Monday, October 24, 2016

How Should a Christian Vote? (Part I)

We are only about two weeks from the presidential election. While I strongly believe that how any citizen votes is a private matter between them, their conscience, and (if they profess to be Christian) God, I cannot help but take note of a good deal of moral confusion concerning what Christian principles require of us in making a decision on how to exercise our freedom to vote.

The first thing I have to stress is that in the United States of America (at least), your vote is private. No one has the ability to compel you to disclose anywhere, at any time, how you voted. So if you are Christian, how you vote in this election is really a matter only between you and your faith.

That said, there is a necessary distinction between how you privately exercise your privilege to vote, and how you urge others (publicly or privately) to exercise that right.

If, for example, you choose to speak out and advocate how others should vote, then you are under a moral (Christian) obligation not to mislead or deceive. You cannot urge others to vote for Candidate A on certain grounds, and then privately vote for Candidate B on different grounds (such as that while Candidate B is less desirable, he has promised you a position in his government if he gets elected).

Thus, faced with the execrable choice we have in this presidential election, absolutely no one could fault you if you choose to vote in private for some minority candidate who has none of the moral deficiencies of the candidates advanced by the Republican or the Democratic parties. By voting in secret for the candidate whom you truly believe to be best qualified for the position, you are doing your duty as an informed citizen, and no one can blame you for doing that.

But once you take it upon yourself to advocate how others should vote in this election, you have a far greater responsibility: you must be true to the principles you espouse, even though your individual vote still by law remains secret, and cannot be disclosed for any reason. The accountability here required of you is that of Christianity itself, since even if no one else knows, God knows how you voted, in relation to how you told others to vote.

With those principles laid down, let us see how a Christian might propose to deal with the quandary of whom to vote for in the current presidential election.

Perhaps the first principle a Christian ought to apply is this: Judge not, lest ye be judged. A Christian has no business comparing himself to a candidate, and voting according to whether he considers the candidate inferior (or superior) to himself. Candidates must be evaluated on their own merits as to their abilities to lead our country; let God decide which ones are morally fit. (Needless to say, a lack of morals has not in the past operated to keep candidates from being elected President.)

The second Christian principle would be this: Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. Although I have said many times that this election is in God's hands, and that this country is under His judgment, that does not mean a Christian should decline to vote. It is every citizen's duty to vote. And as I just noted, citizens must exercise their vote based on criteria that evaluate the candidates according to their abilities to lead this country for the next four years -- not on whether a candidate is of a given sex, or race, or religion.

Those are the basic Christian principles that apply to voting for President in this election. But they are necessarily general; what is lacking is an application of them to specific facts and circumstances.

If, for example, you reside in a State such as I do, which is overwhelmingly predicted to go for one of the two major candidates, you have a light burden, because the State's total vote is out of your hands. You are free to vote your conscience, and leave the outcome to God's providence.

But if you are in one of the States expected to be more closely contested (and you should know by now if you are), then your vote will count for much more. You should analyze the candidates carefully, using the criteria mentioned earlier: what are the candidates' agendas? Their legislative proposals? Their proposed appointees to the Supreme Court, and to their Cabinet? How well can they be expected to deal with the Congress that is likely to be elected? Will they support a more balanced budget? How well can they be expected to deal with various foreign leaders? If an armed conflict breaks out somewhere in the world, how are they most likely to respond, and will that be good for America?

It might help you to set up a checklist of all the appropriate criteria you can think of, and then systematically and objectively rate the candidates you are considering using those criteria. I use the word "objectively" advisedly -- considerations of political correctness have no place in your decision.

That is enough for this first post. In my follow-up, I will go through more of the technical details of the Electoral College and how various State-by-State results might affect the outcome of the race -- and consequently, how Christians in certain States may choose to vote.


  1. Your post took me back to childhood. My grandmother was, whose grandfather was a Michigan State legislator, heavily influenced by political debate and discussions around their family's table and by 'The Great Depression'. While I knew my grandmother's mother who was a young wife and mother, I'd never met her dad because he passed away. Her mom remarried a man who never had children but he was my great-grandfather nonetheless, and he was a true gentleman. All of these people made many impressions upon me. One was of their pasts and another was how they related to me in the present (at that time.) I have passed along what I've known of their histories to my own family members (who will hopefully pass along that info to their families, God Willing!)

    We had so many political discussions and useful conversations and, when I voted for the first time at 18, I felt okay about voting for the Presidency but I didn't know any of the judges on the ballot. I had an A grade during my senior year in high school (in US Government class) but I'd suddenly realized that there was so much more to the 'system' than choosing a leader for the country. I chose to ignore those sections of the ballot with the listed judges on it. (I'd voted in Southern California.) This experience made me hyper aware that people should not vote if they have no interest in learning about who's running and for what!

    It's always a learning experience, and we have gotten so far away from our country's founding ideas and ideals that it is tough to think about how to help others get back to basics. One thing I recalled was that there was ALWAYS the reminder from my grandmother that your vote is private, and she kept hers mostly to herself (until the year she voted for George W Bush). She'd mailed in her ballot early and then told me she voted for Bush, and then she passed away that November 8, 2000. We'd also previously discussed the fact that she voted for Reagan twice, but she had really tried hard to convince my grandfather to vote for him the first time. He voted for Reagan twice; at least, we think he did. However, the idea of one's vote being private was discussed quite frequently in their home; and I recalled my grandmother not wanting to tell my grandfather that she didn't want to vote for Carter's re-election and that he did want to re-elect Carter. However, she was persuasive with him; he respected many of her opinions. It was a memorable upbringing in American politics within the family.

  2. A legal question. Win or lose, I expect Clinton and company to be pardoned by the outgoing president. No doubt with pious assertion that he is stopping the persecution of good and faithful servants. Does a presidential pardon apply to impeachment, which is legal and political act? Given that the Republicans may not hold the Senate, let alone receive a 2/3 majority, it is an academic point, but still?

  3. No, Tregonsee, the pardon power does not extend to impeachment, which simply removes the person from office. A pardon can prevent any criminal prosecutions once the official is impeached, but it won't stop the process of impeachment.