I have a confession: I didn’t vote in the presidential election.
I did not abstain due to distaste for the candidates. I wasn’t traveling that day, nor was my ballot misplaced. I just didn’t vote. Living overseas makes for some difficult voting processes, to be sure, but even if things were easy I wouldn’t have voted.
*The embassy is really hard to get to from here, and the lines are long. Security takes forever.
I know what my father’s generation would say. “It’s our Christian duty to vote for good family values. We need another Ronald Reagan. Only pinkos don’t vote. Tom Landry wouldn’t have stood for this…”
If we are called to respect our government and our leaders, does that imply that we must participate in the selection process? Does the notion of civic duty rise to the level of Christian moral obligation? Can we ever excuse ourselves from the process?
I suppose we could do with a short, non-comprehensive biblical summary.
- We are commanded to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
- God has been displeased with the choices His people have made in their leadership selection processes. (Hosea 8:1-4).
- Godless leadership generally leads so suffering. (Proverbs 28).
- We have an obligation to obey legitimate authority unless it contradicts the Lord’s commands (Acts 5:27-29; Romans 13:1-7).
- We should probably choose leaders who will listen to God. (1 Samuel 12:13-25).
In summary, we should choose godly leadership, respect our leaders, obey our leaders, and pray for them. If we have a selection process, any role we play should focus on selecting God-honoring leaders when we have such an option.
Folks local to where I live these days aren’t really into secrets. Information – much of it accurate – flows freely through cliques and communities, and few topics are truly off-limits. As a newly-arrived resident I hope to become more and more a part of this Muslim community. I shop locally. Eat locally. Ask for help from the tailor around the corner or the guy at the 10′ x 20′ hardware superstore. I try spending time at the community center. Declining to answer questions in this open society is tantamount to saying I really don’t want to be known.
And yes, I’ve gotten a few questions.
Over the last few weeks I’ve faced a few “Trump? You like him?” queries. Waiters, friends, people at tea houses – they want my American Christian opinion of the new American president. In other words, Muslim residents of a Muslim country that needs Christ want to know my American Christian opinion of a divisive American (and presumed to be Christian) leader.
If I supported Trump, his every decision will stick to me like corn syrup on a dog. In light of how his recent travel bans have been portrayed in the international media, I’m relieved I didn’t vote for him. If I support the only opponent to Trump folks here know (Clinton), her opinions become my opinions.
Put yourself in my position: I could participate in the election, and honestly answer the questions about how I voted. Or I could abstain from voting, openly labeling each candidate as reprehensible to my Christian sensitivities. Staying out of politics would enable me to be a more effective witness in the country where I live. Which is the greater command: to respect my government through participation, or to evangelize the nations?
And yes, sometimes we do have to choose.