For several years now I’ve been wrestling with the intersection of Christianity and political involvement. The first time I addressed this concept in any kind of depth was in this blog post in February of 2015. For the most part, I stand by the conclusions in that piece. For those of you who don’t want to go back and read the whole thing, here’s a basic summary:
“Jesus was an unexpected Messiah who operated not from a standpoint of political power, but from a standpoint of relational and attractive power. Likewise, the early church flourished and grew using relational and attractive power in a politically hostile environment long before it ever had any real political influence and power. When it finally did gain political influence and power, it was often used in terribly un-Christlike ways. The moral of the story seems to be that the more political power the Christians attain, the less effective we become at doing what we were actually called to do: ATTRACTING people and WINNING their hearts by living and loving in a NOTICEABLY DIFFERENT way than the world.”
In February of 2015, I was reasonably sure that Christian political involvement was, at best, a distraction from our true mission and, more likely, remarkably damaging to our witness. The 2016 election of Donald Trump, who had the support of 81% of white evangelical Christians, brought me from “reasonably sure” to “absolutely convinced.” I am now more sure than ever that the pursuit of political power is antithetical to Jesus’ vision for his church. I believe that abstention from the formal political process is the most faithful Christian position.
But I also realize that as a straight, white, Christian, middle-class, male citizen of the United States, the current political status quo works to my benefit. In other words, I have the privilege to abstain from the political process without incurring any real personal risk or harm. This is not true for everyone. To varying degrees, the political deck is stacked against already marginalized groups of people: the poor, women, people of color, LGBTQ+ persons, non-Christians, and immigrants. For people in these groups, the political status quo often works against their well-being. Their abstention from the political process only perpetuates systems that cause them real harm.
So I find myself at a crossroads. As a follower of Jesus with tremendous privilege, I believe that I have a Christian responsibility to work for the well-being of the marginalized. But also as a follower of Jesus, I believe that the pursuit of political power, even in service of good, can be distracting and damaging to the church’s mission and witness. Is there a way that I can leverage my privilege for the benefit of the marginalized without compromising my own convictions about political involvement?
I think there is.
This November, I’m “giving away” my vote.
I often take the privilege to vote for granted, mostly because, as I already mentioned, the political status quo already works in my favor. But I’m also hesitant to vote because I have reservations about how that makes me complicit in the actions of the candidates for whom I vote. I don’t buy that whole “lesser-of-two-evils” nonsense. But, for those who are marginalized, the right to vote provides an opportunity to make things better for themselves and their communities. In light of that, I am going to “give” my vote to Vauhxx Booker, a local leader of the Black Lives Matter movement here in Bloomington, Indiana. Vauhxx works tirelessly for marginalized communities here, and he’s done an exceptional amount of homework on the policies and candidates on the ballot. I believe he has the best interest of these groups of people at heart, and he has no moral qualms about participating in the political system. Because I can’t actually give him my vote, I am going to do the closest thing I can to that. I’m going let him tell me exactly how he would vote on every candidate and issue and then cast a ballot accordingly.
Share your thoughts on my approach in the comments below.
For the 1st time since I started becoming a disciple of Christ our church had a meeting on the election in 2016. Pastor did a fairly good job….no bashing either party….no endorsement. I almost thought he was going to get tossed when he said “Brothers, there is no biblical defense of the 2nd amendment”. That being said I applaud this. Jesus died for more than posting bible verses. A few years ago I started taking a lot off the throne that didn’t belong there…Americanism, Capitalism, etc. I know its angered many …been asked if I left “Authentic” Christianity. BUT….my son that goes to Columbia University….has noticed.
I can imagine some might say its un-American…..okay…But ours is a different kingdom…and different King.
This is a good idea, and it’s something I’d consider doing as well.
I wrote something awhile back about sacrifice and agency, and I think it comes into play here. If I choose hardship, or loss of privilege or even life for what I believe, or if the political system I’m under is not favorable to me or my faith and I choose to live under it, well, great. That’s my call.
But I don’t get to tell others how or to what extent they should sacrifice or suffer, or what they should be ok with living with. Especially when, as is so often the case, it has nothing to do with my (our)faith, and everything to do with racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, etc. We should be ardent supporters of the general well-being, and the under-privileged specifically. In our system of government, we do effect change, sometimes with our inaction as much as our actions. Pouring good into this system is not a compromise of faith, it’s just being a good neighbor, and also a good witness. If I’m not comfortable with where I’m at or where to put my small piece of power and responsibility, giving it away as you describe seems to be an effective compromise, at least until I understand things enough myself.
PS: If you get this comment twice, it’s because I suspect wordpress lost my comment while logging in. I copied it beforehand, because it’s happened before.
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Shameless plug: https://govpappy.wordpress.com/2017/05/13/of-trains-sacrifice-and-agency/