Christian Voting Part 1: The lesser of two evils and the 3rd sacrament. 

I know what you’re probably thinking, “really, another post about politics, can’t we be done with this already?”

I’ve been following the political race this year through arguably the worst means possible, social media. If I’m being perfectly honest I haven’t done much reading or watching of the news but I’ve allowed my friends on social media to interpret articles and various news outlets for me. Since I’m admittedly poorly informed, these posts will not seek to directly interact with many of the “issues” but rather are a reflection on how I’ve seen Christians interact with this years’ election.

I need to give an initial disclaimer; this post is appearing on The Green Room, which is a blog by the students and alumni of Eternity Bible College. These are my opinions and in no way does what I write in this series exclusively express the positions of Eternity Bible College’s students, staff or alumni. My hope is that if students, staff or alumni disagree with me, we could do what Christians out to do, dialogue in a healthy, scripturally based manner.

First I want to talk about what I have observed to be the worst “opening argument” for Christians before they go on to champion their candidate’s position. This is the argument of choosing the “lesser of two evils.”

I’ve heard it said that __________ (fill in your preferred candidate here…) is a lesser of two evils for these reasons and therefore, should receive your vote this year. In fact, in a recent Christian podcast in which the host gave Biblically based reasons for voting for either candidate, he even stated that this year, in particular, the question of “who will I vote for?” is a decision regarding the “lesser of two evils.”

The argument is as follows, “yeah, yeah, I understand that Hillary/Trump/Johnson is not the ideal candidate, but you have to choose one…”

Here’s a reality check for us, we don’t have to choose one. Unfortunately in my observation, the American Church has elevated the act of voting to the same level of the sacraments; meaning, we have made “voting in an election” an essential part of the Christian faith. As this election has built up momentum I’ve been asked a few times who will I vote for? When my response as of lately has been, “I probably won’t vote” I can’t tell you the outrage of my Christian brothers and sisters, somehow convinced that my abstaining from voting is an anathema!

Over time as we have let our American idealism for a democratic government inform our thinking more than Scripture has, we’ve deemed voting in a democratic election as a normal part of the Christian life. In case the word “sacrament” seems strange to you, broader Christianity agrees on two major aspects of orthopraxy (practices) as a regular part of worship, these are the sacraments (set apart/holy acts/actions) and they are called the Eucharist (Communion/Lord’s Supper) and Baptism. While the means, timing, and modes of these are disagreed upon, the agreement is that these two sacraments are a necessary part of the Christian faith. The unfortunate reality is that voting has been elevated to the same level of these sacraments. To be an American Christian is to be baptized, take the Lord’s Supper and vote every 4 years.

Here’s the main issue, the argument that you “have to choose a candidate” implies that you “have to vote,” it presumes that one is voting and therefore, must make a choice. I challenge any of my readers to make an argument, from Scripture, as to why an essential part of my Christianity is voting in a presidential election.

Now, maybe you would not be so quick to say an essential part of my Christianity is voting, but that it is my American duty to do so. However before our identities as American citizens, we are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom. This means that there will be times in which my citizenship as a member of the Kingdom of God will cause me to go directly against the ways of my American countrymen. It means that the rhythms and rhymes of American culture will sometimes need to be disrupted by the radical and abrupt stops and clashes of the Kingdom. My suggestion is, voting, especially in this year’s presidential election may one of those times.

Most of us already live inconsistently within the “lesser of two evils” argument. Imagine I told you to make a choice between snorting a line of cocaine and shooting up a syringe of heroin, which would you choose? I imagine most of my readers would simply say, “No thanks, I think I’ll pass…” Imagine I was your boss and you were a manager in my company; then, I told you we need to make more profits this month than last by either illegally underpaying our workers or fudging some end of month numbers. I imagine most of us would choose to say, “No thanks, I’ll be content with a lesser profit, even if that means I might lose my job.” Or here’s an example that sits closer to this election’s home; imagine I told you, “choose between killing babies or killing innocent civilians.” I hope most of you would still say, “No thanks, I choose neither, whatever the consequences might be.” So why are we so compelled to choose between the lesser of two evils? There is a third option, choose NOT to choose. 

But abstaining to vote is a vote for _______________ (fill in the candidate you don’t like here…) 

Maybe? Sure, I guess I can see how you think that if I don’t vote for your candidate then I’m strengthening the odds for the opposing side, but again, why does that matter? Look, I get it. I understand that the evils from either side are going to happen no matter what but rather than taking an active role in either side’s evil, personally I’d rather take a posture of protest to both sides EVEN IF this does not get their attention. Even if my protest doesn’t radically overturn the political system in America. The point is, I do not want to participate in evil, who why choose one if I actually don’t have to!

Some of you will say that this is a hands-off, apathetic and lazy approach to the issues. I don’t believe we are to take a passive approach to Christian mandates like “loving our neighbors” however voting, in a democratic election in America, is not one of those mandates.

Yes – somebody bad will win.

No – I don’t have the right to complain about their actions when they’re president.

Yes – no matter who becomes president I can faithfully serve Jesus. There is no candidate, in any country in the history of time that has been able to nor will ever be able to impede our ability to live as faithful Christians, EVER.

So what are you worried about? What is it that has caused you to feel the undeniable need to vote this year which has led you to say “I guess I’ll have to choose the lesser of two evils…”

Think voting is your Christian duty? There is nothing in Scripture that requires a Christian to vote in a democratic election in America. Voting is a Christian liberty that we have the right to exercise if we would like to. Most importantly as with all Christian liberties, they are to be exercised for the purpose of serving others. What if instead of building our political bunkers which ensures our segregation from those who are not like us, we tore down the socially-constructed walls of race, gender, religion, political affiliation, or socioeconomic status and we choose to follow our true Christian duty to live as a covenant community with radical truth and love that transforms lives?

Worried about your right to bear arms? Scripture doesn’t actually give you the inherent right to bear arms and defend yourself through those means. Perhaps instead of stockpiling weapons so that you can be prepared to murder someone who threatens you or your loved ones’ well-being you can exercise your right to humbly and peacefully sacrifice your own life for others by the way of the cross, and not the sword. Perhaps we can learn to stockpile resources purposed to care for the lowly, the wanderer, and the outsider.

Worried that higher taxes will lower your standard of living? God is not too concerned about higher taxes on the upper-income brackets which might lower your standard of living. Perhaps instead you could render unto Caesar all things that are Caesar’s and help pull our heads out of the consumeristic hole; the alternate reality where financial status and comfort are the gods that rule our emotions rather than the generosity and care-equality of the Gospel.

Worried that your religious freedoms will be taken away? Scripture never promises religious freedoms within a government. In fact, the freedom we’re given is not to be tied to a particular nation for the express purpose that the Gospel might flourish far beyond the confines of a political regime. Perhaps instead of worrying about your own freedoms you could seek justice, correct oppression, bring justice to the fatherless and plead the widow’s cause.

Worried that America might become a military state? Nothing in Scripture leads me to believe that this would have any bearing on our ability to live out the mandates of Christianity. If our chief goal as believers it to live faithful to Jesus as our King, why worry about something that has no bearing on our chief purpose/goal? In fact, historically, the oppression of the Church actually leads to her flourishing! Perhaps we could worry less about the government controlling our lives and focus more on the military state of “legalism” that has gripped the American Church, nationwide.

My challenge to you is this – live passionately, write passionately, and speak passionately. Go hard and go strong where Scripture goes and walk cautiously anywhere thereafter.

Look out for the next entry called, “Christian Voting Part 2: Does “seeking the good of the city” necessarily mean voting?”

Ernesto Duke

Ernesto Duke

Ernesto is an Eternity graduate who lives with his wife Renae and his two sons, Finehas and Amos in Canoga Park, CA. He currently attends Western Seminary. He is passionate about the poor, the marginalized and seeing tools for the Church to learn to think Biblically made accessible for the whole Church, not just the affluent. Ernesto hopes to do something to help further develop a Latin American biblical worldview whether foreign or domestic.
Ernesto Duke