Getting Out the Vote

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : September 8, 2004

In the past day or so, I’ve had two discussions with people that are upset with me for not voting. It seems that voting is a moral obligation in this nation–an obligation that I don’t want to oblige.

I feel like political action is such a trap for so many Christians. There are two local Salem Radio stations in the Twin Cities, where I live (Salem Radio is a conservative/Christian radio network). One of them is a Christian talk station, while the other is a conservative political talk station (AM 1280–the Patriot). Quite frankly, I see that as a conflict of interests. When Christians engage in politics, it quite often clouds their judgement. It seems that they get a bit more American and a bit less Christian…and eventually they can’t separate the two. This happens on both sides of the political isle.

I know, I know. This doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t vote. But until I have some sort of reasoned approach to the role of the Church in a secular society, I don’t want to get my heart ensnared in politics. So, to those of you who have been telling me I should vote, I’m sorry. I won’t. I won’t until I understand at least a little of what it means to be a Christian in America. The sad thing is that there are precious few people who are really struggling with that issue.

To me, my struggle is about two things: Allegiance and Activism.

For me, being a Christian and an American causes conflicts in allegiance. This is why I no longer can say the pledge. I don’t want to make an oath to this republic, because I know my faith could at times put me at odds with this republic. It is also why I am not, nor will I ever be, affiliated with a political party. I’ve never seen a party platform that doesn’t undermine the cause of Christ in some regard.

There is also the question of activism. Jesus Christ has given us a way of engaging injustice and bringing about transformation and change–the Church. It seems that many Christians get their priorities mistaken when it comes about doing activism. They engage in secularist politics first, and then also do things through their church as a sort of back-up. It seems incredibly dumb to me that many liberals spend so much damn energy trying to pass laws that help the poor, but then don’t actually know any poor people or do anything personally to try to alleviate the suffering of people in our nation and around the world. It is also very stupid that many conservatives spend a great deal of energy trying to pass laws that make it harder for gays to get married or women to have an abortion, yet these same conservative Christians don’t know any gays or give sacrificially of themselves to support unplanned pregnancy shelters and ministries. My point is that the Church provides an avenue for DIRECT activism. Using the political system is INDIRECT activism.

So, as I try to sort out this stuff in my head–about how I can be a Christian and engage in politics without compromising my allegiance, and meanwhile keeping focused on being engaged in direct activism–I feel that I cannot vote in good conscience. So there.

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3 Responses to “Getting Out the Vote”

  1. Anonymous on September 9th, 2004 12:05 pm

    Wow. Besides saying “Wow”, I would like to point out that not every election is about who will be your President, or Senator, or Legislator or whatever. There are many issues that are being voted on in many more non-descript elections (the ones that most people don?t participate in) that are truly local issues that you really should be interested in. Do you want a new school in your neighborhood, or do you think that the old one is good enough? Are you willing to pay extra property taxes to pay for said school? Should your city have a local sales tax? If so, what should it be levied against and what should those city revenues pay for? Should the city change the zoning in your neighborhood to allow an “adult book store” to open up? How about a strip club? These are local issues that you definitely should be interested in and usually show up on a ballot some time during the year. It?s not exclusively about picking a party or getting caught up in the hype (although many people do that). It?s not about activism unless you want it to be - it?s about having a say in issues that really, truly affect your life and your hometown, wherever that may be. Once you are registered to vote you can choose to vote on only issues that matter to you, but it is important to be registered so you have that chance to choose.

  2. Anonymous on September 9th, 2004 12:40 pm

    I am indeed planning on being involved in neighborhood and city decision-making. I should have been more precise. I think local issues are much safer. The more global the reach of our vote, the more difficult, in my mind, it becomes to vote on good conscience. I remind you, that I’m not saying that the ideal is not to vote. What I am saying is that for this season in my life, when it comes to elections of national scope and global reach, I am simply unable to vote my conscience, since my conscience is burdened.

    My main thrust is to challenge Christians to affect their world directly by being the Church. And for many Christians, voting has replaced the church–church is no longer seen as teh vessel for transformation. Voting is.

  3. Justin on October 16th, 2004 7:40 pm

    check out

    This site has a lot of good articles.

    There is an article titled “To Vote or not to Vote” that you may (or may not) enjoy reading.

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