Voting is a high privilege. It is the fundamental way in which citizens of a country (where it is allowed) express their preferences for representatives and initiatives. In the United States, we have primary, general, and special elections, so there are usually opportunities to vote for someone or something at least once a year! For more information on federal elections, go to https://www.usa.gov/election. Your state probably also publicizes information about state and local elections and ballot questions. I would recommend that you review our Constitution and its Amendments for references to qualifications for candidate eligibility and the responsibilities of each of the branches of federal government as well as rights and responsibilities reserved for the states and for individuals. The purpose of this post is not simply to encourage you to vote, however. My aim here is to challenge you to be a thoughtful and intentional voter.
I am a Christian. This takes precedence over any other identification in my life. For this reason, I look at voting as an important way to express my values and hopes for my home country and locality. But no matter how you self-identify, this blueprint should be helpful.
The first principle in voting is to know what you believe. Consider principles, postures, and positions, NOT personalities or what others – including family, friends, media, celebrities, etc. – demand or suggest.
The foundational considerations for me are the 10 Commandments given by God to Moses (Exodus 20: 1-17) in the Old Testament and the recorded words of Jesus in the New Testament, especially in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
The 10 Commandments
- I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.
- You shall not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in heave above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, recompensing the since of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Me; but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
- You shall not take the Name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His Name in vain.
- Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work; neither shall you, nor your son, your daughter, your male servant, your female servant, your cattle, not your stranger who sojourns with you. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath Day and hallowed it.
- Honor your father and mother that it may be well with you, and your days may be long upon the good land the Lord your God is giving you.
- You shall not murder.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his house, and neither shall you covet his field, nor his male servant. His female servant, his ox, his donkey, any of his cattle, or whatever belongs to your neighbor.
Jesus opened a greater door in the New Testament. He spoke not just of the physical purity and of daily actions and transactions, but of a lifestyle of love and service. In the Sermon on the Mount, “murder” is expanded to include anger, calling someone a fool, and failure to attempt to be reconciled to a friend or adversary; and “adultery” is expanded to include lust. Elsewhere, we are admonished to be true to our word, that our “yes” or “no” should be completely trustworthy. The old “eye for an eye” justice becomes “turn the other cheek” and “love your enemy”, mirroring the grace and mercy that we pray God would bestow on us. We are called to spiritual disciplines – giving alms, prayer (especially the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:5-15), and fasting – to please God and not to win the favor of others. Following these principles will allow us to have proper insight into the true intentions of others as well as into our own intentions.
EXAMINE POSITIONS AND GOALS
Your guidelines and standards may be very different from mine, but it’s important that you know which of your principles and goals are non-negotiable. Once you are clear about where your personal “line” is, you are ready to look at the candidate/party and any ballot questions.
Here are just a few issues that are highlighted in the 2020 campaigns:
Medicare for all
Benefits for those in the country illegally
Law and order
The 2nd Amendment (the right to keep and bear arms)
Divisions or differences in rights/treatment based on socio-economic status, ethnicity, race (especially this last)
Freedom of movement
Freedom of speech
Freedom of assembly
Freedom to worship
Freedom to choose medicines/therapies
Importance, responsibilities, and funding of the military, police, and other first responders
For me, the sanctity of life is paramount, so I do not want my tax dollars going to any organization that performs abortions nor to any research or products that use cells or parts from aborted fetuses. That’s just one example.
When you are considering a candidate or a party, make sure that the platform and positions are aligned with your personal values, especially in those areas you consider non-negotiable. If the candidate has held public office or has been in another position of authority, research what that candidate has said and the actions he or she has taken. If the candidate’s positions have shifted over the years – especially if there has been a marked shift – consider what caused the shift and whether it was opportunistic or principled.
Consider where the candidate’s proposed solutions will take the country. For example, will proposed changes in immigration policy make the country more or less safe, more or less prosperous, more or less unified and peaceful?
Remember to keep checking in on your core values. If you vote for someone who takes positions and enacts ordinances and laws that are clearly in contradiction to your core values, you are headed for heartache or worse.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon [riches].” (Matthew 6: 24)
The author of I Timothy 6: 6-10 elaborates on this theme, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”
How is your candidate funded? Are there organizations, businesses, or individuals who contribute to the candidate or party and who have ties to activities that go against your principles? If the candidate is an incumbent, has his/her personal wealth greatly increased while in office? Have friends and family members been involved in inappropriate ways for financial gain?
How does your candidate handle the people’s money? It is taxpayer money that pays the salaries and expenses of everyone and every department in the federal government. Is your candidate trying to grow government bureaucracy and giveaways or to keep them in check/trim them?
PRAY FIRST… THEN, VOTE!
I believe that God raises up and brings down leaders (Kings, Presidents, Governors…) for His own perfect purposes. Therefore, I pray for all leaders in government regardless of party that they would listen to God and be led by His precepts and commands. The same rule applies to my voting. I want what He wants, so I ask that He show me who He wants in leadership. Following Him brings blessings and peace:
Do not rely on your own discernment, but fear God, and turn away from every evil. Then there shall be healing for your body and care for your bones. (Proverbs 3: 7-8)
God grants to me – and you – the free will to vote for whomever we choose. I choose to let Him reveal the candidate that seems most likely (however inadequate in the world’s eyes) to uphold His laws and commandments. Then I can trust in God to protect and preserve me and other believers through whatever trials are ahead. I invite you to take advantage of this same protection.
The one choice I do not have is to not vote. We are commanded to be in the world but not of it, to make a difference by telling what we believe with love and compassion. My vote is an important way to speak up for what I believe to be the best way for our country to preserve its God-given freedoms.
Jesus, speaking of the apostles (and of us later believers by extension), said, “I have given them Your word: and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.” (John 17: 14-19)
One caveat: if you cannot in good conscience support a major party candidate for his or her proposals and positions (versus simply voting as a weapon against another candidate), then not voting may be your principled position. You are accountable for your vote or non-vote and for the reasons behind your decision. Before you decide not to vote, investigate smaller parties and their candidates. If you want to vote, there is almost always an option that is in alignment with your views even though your vote is cast for someone who probably won’t win. As of a few days ago, there are 1,174 candidates who have filed to run for President, and you also have the option of a write-in.
Your core beliefs may be very different from mine, and I respect your right to believe and vote according to your conscience. My prayer is that all who are legally eligible to do so will vote; that each vote will be based on personal deliberations, cast freely and fairly and counted accurately; and that as a country we will return to the tradition of peaceful elections and respectful acceptance of the results.
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