A Jagged Contention: The Christian Voter

“An American president is, indeed, a ‘governing authority’ to which we should submit; but he is by no stretch of principles a king. We should submit to the office, in that we obey the laws he is supposed to execute, but he cannot require citizens to do whatever he commands. Our Constitution does not give him that power. He is neither the source of law nor the interpreter of law. The public elects the President from a field of candidates. Submission to his authority cannot always include voting for him. Nor can it mean refusing to criticize him. In our legal and political system, the people must assess the President’s performance and that of other elected officials; otherwise it would be impossible to have a democratic republic.

“Those called to be American citizens, therefore, have a Romans 13 obligation to take an active part in their government…Feelings of patriotism and acts of civic-mindedness are fitting responses to the blessings God has given this country and to the citizenship to which He has called them. But the calling to citizenship also includes active involvement in their nation and in their government: voting, debating issues, grass-roots politics, and civic activism.”

– Gene Edward Veith, God at Work, pg. 113


Question:

Given Veith’s contention, how would you counsel someone whose conscience is not permitting them to vote in this year’s election? Can a Christian citizen in America refuse to vote? Or, does our vocation as citizens in a democratic republic require our participation in the next election? What are other ways one with a burdened conscience can take part in the political system?

Share your thoughts in the comments below

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4 comments

  1. “Can a Christian citizen in America refuse to vote?” Yes. That is in itself a political statement.

    Veith lists 4 citizenship activities. If he thinks that every citizen must engage in all 4, then he’s dead wrong.

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  2. To not vote? Gene makes a more than a bit of a leap with that one – since states back then, set the qualifications and all who did not own land – even the majority of whites -could not vote for quite some time in most states. There were several states that permitted freed black landowners to vote (compare to the present-day narrative) and, of course, women could not vote until much later.

    None of the four are prescriptive absolutes – Voting has fairly precise parameters, but the other three? Nowhere in the United States Constitution, nor in the Declaration of Independence, is any citizen “required” to do any of the four., nor is there any outline as to a “right” way to do any of the four. It would require some extremely novel and creative exegesis to arrive where Gene has.

    On can honor the King, legally do no wrong, and submit to the will of the people (our Constitution is rather unique in that regard – as even “the king” must do!) all without “voting, debating issues, grass-roots politics, and civic activism.” None are in anyway commanded by our constitutional documents, and thus, as a “free” people, we may participate or not, in our Constitution Republic – which is not to be confused with “democracy” by any means. One could do or perform none of the four, and still fulfill Romans 13 quite nicely.

    It is, in the unique American fashion, entirely up to the free individual to decide.

    pb

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  3. One with a burdened conscience could receive, by faith, the declaration of God that they are righteous and holy on account of the blood of Jesus, and then with a good conscience pray imprecatory psalms, make intercession on behalf of all those God has placed in positions of authority in the United States, and offer supplication that they and all Christians might be able to live a quite and peaceable life, godly and dignified in every way. Prayer is a very potent political act.

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  4. Being a citizen in this country is a very complex thing. I do like to simplify things as much as I able, to make choices more evident – at least to me. In this case, I am drawn to the catechism’s table of duties. It matches up, in my mind, to what John the Baptist was telling people they ought to be doing in Luke 3:10-14. Nothing extraordinary in any of these places, but it makes sense to attach duty for anyone to the position they are in. In this country, the government power of a citizen, bound by Romans 13 to rule as God’s representative, is to vote for the best representation for the good of the other citizens (and oneself, I suppose). Government’s duty is to keep order and punish wrongdoers; to keep the peace for its protectorate. Here, citizens play a part in making that happen, or not. We have several other enumerated rights by law here, but not duties. One could argue about whether some of those rights become duties, if they become necessary for the proper exercise of government authority – like speaking up about a public issue like abortion to exhort good voting to protect the helpless.

    It is evident to me that some voters feel like they have no candidate that is inherently good and right enough to receive their vote. This is no surprise to me, because all of them sin – what else would they do? Even still, I can think of no way that not voting, not executing that Romans 13 duty for a citizen here, helps anyone but that one conscience. A bit selfish in my mind to refuse one’s duty only for oneself.

    Also, one candidate is an obvious criminal, corrupt beyond comprehension, whatever the current lawless government says about it. She is absolutely adamant that anyone can kill as many babies as they desire without consequence. My list of political disasters in that set of hands is much longer, but these two do well enough for anyone, I’d hope. The other one’s worst characteristic is an undisciplined tongue. What he says he wants to do may be debatable as to the merits of technique, but what he says he wants to do is what he is supposed to be doing. This part is clearly just my opinion, but I can’t imagine why voting on this is so hard.

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