Monday, November 3, 2008

Reflections of a Non-Voter on the Eve of Another Election

4 years ago I was deeply conflicted about voting or not voting...not that this has readily been resolved in my heart...but it did produce a few interesting reflections in my journal from that time. These are not in anyway conclusive thoughts but a wondering...perhaps to find a more decisively dicipled identity not tied to political and/or national ideology.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love you enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5.43-44)

Saturday I passed a sign along the road that read, "God bless America." Sarcastically I asked my passenger, "and the Iraqis too?"

This sarcastic comment began to raise so many questions… Can a good patriotic American uphold loyalties to both God and country? Which takes precedence? What are the limits of each? Should a Christian support war? These are questions that we as Christians need to be asking ourselves. Though I’ve really found no concrete answers, I will share my leanings.

Too often, American Christians confuse their loyalty to Christ with that of the State. I wonder, are Christianity and patriotism reconcilable? Certainly our commitment to Christ must certainly rise above patriotic notions. And yet, why do they so often seem to be interwoven. To do so, do we risk confusing America with God’s chosen people of Israel? If we believe God to be the creator and lover of all peoples, then patriotic or nationalistic loyalties do not seem be tied to God’s purposes. Patriotism is a division of our allegiance that would seem to pit one nation of brothers and sisters against another.

Luke 16.13 No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Exodus 20.1-6 The God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, our of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…

Essentially anything that takes our attention and desires from God is an idol. God is jealous for our affections.

1 Corinthians 8.5-6 Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth – as in fact there are many gods and many lords – yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Ephesians 4.4-6 The is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Romans 3.3a God is one…

Monotheism is not about numbers, but about our exclusive allegiance.

Peter, when told by the authorities not to speak of Christ, he replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4.19-20). Peter again speaks of the higher calling and commitment to God when he says, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5.29). Submission to the state must end when the Christian conscience is irritated and suppressed. The faithful Christian must oppose submission of the Christian conscience to the State conscience.

If patriotism is love for, and the defense of ones country, then dissent is equally patriotic as war support. Barry Harvey, who teaches at Baylor University, says that Christians are to be sanctified subversants, subverting culture for its own benefit. Dissent is a political subversion for the country’s own benefit by strivings for peace over war. In this sense, dissent protects democracy, which is the goal of patriotism.

Dissent for the Christian means faith is put first in Jesus Christ above any other loyalty. The Christian’s war is fought through prayer on behalf of both nations that the awfulness of war may be ended soon, safety of all troops (including the Iraqis) and for the nations and families of all. It is done in a spirit of humility and submission to our Lord whereby we place our trust in God’s sovereignty and judgment.

[The Lord] shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not life up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Micah 4.3)

One of the key points in this country’s political origins is the “freedom of religion” from a state imposed religion of which we all benefit from. This freedom of religion created the opportunity, in part, the pluralism of denominational forms apart from the state religion. Implicit within the freedom “of” is the freedom “from.” This means that a freedom of religion includes the choice of no religion; hence freedom from religion. This is the heart of our current liberal democracy.

We may aptly apply the same inverse understanding to that of the right to vote. Implicit within is the right not to vote. I may exercise my right to vote or I might not. Furthermore, even non action is still action. A potential voter who chooses not to vote does not become a vacuum, but rather exerts a force in opposition to what or whomever by creating yet another option of protest or abstention. If non-voting does not impact, then why are there so many current movements to attract Christians, single mothers, Gen X and the like by so many public figures (watch MTV…PDiddy’s “Vote or Die” campaign as one example). It is obvious that the silent voice of not voting has impacted the past elections.

Unfortunately the American ideology promotes self-interest as patriotism, and voting is perceived as patriotic and not voting is un-patriotic. Yet, if the current democratic system has been put in place to create the individual option, the choice to not vote is just as patriotic because it follows what the government has set forth. It is also the proper use of the set structures. Criticism of Noll’s position is likely because he is subverting the norm of political and societal structure. But his points and the choice not to vote is still politically valid, and subversively patriotic.