Note: As time goes on I’m discovering additional articles that give voice to some of the thoughts in my head. This article may continue to grow, may even become a separate page, as more source material is added.
As much as I’m getting tired of all the political stuff and getting tired of endless debates on proper exercise of Christian ethics and morals during election season (primarily defending against those who seem to think “Good US citizen” = “Good Christian”), I wanted to put up this post to add a little more information.
It seems some folks think that my stance on not voting for the president this year only stands on one select rationale. They argue against the “moral dilemma”. They argue against “better use of time and energy”. They argue for a particular candidate or issue (and because each candidate has different stances on issues, it goes back to defending their candidate). They seem to ignore that my “not voting” stance is not universal but is focused on select electoral races. If any one of these points was the only point on which I based my decision, then conceivably they would be justified in their incredulity as to why I can’t see their point and, therefore, must vote (and, in some cases, vote for their particular choice of candidate).
But my decision is not something that I’ve entered into lightly as I mentioned in the previous article. And, to be honest, while that article stressed four points that I indicated as core to my decision, there’s a lot more subtlety behind it and I could easily have extended that article to five, six, and maybe even more points. For this lack of completeness, I apologize.
There has been much that I’ve discussed here on my blog concerning Christian discernment in politics that should be taken into consideration when looking at my decision. I hope folks who disagree with me (and, honestly, they are allowed to disagree) will take the time to research my position over those posts (easily categorized as “Politics”) as well as look at my evolution over the 5 years of this blog of my positions.
In the meantime, to make things a little easier, here are a few links for some additional articles on the topic that have been influential to me.
First, concerning Anabaptist/Mennonite doctrine on church, state, and participation in state based functions, I wrote a reflection on Article 23 of the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective published in 1995 by the Mennonite Church and the General Conference Mennonite Church (now both combined in Mennonite Church USA). This talks about approaching any political effort or government activities with discernment based upon conviction of who Jesus is and what he calls us to do.
Along with that, not an Anabaptist or Mennonite, but here is a pacifist view on elections and how they use “force” to exert will upon people.
Next, if you are going to vote, a recent article published by Odyssey Networks discusses what voting as a Christ follower looks like and the generosity needed in order to understand differences of opinion and recognizing the basic root and core of our faith. It calls us to not lose sight of what is important for Christians in our society of polarized politics.
Eugene Cho has a few guidelines as well concerning how to vote and what to consider as you do so.
Some time ago, there was an article posted on a blog affiliated with Notre Dame University giving a Catholic view of Christianity and elections as being “profoundly ‘Un-Eucharistic’”. While as an Anabaptist I don’t hold the Eucharist quite to the level of Catholics, I do recognize the danger there is for Christians who are called to unity to participate in a system whose apparent goal is to divide. I give a summarization of the article on my own blog but I would suggest reading the original as well.
Another article on Christian unity and the threat it faces in US politics was recently published on Election Day Communion’s site as a guest post. It is very touching and heart-rending from a pastor’s soul. This must be considered as well in this election season: by participating, are we adding to the division?
Pastor Naffzinger also posted on the effect that election politics have, even on supposedly “even keeled” pastors.
A recent article by Ben Irwin, one of the initiators of the Election Day Communion movement, gives a poignant confession from his own personal past and a call for Christians to consider the means that we use to achieve our ends and recognize that we shouldn’t simply make our goals focused on Jesus but also the way we achieve our goals.
Brian Gumm, a former professor at Eastern Mennonite University/Seminary, recently wrote an article on examining the “rabbit hole” down which participating in electoral politics takes us in our ever-increasingly-global culture. There is a lot more implied in casting a vote than simply who is going to win an election.
Christians depending upon politics and US government systems to solve the world problems was put forward a while ago as an apparent problem with Christian imagination. There are other ways, perhaps better ways, to address the ills of society that are not dependant upon electoral politics.
In the midst of all this, Vox Nova and Mark Gordon put up a critique of both of the major candidates, pointing out how each has aspects of the evil in this world. Do we choose one evil oer another? How can we decide? Or is there another choice?
Finally, Peter Enns, on his blog, writes an open letter to Christians who are stressing incredibly over making sure their candidate wins the election. There is a different perspective we are called to, one that is not dependant upon earthly governments. This must be considered when discerning our participation and our attitudes.
I hope that this has helped shed a little more light on my thoughts and my decision process in discerning the level of participation I have chosen for this election cycle (and, most likely, future election cycles). To be clear, while some older Anabaptist and Mennonite positions have specifically, on a denominational level, proscribed against voting, I don’t see the act as something that is morally or theologically wrong. In this, I depart from “traditional” Anabaptist positions (hint, hint…”abnormal”… ). But neither do I see it as morally or theologically required. These articles and links simply serve to give you a glimpse into my mind, again, as with the original post, to perhaps foster some understanding.
Tuesday, November 6th, is on its way. That is a day that will decide which people will hold elected office in a variety of roles around our country. I do not think that it necessarily decides the fate of the world, for good or for ill. And even if it does, I know the ultimate fate of the world is in God’s hands. In Him I put my trust.