Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Election Chronicles: Why You Shouldn't Vote

by Ben Howard

This week in The Election Chronicles we've covered the reasons you should vote for Mitt Romney, Barack Obama, and then yesterday, the reasons you should vote for a third party candidate. However, there is one last option that we have yet to cover.

Today I'm going to address the reasons, as a Christian, you shouldn't vote.

Before I start into these reasons I want to make two things very clear: First, none of these choices is morally superior to any of the others. There are legitimate reasons for choosing any of these options and I will defend your choice of any of them, even if I disagree with you. Second, I will not be voting so this is my personal, non-objective position on the subject. I understand if you disagree, there are plenty of reasons to do so, but please do so respectfully.

As I see it, there are two arguments for why you shouldn't vote. First, you should not vote because voting for a candidate makes you culpable in all of their actions, including acts of violence. Essentially, if you vote for a presidential candidate and then that candidate takes us into a war, you also have blood on your hands. If that candidate oppresses the poor or the marginalized with their policies, your vote allowed him the power for that to happen.

Typically, this decision not to vote is one of protest against the power of empire. It argues that in a democratic system, such as ours, power is in the hands of the people, therefore to vote is to legitimize the power of the empire both for good and for bad. As a result, dissenting and not exercising this legitimizing authority undermines the power of the empire.

Honestly, I disagree with this reasoning. I don't think voting makes you responsible for the acts of the empire, I think being a citizen does. Everything the government does, both domestically and overseas is done in the name of all its citizens not just the ones who voted, or even the ones who voted the ruling party into power. A citizen of the United States is responsible for the acts of the nation, both good and bad.

Most of you are probably grimacing while you read that statement, but I would argue that it holds to Judeo-Christian understandings of corporate responsibility. The community is responsible for the decisions of its members and citizens are responsible for the actions of their nation. Remember, all of Israel went into exile, not just the kings and leaders.

So why don't I vote?

I do not vote because I do not consider myself a citizen of this nation and as such I do not believe I have the right to dictate the direction the nation takes. As a Christian, I consider myself a citizen of the Kingdom of God currently living in exile in a foreign land. 

As an exile, I hold to the ideas Jeremiah expresses in Jeremiah 29:7 when he says, "Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." However, while I pray for the peace and prosperity of the nation, and continue to be very engaged in the dialogue and discussion concerning how this should come about, I do not believe I am in the position to decide that direction because it is ultimately not my country.

I know that this sounds idealistic, and some of you probably view it as arrogant as well, but I promise that is not what I intend. I'm hoping to convey this as an attitude of humility. I may rant and rave and write a week long series about politics to try and influence the conversation, but at the end of the day, it is not my choice, though I will live with whatever decision is made.

I'd love to hear your comments and I'm so glad that so many of you have read through these pieces. I hope they've been helpful for you because they've been enlightening for me.


You can follow Ben on Twitter @BenHoward87 or email him at benjamin.howard87 [at]

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