Posted tagged ‘Voting’

Christian Anarchy and Voting- A Recap

January 8, 2010

A lot of people have been asking me lately about my stance on voting and Christians serving in government offices. Since I have already written a good bit about my particular understanding of the Christian responsibility in political engagement I thought I would just compile all of those posts here so I can direct people to one place.

I thought I would start with this powerful song by Derek Webb.

This concise non-voting manifesto (and updated version) by Professor Tripp York is also a useful resource, and generally sums up my position.

Mark Van Steenwyk also offers his ten reasons for not voting at Jesus Radicals.

This is an excerpt by Andy Alexis-Baker from the book Electing Not to Vote, and this post is specifically about the 2012 election.

In this piece  Chris Smith writes about incarnational theology and non-voting.

Early American church leader, David Lipscomb wrote a great book on the topic of Christians and government. Here is an excerpt on voting. Historian Mcgarvey Ice briefly examines Lipscomb’s nonvoting stance.

Joshua Jeffery follows Lipscomb and talks about the choice not to vote.

Alasdair MacIntyre says in this piece, “The way to vote against the system is not to vote.”

There are often connections between nonviolence and the Christian anarchy. Keegan Osinski and Mark Caudill discuss some of those connections and their reasons for not voting.

I wrote a fairly popular series of posts a while back entitled Would Jesus Vote? The basic idea was to chronicle some of the reasons I believe Christians should be wary of participating in the government on any level. So here they are:  One, Two, Three and Four.

One of my ethics classes required that I write a paper about Christians and political engagement. It was one of my favorite papers of my scholastic career so I thought I would share it with you here.

The term Christian Anarchy understandably makes a lot of people uncomfortable  so I have this post trying to help people have a better understanding of the phrase. After all, as Tolstoy said, “The Kingdom of God is anarchy.”

Kurt Willems has a new series at Red Letter Christians on Jesus and nationalism. Check out part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4 and part 5.

For those of you who arent quite convinced, then at least consider this post before you vote.

I also have several posts that more indirectly get at the issues around the Christian Anarchy stance including this one on True Freedom which lists some of the most important basic understandings of being a part of God’s Kingdom. In a similar vein, this post attempts to demonstrate the radical differences between God’s Kingdom and the nations of this world.

Finally, there are some other issues such as war, abortion, immigration and poverty that play an important part in this discussion so I offer this post of some resources about these issues and this post specifically about war.

My request is that you prayerfully consider these ideas and search out God’s will in your life and in the world, and above all, declare with your life and words that Jesus is King!

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Christians and Voting, A Non-Voting Manifesto?

October 26, 2008

I liked one of the articles, to which I put up a link in my last post, so much that I decided to provide the full text in this post. You can find the original text here.

A Non-Voting Manifesto?
By Tripp York, Visiting Prof. of Religious Studies, 
Elon UniversityNC

  There are few things imagined in this life more dutiful than the so called ‘responsibility’ of every American to vote. Despite the fact that many decide, for whatever reasons, not to vote, the very idea that voting is an indispensable requirement on each individual goes without question.

            Let me state at the very beginning that any qualms I may have with voting stem from neither apathy nor indifference. It simply makes little sense to me, given that we are as Aristotle claimed, “political animals,” that anyone would or should be indifferent to voting. Christians (whom I am addressing) should be concerned with the goods that constitute the temporal cities of this time between times, and voting is but one means of attempting to seek those goods.    Nevertheless, I often wonder if what has been passed down to us as an unquestioned duty is the only way, or even the best way, to be political? To be even more specific, is it possible that some form of conscientious objection to voting could be understood as an act of politics that is concerned with the good of the polis? Could it function as a witness to a different order, one not predicated on the enforcement of legislation, laws, and the lording of power over one another? If so, what would be the rationale for such an objection, or at least a hesitation, to the act of voting? What sort witness would this attempt to make? In order to answer these questions I have jotted down eight possible reasons why voting could be problematic for Christians. If nothing else, at least dealing with these possible objections should make us more conscientious voters, if we decide Christian civic responsibility entails voting.

I. Romans 13 demands subordination to the government.

Which government? All governments. Paul (while sitting in jail) demanded that Christians are to be submissive to all powers that be because, despite how fallen they are, they, nevertheless, are ordained by God. Rebellion against such powers is understood as rebellion against God and is, thus, not permitted. It makes little sense, therefore, to perpetuate any order that was founded on explicit disobedience to God. The United States of America only comes into being inasmuch as it rebelled against the God-ordained powers of the English monarchy (the irony of this is rich as the most patriotic of souls love to use this text to demand obedience to every whim of their beloved nation-state without recognizing the hypocrisy that made it possible for it to come into being in the first place). To vote for the maintenance of such an order seems to approve of this act of disobedience against God, or at least renders Paul’s command nonsensical as it can be disobeyed if enough time has elapsed from the inception of the said rebellion/revolution. 

II. Jesus requires that his disciples not be like those Gentiles who lord their power over others, even it is for some sort of ‘good’ (Mt 20:25).

Christians are, as Jesus says in Matthew 20:26, not to be power-hungry. Rather they are to be as slaves to one another. Perhaps it would be one thing if the elected officials of this nation were forced to take office; instead these are all individuals who desperately want to be in power and all of whom beg and plead with the common folk for their votes, all to the tune, at least in regards to the last election, of more than $1 billion—$1 billion spent to convince us that we should exalt those who would be like those Gentiles who lord their power over others. If we are forbidden to be like them, why would it be permissible to place them in the kind of posture that Jesus decries? 

III. Capitalism, the socio-economic order that underwrites this culture, is predicated on the seven deadly sins.

Without just one of these sins, it would fold and collapse on itself. For instance, if there was no greed this economy would be destroyed. We are taught to never be satisfied, to never have our fill, to never be satiated, to remain in a perpetual state of want, all in the name of the common good. How is this even remotely akin to the kind of desires that should be produced by ecclesial formation? Goods are only good if they are shared goods, at least according to scripture and early Christian history. Sharing goods in this culture would be a sin. An aside: Let it not be lost on us that immediately after September 11, 2001, the President of the U.S. demanded that the people of this commonwealth respond by neither prayer nor patience—rather he told the people that they should respond by . . . shopping! The saddest thing about this ‘command’ is that this was actually a morally legitimate response by the President (as it would have been for any president for that matter). Had people ceased spending money, the economy would have collapsed. Therefore, in such a culture one responds to terrorism via trips to the mall as well as supplying a lot of missiles and the youth of the country. This is our way of life? This is what Christians are willing to both die and kill for? How can we vote for any potential Caesar under this sort of politic?

IV. While we are on the subject of the seven deadly sins, let’s look at pride.

Outside of the word ‘freedom’—which is by far the most seductive god competing for our allegiance—there simply is no greater form of idolatry than the worship of, freedom. Pride is a term that is uttered again and again by this country’s leaders. For some reason I am reminded by both scripture and tradition that pride is purely representative of the fall of humanity. There is really nothing to be proud about, except as one can boast with St. Paul, our hope in Jesus. Pride has become the very means that Christians have co-opted to this culture, for it is because of pride that we seem to lack the ability or desire to practice repentance, confession, humility and servanthood—all of which are at the heart of Christian discipleship. Voting is, de facto, an exercise in pride. Especially if you find yourself on the winning side. 

V. The kingdoms of this world seem to be ruled by Satan.

Once Satan took Jesus to the mountain-top and offered worldly power: “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’ Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve him only’” (Lk 4:5-8).      Though the powers may be ordained by God, they are, nevertheless (as with all of creation), in rebellion against God. According to this passage it is Satan leading this rebellion. Satan offers the kingdoms to Jesus because they belong to Satan. He gives them, or at least offers them, to whom Satan pleases. All Jesus had to do in order to rule the world the way most of us imagine it is to be ruled, was to worship Satan. Thus it would appear that all of the kingdoms of the world, though rightly ordained for the maintenance of social harmony, are currently under satanic influence. One way to lead them is to worship Beelzebub, hence, my reluctance to vote for this sort of ruler. 

VI. Regardless of which leader wins, that ruler will expect my allegiance.

That is, of course, a problem in and of itself, as Christians are called to serve only one Master. One way this affects Christians is that leaders of empires simply cannot enact the radical kind of peace Christians are to offer their enemies. Rulers, history has shown, must take up arms against their enemies. They must engage in warring, or at least threats of warring, in order to secure certain goods. This is a far cry from the peacemaking and non-violence which Jesus calls from his disciples. Jesus demands that those who would follow him must turn the other cheek, pray for those who persecute us (ever heard a president pray for an enemy—except that they be destroyed?), and refuse to exercise vengeance, which  belongs only to God.

Yet any nation-state, not just this one but all of them, demands the exact opposite. The literal imitation of Jesus in non-violence must be rejected in order to exist and survive in the world. I would argue that any order that demands that a Christian not imitate Jesus is a demonic one indeed, a stumbling block for Christ-like discipleship. 

VII: The United States may (not) be the greatest Babylon on the planet, but she is still a Babylon.

As William Stringfellow astutely pointed out, if we are to read all nations biblically then we must recognize that they are all Babylons. No nation or culture is the Heavenly Jerusalem or the City of God. They are, therefore, parasitic on the good that is the heavenly city, and the church, as the image of this city on earth, is called to show the state that it is not the heavenly city. This is her task. It is not to buttress the powers that be, but to show them, through her witness that whatever the powers that be are, they are not the church. One way to resist being co-opted by the powers of this world, I imagine, might be to neither vote nor take office. 

VIII: Voting is an attempt to elect someone who will enact, legislate and enforce your political values upon others.

That is the point of voting—to elect someone who will legislate and enforce your convictions. If a candidate promises this, you will support her or him. That is, you expect your candidate to do what you want them to do for the betterment of how you envision the world and how you secure the peace of the city.

This process, in a sense, alleviates the burden of Christians to be the church because now Christians can ask the state require of others our Christian convictions. The church does not need to create an alternative community, does not need to be prophetic, does not need radical discipleship, because Christians now have become the very powers and principalities that Paul claims Jesus has defeated.

By the simple refusal to vote perhaps we can at least see how we have all become seduced by such a power in such a way that we can see how our faith has been compromised and domesticated in the name of something other than the Triune God. 

These simple musings are but a few reasons why I am currently hesitant to cast my vote for yet another Caesar.


   

 William Stringfellow, Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2004), 13.

This concisely articulates some of the reasons I wont be voting and adds a few more that I had not thought of until now. I hope it challenges you to rethink your convictions and introspectively look at what being a disciple of Christ means in your life, as it has done for me. I would love to hear your thoughts.

I thought it would also be pertinent to add some links to the my series of posts called, Would Jesus Vote?

One   Two    Three    Four

Christians and Politics, Some Resources

October 25, 2008

Here are some more resources you might want to read before the coming election. 

Stanley Hauerwas writes about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s view of Truth and Politics, and a review of the impact of John Howard Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus, and an insightful theological look at abortion.

Gabriel Salguero, The Election, Immigration, and the Gospel.

The Problem with “Under God”, and interesting article by Rodney Clapp.

A Non-Voting Manifesto? A concise but very insightful look at Christians and voting, by Tripp York

An article about a practitioner of Christian Anarchism.

Between Sojourners and the Simple Way? Rethinking Radical, Evangelical Politics in ’08 with John Howard Yoder, a long title but a great article dealing with a few views of post-religious-right Christian political action.

The late great John Howard Yoder on the limits of our obedience to any government in this article. (Its a pdf and it might show up funny in your browser, just open it with a different program)

Some Websites with more resources.

http://www.theotherjournal.com/

http://www.jesusradicals.com/

http://www.christarchy.com/

http://www.jesusmanifesto.com/

http://young.anabaptistradicals.org/

Hope you enjoy!

Would Jesus Vote? Part 3

June 19, 2008

I am about to list 20 statements about Christians voting. On their own they are very broad, sweeping generalizations. Therefore, I hope you read them in tandem with the previous two posts on this topic here and here where I have made an effort to explain my position. So here, in short, are 20 reasons I believe Christians should not participate in government, including but not limited to voting.

  1. If we vote, we play in to the corrupt system.
  2. If we vote, we, at least in part, put our hope in a person or a party.
  3. If we vote, we use power over people as a way of changing things.
  4. If we vote, we give credit to the powers and principalities.
  5. If we vote, we go well beyond giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s.
  6. If we vote, we don’t follow the pattern of Jesus.
  7. If we vote, we affirm our citizenship in the world and become in and of the world.
  8. If we vote, we buy into the lies of the enemy.
  9. If we vote, we put ourselves at odds with our brothers and sisters.
  10. If we vote, we are guilty of the sins of the nation-state.
  11. If we vote, we get caught in the web of complexity that is worldly politics.
  12. If we vote, we give credence to the idea that our government is right and good and stands for truth.
  13. If we vote, we assert our “superior” knowledge and attest to our arrogance.
  14. If we vote, we potentially make the claim that the choices provided are the only ones that exist.
  15. If we vote, we confuse the Lordship of Jesus with the lordship of the Nation-state.
  16. If we vote, we only have the option to choose between the lesser of two evils, and either way we must choose evil.
  17. If we vote, we ignore the lessons of history.
  18. If we vote, we legitimize the authority of the State.
  19. If we vote, we sacrifice the unique Kingdom-Resurrection power that is ours.
  20. If we vote, we in essence pick up the sword not the Cross.
What do you think?

 

Would Jesus Vote? Part 1

June 17, 2008

First, let me say that I do not presume to know the mind of God. The best I can do when trying to answer this question is consider the Scriptures, in particular the life and ministry of Jesus. After considering the issue for some time I have to answer the question would Jesus vote, with some confidence, probably not.

This post was spurred on, in part, by a blog-a-logue about who God would vote for. I have been putting these ideas together for a little while and have written about them elsewhere, but decided now would be a good time to put them on the blog.

It is my belief that Christians should abstain from all forms of government including voting, joining the military and serving on juries. This belief is certainly not new. In fact this has been the position of many Christians all the way back the early Church fathers. Since that time the Anabaptist/Mennonite and similar traditions have held to this understanding. The idea also had a place in the beginning of the Restoration Movement tradition, of which I have been a part for most of my life, although it isn’t held as commonly today it is making a reemergence among many members of our fellowship and elsewhere.

Let us take a brief look at Scripture. 

In Matthew 4 we learn that satan has dominion over the kingdoms of earth and the authority to give them away. Jesus rejects satan’s offer but does not deny satan’s claim to have authority over earth’s kingdoms.

Matthew 5 tells us that it is those who are persecuted, not the ones with the power to persecute, who will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.

Matthew 6 Jesus says seek first the Kingdom and God will take care of the rest.

In Matthew 18 Jesus says the greatest in the Kingdom is the one who serves, not the one who has power.

In Mark 15 Jesus claims to be the King of the Jews, even though earlier he rejected the chance to be a king in the way of the kingdoms of the world. 

In John 16 we are reminded of satan’s powerful grip on this world as he is called the prince of this world. 

In Hebrews and 1 Peter we are called aliens and strangers to this earth. 

Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4 that soldiers, in this case meaning followers of Christ, do not get involved in civilian affairs. In other words we leave politics of the empire to the politicians and we focus on pleasing Christ. 

It seems to me that Jesus never tried to have some kind of political power struggle, nor did any of his followers for the first three hundred years of the church. Why is it that modern day conservative evangelicals, among others, think that we need to have righteous judges when Jesus was crucified by a corrupt government, and Christians were relentlessly persecuted for hundreds of years under some of the history’s most despicable and cruel ruling bodies? When do you ever read about Jesus talking about Christians taking over the government? When did Paul write anything about Christians being in command and forcing other people believe what we believe? In fact I remember something like, blessed are the persecuted for Jesus’ sake. Didn’t Paul say Rejoice in the Lord always, as he sat in prison? Notice he didn’t say rejoice when you are getting your way, and he didn’t write that statement because he and the other followers of the Way were the ones in control.

Jesus never, to my knowledge, preaches that we ought to solicit the government in any way to legislate morality. In fact it seems that church has been most successful at reaching people for Christ when it was a faithful minority, not an outspoken majority. The church grew in the first few centuries after Christ like wildfire without any political power to speak of. Instead they were seeking kingdom power, resurrection power, which starts with dying to ourselves in order to be raised to new life in Christ.

The way Christ lived and taught certainly aimed, successfully of course, to have an eternal impact. If it was good enough for Christ to love people where they were and confront them in a gentle and caring yet firm manner then why does the modern church insist on asserting the power of majority and government to solve social problems while missing out on changing people for eternity?

The teachings of Jesus are about our dedication to the Kingdom of God not to any particular nation or government. Jesus not only taught this, but his lifestyle seems to demonstrate this as well. Instead of soliciting the government to bring about social change, Jesus just met people’s needs and shared with them the love of God. As a matter of fact in John 16:15 we see that Jesus retreated from a crowd because they wanted to make him their earthly king. Jesus had no interest in that because he sought only to be a part of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is so convicted about the importance of God’s kingdom that he tells one man in Luke 9:60, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God takes precedence over everything in our lives and cannot be compromised by our active allegiance to a government or political party. Jesus also taught by his example that we change the world not by political power but by being suffering servants who are willing to put our lives on the line in order to share God’s incredible love and amazing grace with a world in need.

If Jesus had ever mentioned a particular political belief I am sure it would have been a tense among the disciples since they certainly had a wide variety of political views.  It is especially interesting that we find no comments on the hot button political issues of the day in the Gospels. Matthew in particular would have had reason to list these as he was a tax collector who likely espoused a very conservative political mindset because it would have benefited him greatly. He never mentions any of the discussions between he and liberal Simon the Zealot, never hints that Jesus may have ever commented on their discussions or corrected one  or both of them. Instead we have Matthew writing more than the other Gospel writers about the Kingdom of God. Matthew could have easily worked his political views into his gospel or shared how his views were changed if Jesus had ever mentioned how the disciples should handle their political affairs. Instead we have a Savior in Matthew’s gospel who is remarkably silent about the politics of the empire and just as vocal and active in bringing to earth the politics of the Kingdom of God. If Jesus stayed away from the politics of his day, while always implementing the eternal politics of the Kingdom, which by they way naturally subvert the worldly political system, then what business do His followers have in participating in the politics of our day?