Americans, Rights, and Voting

“MY Right”

I like millions of others voted today, the painless process of excersizing “my right.” there was a sense of satisfaction every time i clicked that little “inkavote” pen. i did wonder who keeps thinking of these out-dated forms of voting. I was glad that it was in a retirement home also – the elderly seem to me to know much more about politics than anyone else i’ve ever met. they always appear to have such a nuanced position…hmmm…i guess after generations of time you would become nuanced.

anyways i found this and though i know it doesn’t make much difference on who to vote for, i thought this was incredibly well put.

these are seven things to think about when voting (or for that matter thinking about politics at all). these are from a pastor in Indiana named John Hay Jr.

1. I ask of any candidate’s or administration’s positions and proposals, “What does it do to the poor?”

2. I do not expect the American president to be a Christian or my brand of Christian.

3. I recognize that the priorities of the kingdom of God and the agendas of American presidents and governments are not the same.

4. I look for a candidate who I think will lead compassionately, not just talk about compassion.

5. I recognize that most “all-or-nothing” issues cast during election campaigns are NOT “all-or-nothing.”

6. I ask, “How has a candidate responded to violence or used violence? And how does he or she plan to respond to and use it in the future?”

7. I consider how candidates envision America’s place and role in the world.

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Rogers Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

9 thoughts on “Americans, Rights, and Voting”

  1. When those you have voted for begin to call for the crucifixion of Christ, will you be willing to accept your share of the blame?

    “The ruler of this world is already condemned.”

    Why do you wish to be such a person?

    Don’t you know that when you vote, you “rule the world?”

    Are you stupid, or just ignorant?

  2. I was trying to give you an out while shaming you into seeing the wrongheadedness of the position you have espoused. I appreciate the value of your humility, but, I respectfully disagree. You are mainly ignorant, I suspect. It is nothing short of completely strange that a Christian would advocate voting for the rulers of this world. There is nothing in the New Testament to support such a teaching, and the whole of it to argue against it. We have not been called to advocate for social reform. Jesus did not preach to government. A government cannot be saved or share in eternal life. We have been called as individuals to emulate the person of God Himself. Everything Jesus said, He said to the individual. Even those things He said to the church, He said to the church as an assembly of individuals. Paul’s advice that we respect the insitutions by which the world is structured and not seek to forcefully change them, but to change ourselves and pray that individuals follow our example is not an argument for voting. In fact, it is quite the opposite. “Let the dead bury their dead, but you go and preach the Kingdom of God.” How can we be good citizens of the “Kingdom” of God if we insist on contributing to the rule of a corrupt and competing system? “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not welcome them into your home. Do not even give them your greeting of peace (some translations read” ‘wish them Godspeed’), for in so doing you become partakers of their evil deeds.” And if you ‘vote’ for them … ?
    Let us not be so carnal that we cannot see the clear distinction between praying for them and voting for them. To pray for them is to ask for God’s guidance, to vote for them is to ask for Man’s.

  3. John, I think I am still missing you on this.

    You say,

    “It is nothing short of completely strange that a Christian would advocate voting for the rulers of this world.”

    Is that really strange? Have you heard of the religious right? I mean, Christians voting for the rulers of the world is not some foreign concept here – Christians are the ones who think they can convert the world by voting in the right rulers.

    Of course – that misses the whole point. I don’t think we should try to convert the world through rulers – if you’ve look through my website you’ll realize I am a Quaker. Low-church. I don’t encourage or discourage voting for “rulers of this world” what I am advocating is critical thinking either way.

    Notice also the list I put there isn’t mine – its someone else’s, I think its thoughtful and maybe even useful for people who do vote. But to call me stupid or ignorant for it is a bit over the top.

    Its funny beacause I am not sure really what your comment has to do with what I said above – because what you’ve said, for the most part I agree with.

    Like I said – I have voted, but I am not sold on the idea that its something we should do. That’s why I said “it doesn’t make much difference on who to vote for.”

    I agree with you that the Kingdom of God is of primary importance – in fact I think its the only thing that matters. I am of the opinion that christians shouldn’t run for president, and if they do they should have platforms that act as a witness to the world expecting to never get voted in.

    Anyways – I may not be understanding you properly but I don’t really disagree with your last comment – other than the part about Christians voting. And like I said – I could take it or leave it.

  4. Wess,
    Yes, it is completely strange. The fact that it is also nearly universal does not make it any less so.

    I apologize for the mis-impression that it seemed I meant my “stupid” remark for you, personally. I am trying to shock some sensibility into the church.
    Yes, it is absolutely bizarre that Christians have so NOT understood Jesus that we believe all we have been taught since we were young—a host of patent lies about what is proper behavior for a Christian–voting for the rulers of this world being among these. I am in a continual state of utter amazement that so few (I personally know of none) people appear to understand that the Christian message pertains to eternal life–and requires an eternal perspective. Death is going to intervene. Has anyone bothered to notice this? If so, why is everyone so preoccupied with details that will be inconsequential on the day that happens? I’m surrounded by people who appear utterly unaware of what the prophets plainly tell us will confront us in the very near future—you among them, Wess.

    The ruler of this world is already condemned, as Jesus plainly, explicitly said. Okay, let’s make this a little more plain.

    Ruler(s) of this world = already condemned.

    Does that help? Not only “shouldn’t” Christians run for president, no Christian of even the most limited understanding could possibly want to. This world is passing away, and everything of it. Soon.

    Imagine standing before God with an armload of “Elect ME for Leader” bumperstickers and trying to explain … “Well, yes, but I didn’t think you were talking about someone benevolent like me.”

    You get close with “it doesn’t make much difference on who to vote for…” but you reveal your timidity when you cringe at using the true expression “it doesn’t make any difference.” Further, your quoted point (3) should be sufficient to make it all clear. There is nothing whatsoever to be gained by stating this with your mouth and pen, and then contradicting yourself with your feet when you walk into the voting booth. Over the top? Yes, in that I had not yet made it clear that I was speaking to you as representative of what is typical, not as an individual exception. But if you preach the Word, be careful. You will be held to a stricter accounting. Again, I am not taking issue with you personally, Wess, but with the whole church for being, yes, so abysimally STUPID in pretending that God’s Kingdom and the world system are reconcileable.
    Such a confusion of goals only and always leads to the crucifixion.

    Will you be with those who carry a cross, or who carry a hammer?

    No, those weren’t your words, Wess, but you felt them relevant enough to quote them. Why not just go the whole distance for Christ and inform your readers that we have a King, and we serve Him? Voting for another leader only makes that declaration a lie.

    Yes, the majority of Christians have been led to believe that they can make a difference by voting. Some will even vehemently insist that to do otherwise is wrong. (Oh, Lord … Would someone please tell Martha to shut up already? I’m trying to listen to …. Oh, ummm, yes, Sir, my apologies, excuse me … yes, thank You. )They also believe that the way to defeat terrorism is by killing terrorists. The whole CHURCH apparently believes these things! THAT’S PRECISELY THE PROBLEM. We have all gone astray and become utterly stupid. God forbid someone should accuse us of not voting! (…and of not supporting the troops and the cruise missiles and all the other leadweight baggage.) This is not Christianity. This is not Christ. It’s time to chase the whole vulgar mob out of the pews and into the woods and to start fresh with a pure word.

    I once asked someone who had asked me where I went to church if she had ever read the book of Ezekiel. She was offended by my appropriate reply. Too bad. She should have gone off immediately and read the book. In that case she might have understood my answer. The book pertains to us.

    “Are you indeed righteous, Oh ye congregation? No! But you weigh the violence of the earth in your hands!”

    (Hmmm, let’s see… if I do A, then group B will complain, and if I do B, then group A will complain. Hmmm, who has the bigger guns? I’ll do what they want me to do and say what they want me to say.) This is how we all behave, but it is not how those who are valiant for the truth follow Christ. In fact, it is not how anyone follows Christ.

    WE ARE IN A COLLECTIVE STUPOR! AWAKE, SLEEPERS, RISE FROM THE DEAD! AND THE LIGHT OF CHRIST WILL SHINE ON YOU.
    I can testify of my family, that they are deeply devoted to God, but their devotion is not based on true knowledge. I can say the same thing of every congregation I have ever visited. Personally, I don’t know any Christians who believe the truth. In my entire life I have never seen anything but Christianity-Lite. (Please don’t suggest I find an active, local church. I’ve been there, and there, and there. That is precisely what I mean. It isn’t because I have not looked. It is because the church—the whole church—is in a coma.)

    “The pastors are all foolish shepherds. Dumb dogs that cannot bark.”

    The wolf is ravaging the flock and stockpiling crosses and all the blind and foolish shepherds can do is mumble platitudes.

    Everyone is standing here holding coats for murderers, but no one sees any problem. (Or if they do, they haven’t said so.) (I’m not singling you out personally, Wess. I commend you at the least for not having removed my righteous rant after I slapped you in the face.)

    Christianity was given to us to remove our fear of death. Don’t mumble to me about theology, eschatology, ruminoominology or any other such blatherings—SHOW ME THE LACK OF ANY FEAR OF DEATH WHICH DEMONSTRATES AN INTIMATE PERSONAL CONTACT WITH THE ONLY ONE WHO IS ABLE TO DEAL WITH THAT AND GIVE ME SOME EVIDENCE THAT YOUR CLAIM OF FAITH IN THE RESSURECTION OF THE DEAD IS MORE THAN JUST TALK, CHRISTIANS! The church is such a cheap date these days. What is eternal life worth to the visible church? Apparently, …not very much. How can you claim to be unafraid of death when you are terrified of ridicule?

    “…convert the world by voting in the right rulers…” That’s a funny joke, Wess. I’m rolling on the floor. I appreciate your having brought that to my attention. This is a perfect example of what is wrong with having the church following the blind. We’ve managed to convince the whole world that there is nothing to believe. We will never convince others to believe Jesus when it is transparently obvious that WE do not. (We want to. Oh, we do so much want to. … But we don’t.)

    (You do it. NO, you! No, I’m busy. I know, … we’ll get Mikey to do it. He’ll do anything! Yeah. We’ll VOTE for him! That will show them!)

    ‘NEVERMIND, JESUS! Just ignore that last prayer request. We’ve got our own plan, now, but thanks anyway.’

    I haven’t really seen your site, Wess. I got here through a link, and read your misguided advice.

    My point is valid here or elsewhere. The Christian message is being lost in the confusion of all the Pharisaic leaven that’s mixed in with it. The only ONLY *** O *** N *** L *** Y *** way Christ’s message is going to be heard is to speak it completely unadulterated with any trace of the usual worldly cowardice and accommodating appeasement mingled in to placate the unwilling and the sceptics.

    “Unless you drink my blood …” Jesus was never worried that the critics might take him the wrong way and start criticizing. He acted always completely consistently with His sure knowledge of the future judgement and eventual clear plainness of all things.

    “Lord, tell my brother to divide the inheritance fairly.” (Giving orders to God? That takes a certain self-importance, wouldn’t you say?)

    “Watch out for every kind of greed.” (Addressed not to the foolish young man, but to those who were listening.)

    Jesus HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO SAY TO SOCIETY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    He speaks to you, individual. You are the person, the only person, that will enter another realm when you die.

    Don’t hang around with anyone that talks about a ‘rapture.’ They will surely
    disappoint anyone who trusts them.

    Sit down and figure out what your testimony will cost you. Don’t say another word until you understand that.

  5. John, thanks for your comment I am glad that there are Christians who have such strong convictions about not voting – I think this is a witness that is hard to find now-a-days. And I agree with your stance – partially, the part about not voting because of the kingdom. However, I totally disagree with your reasoning – Christ in fact has everything to say to society and the Church is to be the vehicle through which society receives its witness. Jesus was crucified because he was a political threat to the Romans and Jewish people – he was seen as an insurrectionist. That’s why he was crucified – crucifixions were used for criminals and insurrectionists.

    Further the entire Gospel of Luke is about Jesus’ message and its impact socially, who he interacts with, who he heals, who funds his ministry (women) and his political message as found in the parables and the sermon on the plan all point to the fact that the Gospel is both individually and communally located. It has spiritual and social implications. If I follow Christ and believe that what he says is true, I must “let the dead bury the dead” and in other words change my social position and behavior.

    When we believe something, it informs the way we act. When our actions change they have societal implcations. You and I both believe that Jesus does not want us to kill people, that belief has societal implications.

    So what I am saying is that – all the church’s political actions stem from obedience to the Gospel – living out justice, grace and mercy, offering peace in a war torn world and caring for the marginalized are all ways in which we as the church engage the world politically while sharing the Gospel. Placing all of our energy into voting people into office wastes the church’s resources and time and distracts us from “taking care of buisness” ourselves. I have a more moderate position than yours because I understand both sides – but think it of utmost importance to focus all of our energy first into transforming our own local communities with justice, love and peace that flow from the Holy Spirit.

    This is my position, I understand yours and appreciate it and I also appreciate your fervor. Thanks again for the comments John.

  6. Wess,
    You are indeed a patient and receptive person. And I am a brute. But the idea that the Christian gospel is directed in any omnidirectional way at the society in which we live is very misguided. Jesus repeatedly refused to even speak with those to whom He had nothing to say (about which, though there is much to say, I will not do that here). Jesus spoke to the individuals who collecively constitute His body, the church, and to many of those who sought to know what He was saying. To the extent that we, the church, are a body of many members, Jesus spoke to a “society” in that He spoke to each and therefore all of us. But His message is not for the “society” in which we live, or those who identify with this world’s systems. They which are not spiritual can neither discern the message, nor have they any use for it. Of what possible value could it ever be to improve the present knowledge, comfort or convenience of the eternally damned?
    Jesus’ message has to do with the ressurection of the dead and the eternity of life that this entails. Period.

    No man can serve two masters. But that’s what all these social services organizations are doing when they take a govenment’s money to “serve” the poor or some other alledged group of helpless victims, and then have to answer to some worldly government about how the money is being spent. Jesus said, “Feed the poor.” But He said very little about how or when to do that.

    Yes, the Kingdom of God is a society. It is a nation. It is, if one wants to use such terms, a political entity in some very general sense of that word—but God’s nation is not rooted in nor even concerned with the affairs of this world, necessarily temporary as they are. This is, for one thing, why we have no particular territory or capital city in this world (although there are metaphorical such that point to the reality of our heavenly national existence). Nor did Abraham seek such a place. Had it been possible, he surely would have. But he knew that to seek out a city in this world was to discredit his witness about the certain existence of a heavenly one.

    Jesus’ message to the individual is, basically, “Give up everything you have, refuse the corrupt society in which you find yourself, long exclusively for the perfect society in heaven, be willing to settle for nothing less, separate yourself from the world and be found waiting to enter the heavenly kingdom, and then (and not before then) you will be acceptable and be given the permission and means to enter the eternal world. Far too many who call themselves Christians are so busy trying to reform this world and so dedicated to that purpose that they are absolutely terrified of the thought of leaving it. Such people are utterly useless.

    For a useful perspective, read the Revelation to John. Once we see what the inevitable end will certainly be, we can stop wasting our time and opportunities on efforts that are doomed to failure before they even begin, and start doing the kind of work that produces eternally lasting benefits.

    There is no part of this message that is directed toward changing the corrupt world in which we now live into something acceptable, or even something less abhorrent. That is a given. It will never change. God has already condemned this world to be destroyed, and who is any man to uncondemn it? This is biblical teaching. It is simply for us to realize that this world is an unacceptable place in which to live, and to therefore reject it totally. To this extent, there is nothing social or political whatsoever in Christ’s message, since there is nothing of this world that needs to be changed—only the whole of it that needs to be rejected.

    God does not want us to try to fix this world. He wants us to want to leave it.
    Those who are busy trying to fix this world prove only that they are deaf to what God is asking of them.

    If the rulers of Jesus’ day found Him to be a political threat it is because He clearly required that each individual give his allegiance to Him alone. If Luke pays special attention to the kinds of people that Jesus was reaching, it was to show Him to have a very broad appeal. All talk of the “social dimension” of Christ’s message, when these words refer not specifically to the the church itself, but to some supposed ‘mission’ of the church to provide materially for the citizens of this world is a corrupting, scholarly lie. The world does not face death. The Roman Empire lasted far longer than any mortal ever lived. A society will not collectively die and collectively face the judgment. And neither will we. It is individuals who will die and be judged for what each has done. Christianity is a teaching about individuals having each one a personal relationship with God, the Creator, and being one in Him. Every attempt to make of Christ’s message to individuals an impersonal omnidirectional broadcast to all, demeans and misrepresents Him. God is an individual Person. He seeks personal relationships with individuals, Wess.
    The Body of many parts is a consequence of individual efforts sharing a common purpose, including the individual efforts of God Himself. This is reality, as opposed to the worldly view of seeing the individual as but a disposable and replacable byproduct of a pre-existent social system which commands the highest allegiance. God has clearly shown us that, to His way of thinking, a person’s first loyalties exist on a personal level between an individual and that individual’s personal friends and neighbors. In this way of thinking, the notion of a society as a corporate thing distinct and apart from the individuals comprising it is a hideous and alien concept.
    “I call you friends…”
    –John

  7. P.S.
    But John, don’t you realize just how radical (and therefore unmoderate) your position is? This is extremeism in the extreme! Why, anyone who advocated and practiced the things you say would be thrown out of the church. They would be hounded and reviled by believer and non-believer alike. For crying out loud, John, they would be killed!

    Yes. Precisely. Exactly so.

    –John

    P.P.S Many of the things Christ said make little or no sense unless one hears them within the mind of someone who is dying.

    The saying: “Unless you hate … even your own life, you cannot be my disciple,” must sound rather odd to the crowd gathered on the hillside, but it makes perfect sense to someone on a cross who expects to be dead before sunset.

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