingdom work.

    Read his thoughts here.

    Reply

  10. *sigh*

    I’m with you Miller. Lofty rhetoric, and the symbolism of a black president are laudable, but I trust Obama just a little more than I trust McCain, or Bush for that matter. Obama will end up being a neocon, just like we’ve had for the last 28 years… more war, more debt based government spending, more blind jingoism, more violence in the name of justice (whether militarily or economically). Its just straight unchristian. I’m disappointed Steve.

    Reply

  11. Hey Steve.

    Long time reader and first time commenter, finally coming out to talk on an old post. 🙂

    I too voted on November 4.

    I didn’t think that I would.

    I asked Brian McLaren at a preaching conference in Nashville what he thought about “intentional non-participation” and he went off!

    His perspective was much the same as yours in this post–voting gives a voice to the voiceless.

    So I thought about it and ended up calling one of my poor friends. She has just recently moved into a new place after being on the streets for three years.

    I explained that I was undecided on how to vote and that I wanted to vote on her behalf as a way of honoring her voice. She was delighted. Then she told me how I should vote.

    So that’s how I voted.

    Admittedly, it didn’t feel as magical as I hoped it would…in fact, I felt kind of funny about it in the moment. Now with a couple weeks of retrospect, I think I feel better having voted on her behalf that not having voted at all. But I might feel differently tomorrow.

    Regardless, our trust is in God.

    Love your blog, friend. Keep it up. You’re an encouragement to many.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Tom T on December 1, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    I think you have reason to feel ambivalent toward Obama in consideration of his disregard for the rights of the pre-born.

    Reply

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