WOULD JESUS VOTE?

Would Jesus vote?  For whom would Jesus vote this year?  Assuming Jesus could vote how would he cast his ballot?  Would he choose a party, the best one available in his mind and let its platform determine electoral choices?  Would he choose the best candidate(s) whose views and way of life most clearly reflect his own, and then lend support? Or would he remain independent since he is, after all, Lord? Or would Jesus even participate?  Would the inability of any one party and any one candidate to reflect his concerns fully or adequately prompt Jesus to opt out?

I don’t know.  If I’m reading Jesus’ story well, however, and all the more if I am entering into his story, as he calls us all to do, I am quite sure that Jesus would approach the questions above, and many others like them, in ways that frustrate and confuse, and perhaps anger folks, even or especially his own.  Let me suggest why.

Jesus’ message, in the nutshell the Gospels provide for us, is this: The time has come—Kingdom Time—when God’s Kingdom is breaking into our world which is already full of its own kingdoms, cultures and societies.  And the only response that makes sense is to turn from all rival kings and their kingdoms to welcome and embrace God’s Kingdom.

In a world organized into kingdoms, large and small, Jesus came to bring another Kingdom altogether.  To be sure, Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world.  By which, he did not mean that his Kingdom had nothing to do with this world, or would operate without interacting with and counteracting the powers and arrangements at work in the world.  Quite the contrary, everything Jesus said seemed to have relevance for every sphere and dimension of people’s this worldly life-experience.   Indeed, at his trial he tells the power-people that the time will come when all will see Jesus enthroned.  For this “blasphemy” and “treason” they condemned him.  No, everyone understood that Jesus’ Kingship and Kingdom has everything to do with everything, and posed a profound threat to all power arrangements that work in the world.

When Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world, he was suggesting that his Kingdom does not come from the world’s systems, does not depend on this world’s  wisdom and power, and does not work the way other kingdoms of the world work.  Jesus’ Kingdom claims the world: the Revelation celebrates the fact that the kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall rule for ever.   He shall rule everything forever.  That reality Jesus announced as beginning in his own life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus would, I think, participate in the electoral process, but in Kingdom ways.  He would not expect that one candidate makes or breaks the most important matters we and he face.  He would not expect that any one political party or coalition of parties could serve adequately the full reign of what he intends to do in our world.  And, he would insist that his Kingdom and especially his Kingdom-ways—the way his Kingdom works—trumps every agenda and platform on offer.

Jesus would vote, I think.  He would participate in a process where people make choices about how their lives will be ordered.  Yet, Jesus could not commit absolutely to any one nation or coalition of nations, because his Kingdom is over all.  Perhaps it is better to say, that Jesus commits absolutely to what is and will be best for all nations, peoples, tribes, cultures etc.  What’s good for one nation must be weighed against what’s good for all nations.  What protects the interest of one people must connect well and coordinate with what protects the interest of all peoples.

I use the word “people” here on purpose.  Jesus, along with the movement of people that began to follow him, had profound interest in people and people-groups, but relatively low interest in the governments of nations.  Our President of the United States pledges to protect our interests and guard our way of life.  When push comes to shove, the President will always do what is best for us, even when there will be collateral damage to others.  That is simply the way government works in the U.S. and everywhere else.  That, however, is simply not the way Jesus works.  I am sure you feel the confusion, frustration and perhaps anger this creates.

Jesus would vote and would participate in our electoral process, I think.  But he would do so as an expression of his larger and deeper pursuits of his Kingdom.  Or, to rephrase, Jesus would pursue the advance of his Kingdom, in the way his Kingdom works, and participate in our electoral process in ways compatible with his Kingdom pursuits.

I am trying to think and pray through what this means.  We have much teaching about his Kingdom and how it works.  In the course of that teaching Jesus calls us to enter his Kingdom, to follow him in pursuing the rule of God in his way.  This involves dying and rising from death, literally for him and in some sense also for us who follow.  And, Jesus instructs us to pray that his Kingdom would come, by which meant “come to earth” in fullness, as the next explanatory petition makes clear—let your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. 

In a coming post I want to offer a voting guide that comports with a Kingdom priority.  For now, however, I suggest that we begin best by reflecting on the things most central and urgent to Jesus’ Kingdom-way.  Such reflection can help us participate in the electoral process as an expression of Kingdom-pursuit.  I mention several of these central and urgent matters.

Jesus came for, died for, and seeks the well-being of all people.  His concern is not only or exclusively or even uniquely with our people.  Rather, he came and sets up rule for all people.  Of course, our electoral processes have a much more narrow and limited scope.  Even so, we follow Jesus and are seeking first his right ways.  What is best for the whole world and for all people assumes priority over what is best for one nation and its people, it would seem.

Jesus cares about the poor, abandoned, and the broken.  His Kingdom is good news especially for the poor in all the ways people can be poor. 

Jesus came to bring peace all the way around, certainly not least among and between the peoples of the world.  Forgiveness and reconciliation rank high on the agenda.  Enemies can become friends.  Ultimately, evil will suffer defeat at the hands of good, not when out matched by a greater evil.  This does not mean, necessarily, that force can never be used.  It would not require passivity or pacifist responses in the face of what harms and injures others.  But it does mean relinquishing the sword as symbol for our way of life.  Living that way means dying that way, our King has said. 

Jesus called us to love with our all, even to the sacrifice of all as occasion demands.  Sacrifice is for the sake of others, for the sake of those without, those in peril, those otherwise left out.  I do not know how this might govern matters of state.   But I am resisting the impulse to conclude that loving sacrifice is only for religious or spiritual dimensions of life. 

And Jesus summed up much of the Kingdom way by calling his people to do for and to others what we want them to do to and for us.  In our treatment of people, people-groups, issues, social dilemmas and their resolution, a Kingdom people will prioritize “doing unto others … .”

Comments 19

  1. It’s always hard to tell what Christ would have done. We’re living in a different world where representative government has a long cultural history practically embedded in our DNA. From my point of view though, I’m not sure that he would vote. Firstly, I point to 1 Sam. 8. The people were essentially choosing a government embodied in a king. God styles their picking of a government as the equivalent of rejecting Him. Even keeping in mind that God would be the one actually picking the king–as close to a perfect ruler as one could get, still He calls simply the desire to be ruled by someone other than God a rejection of God Himself. He even goes so far as to liken it to worshiping false gods.

    I also question the basis of government. At its root, government in any form is a means to compel individuals to observe specific behaviours or deal with a set of generally violent consequences. In a modern democracy, it essentially means that the government makes a set of dictates that are ostensibly seen as the will of the majority and says to dissenters, ‘Obey these dictates or we will take your goods, your liberty or your life.’

    If we place Christ as a participant in this system, what kinds of words are we placing in His mouth? “Lo, I say unto you, if you should steal from a brother, my public servants will come to your house and force you to go to prison for 10 to 20 years.” “Yea, those who refuse to give me 15 to 25 per cent of their income to wage a war in foreign climes shall surely be charged with tax evasion and sentenced to not more than five years at a minimum security facility.” or even if we want to be liberal about it “Those who refuse to give their money to the poor shall be guilty of tax evasion.” Like I said, it’s hard to say what Christ would do, but it seems out of character to me anyway. If we want to get down to it, Christ doesn’t recognize Jew or Gentile, rich or poor. Would he even support the idea of arbitrarily defined national borders where different rights are afforded by different governments based on which side of the border you’re on? It seems to me that any government that says we’re going to do what’s best for our constituents at the cost of the interests of other peoples. What’s the alternative, we’re going to do what’s best for the world even if it means the suffering of our own constituents? I don’t particularly remember any candidate at any time running on that platform.

    Personally, I’m forced to come to the conclusion that Christ would simply render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and let those who have faith in the state worry about the affairs of the state. I’m more inclined to think that He was being quite literal when He said that His kingdom wasn’t of this world. I don’t think He was saying that we’re dual citizens or that we can turn the state into a simulacrum of His kingdom. I think he was saying we are foreigners in a strange and alien land, not citizens or participants in their systems. Our wars are not their wars and our laws are not their laws. We already have a King above all kings, we can let the world have a president. Perhaps I am wrong. As I said, it’s hard to know Christ’s intentions all the time. For me though, I’ll leave the voting to others.

  2. We are in what may be the most important election of our lifetime… tragically only 1/2 of registered Christian voters vote. I want our Bishops to tell us to vote our Christian values or be prepared to face the consequences. I am encouraging people to check out championthevote.com and get in the battle.

    1. What consequences? Excommunication? I don’t think we do that. Surely you’re not suggesting that by failing to vote we’re going to Hell? If you’re simply referring to the temporal consequences, I think that’s well understood and doesn’t need a decree from our Bishop. Failing to vote means that someone you don’t like is slightly more likely to be elected.

      The better question is, “What candidate best represents our Christian values?” Right now, it seems like the choice is between a man that is twice divorced and cheated on his wives both times, a Mormon who denies the trinity and the exclusive divinity of Christ or our current president–a mainline Protestant who claims to have had a personal saving experience, was an active member in his church for 20 years and has been married to the same woman for 20 years without any hint of impropriety. Pre-political life, Gingrich was a professor-a fine enough profession. Romney was a consultant to a firm specializing in downsizing corporations-essentially a lay-off specialist(I’m not sure how Christ-like that one is.) Obama was a civil rights attorney and worked with groups of churches in some of the poorest communities in the country to fight housing injustices and raise awareness of their plight (In all fairness, he was terrible at it. He was good at getting people emotionally on his side, but miserable at accomplishing anything. Still though, I think it’s a more Christ-valued career than that of his fellow candidates.) I guess Obama gets the vote as far as personal and spiritual values go.

      Of course, he’s pro-choice and pro-gay rights which I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to and say is anti-Christian. Gingrich and Romney win the sexual values round.

      At the same time, he’s pro-healthcare for kids with preexisting conditions and those not covered by insurance (but, in all fairness, Romney used to be as well until it became politically suicidal to say so, so I’ll give him half a point), so Christ could probably get behind that. He’s anti-war and I think Christ can be behind that as well. He’s pro-equal pay for equal work and that seems like a Christ-like thing. So Obama gets the social values round with a nod to Romney as runner up.

      On the rest, they break about even. They’re all in favor of a better economy and more jobs, they have different paths to get there, but those are arguments about the efficacy of a choice and as far as I know Christ doesn’t judge us on how well we do as long as we try our best. They are all nominal environmentalists. They all want to improve education and make energy secure. Again, different routes to get there, but the intention is the same. After all, we’re voting values and not practical applicability. I call these ones a wash.

      So, I think our final tally is Obama winning personal values and social values. Mitt and Newt tying for sexual values (although to be fair, Newt apparently has no problem with adultery as long as it’s not with another guy, so he might be a wash on this one, so I think we have to hand it to Mitt) and pretty much a wash on stewardship values. My off-the-hip evaluation is that a vote for Christian values is a vote for Obama. So I guess we get four more years of gridlock and political infighting. Yay us!

      Since you are a fan of championthevote, I can only assume that your evaluation is different. I look forward to seeing it. Of course, it might be more apropos after we see the Bishop’s voting guide in his next post. Still though, it’s something to talk about.

  3. This discourse is extremely helpful to me as this question has plagued me most of my adult life. It has always amazed me that people I admire cannot agree on political issues yet desire to fully follow Christ. I look forward to the discussion.

    I always vote, but say that I allow the Holy Spirit to lead. In this particular instance, I may be hypocritical substituting my confusion for the “Sunday School” answer. I thank God that I was born in the USA, but desire to live fully in the Kingdom of God. I struggle with what that means for today.

    I am not a deep thinker or highly educated; thank you for an avenue to sort through this upcoming political (ugly) season.

  4. Thank you for your thought on the article, “Would Jesus Vote”? I can not say it answered the purposed situation, but your writing was of interest. Many would believe that your purposed idea, that Jesus would do what was best for all, would put you in Ron Paul’s camp as he desires us to see everyone as equals. Bring all of our troops home and just let be. Or it might cause you to cast a vote for President Obama as he freely gives money, food stamps and cell phones to the needy as we have are trillions of dollars in debt. Perhaps your thoughts would call us to communism as the apostles had all in common and the protestors of wall street are striving to equalize the financial playing field. Let’s take from the rich and give to the poor.

    Would Jesus suggest that the USA vote for someone who believes that Israel should return their land to the Palestinians when it was a promise from God to Abraham? Then one should favor Obama, for he seems to very much carry a torch for the Muslim world.

    Do we believe that the USA is the only one that will keep the world peace and not allow a one world dictator to control our nations? Then one should vote for Mitt Romney or Neut Genrich as they propose a strong military force second to none. Yes, this will bring about collateral damage.

    Would Jesus vote for a Morman, who does not truly believe he is the son of God as taught in the word. Would he vote for Neut Genrich who has time and time again been unfaithful to his wives? Would he vote for Ron Paul who would legalized unlawful drugs? Would Jesus vote for Barak Obama who feels more comfortable kneeling on a Muslim prayer mat than attending the Presidential Day of Prayer?

    Sadly, I fear Jesus would be about in the same quandary as I am? Who can one depend on, vote for with a clear conscious, or trust?

    We are in an upside down world. This world is in a mess and I am not sure there are any real political solutions. “All creation groans for the Lord’s return” and I tend to think that might include the circle of politics.

    If I had to chose, I rather doubt that Jesus would vote. He was without sin and to enter into our political chaos would go against that which Jesus stands for, to be set apart and to be holy. Voting might mean that Jesus would have to compromise his Godly nature.

    This leaves someone like myself left to settle for choosing the least of the evils and hoping for the best. My hope rests in God that before China owns us, or Iran blows Israel and the USA off their foundations, that Jesus will return. Only then will we have true political peace. Better yet, we won’t need politicians

    Earleen Elliott Snider
    Salina, Ks

  5. Dear Bishop Kendall,

    You might be interested to know, that I am Ruth Earleen Elliott Fairbairn Snider. My grandpa was Bishop C.V. Fairbairn of the FM Church and my mother with Ruth Fairbairn.

    Thanks for your article and stimulating my thinking.

    Earleen Elliott Snider

    1. Thank you for your thought provoking comments.

      It seems to me that not voting is a cop out in being responsible christian citizens. Just because the enemy is strong, do we just lay down our weapons and remain silent or secret followers of Christ? Just because the eneny, both human and satan himself, is so vocal they almost drown out any sensible response, do we not vote? Just becacause no candidate fully believes and lives according to the values that Jesus taught, do we not vote for any? Not voting seems like quiting to me.
      And it also may mean that the worst candidate is elected because of the “no votes” by the christian community.

      No human being is perfect and there never will be, albeit Jesus was perfect when He lived among us as the God-Man. There has not been an election in our entire history where the cadidates measured up perfectly to the priciples and values that Jesus gave us to honor, cherish and live by. Admitedly, this coming election seems so much worse in that regard than previous elections. As pointed out, the weaknessess and strength of each candidate is all over the board. And human wisdom will crtainly fail in discerning which candidate is the best one.

      I am reminded, however, of Romans 13:1 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed.”(RSV)

      In view of this, should we not do our best (vote inteligently) so that those in authority will be those who best represent Christ-like values?

      Again, human wisdom is not enough. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to determine who one should vote for. Do I know who I should vote for?… Not yet. Will I know who to vote for at election time? I certainly hope and pray that the Lord will give me wisdon to support His candidate. If His candidate, despite all the flaws and character imperfections, is in office and if the Lord is in control (and I’m sure that He is), America will be in good hands. And even better when He returns to clean up this mess that we are in and establishes His Kingdom here on earth. Lord hasten that day!!!

  6. There is a lot of discussion here and I don’t really want to tackle all of it but am wondering how exactly not voting is a cop-out. I know that this is an apologia for my stance on voting, but I cannot, in good conscience, vote for someone who would do harm to someone else. Until there is a candidate who says that they will not order any type of violent aggression upon someone unless they personally know the situation, I will not vote. Willful naivette is not an excuse for violence.

    Also, for the most part, Christian voters have also opposed candidates who were pro-choice but have not, traditionally, opposed candidates who weren’t anti-war and pro immigration; not illegal immigration but immigration to help support others.

    1. I’ve been really exticed to see PV’s mentality change just in the past year from bringing people INTO the church, to encouraging the church to go OUT. This year for Christmas, rather than doing the same Christmas program its done for over a decade, we’ve themed this Christmas Christmas to GO (picture a chinese to-go box as the image . Everyone in the Northland who has ever wnted to see The Singing Christmas Tree has come to PV to see it EXCEPT those who are homeless or in prison. So where are we taking the message of Christ? To the homeless and to prisons. I’m pretty exticed about this I think this is one small way we see the Kingdom of God expanding in a real, and practical way.

  7. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Bishop Kendall. I look forward to your kingdom oriented voting guide. For the first time I have been considering _not_ voting in the presidential election, and your blog gives me some things to think about. Vote or not, we are definitely called to prayer for those in authority . . .

  8. Thought I’d pass my website upon which I archive my grandfather’s sermons. My grandfather, Reed A. Swift (1899-1973) was a minister in the FMC for many years before he and his wife joined the Bible Missionary Church in 1957.

  9. I find it appalling that anyone who claims to follow Christ could even consider casting a vote for a candidate as pro-abortion as Obama. Obama supports the horrendous practice of partial birth abortion (where a full term baby is purposefully delivered breach and then has his/her skull punctured and brains sucked out while all of the baby except for the head is out of the birth canal.) Obama, while a state senator in Illinois, cast the only vote against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.

    How does anyone square a vote with Obama against the obvious love that Jesus demonstrated for children and the most defenseless of humanity?

    Bishop Kendall, we need to consistently hear a voice crying out for the defense of these voiceless children from the pulpit. To have the pulpit remain silent on this issue is nothing other than cowardice.

  10. Well, James. It’s not as cut and dried as you would portray it. Firstly, we don’t particularly know what Jesus’s concern for the unborn is. They are not mentioned at all in non-poetic terms in the New Testament and in the Old Testament the only explicit reference to their valuation is Exodus 21:22 which is a contentious text. Most scholars, particularly Jewish and mainline scholars say that this explicitly says that causing a miscarriage is seen more as a property crime and certainly not equivalent to murder. Pro-life apologists claim that the traditional interpretation refers to premature birth where the child survives. Regardless, it’s not a settled issue. Tradition doesn’t help us much either since prior to the sexual revolution, abortion was not nearly as contentious of an issue. Abortions prior to then were relegated primarily to prostitutes and the very poor. For most people, having an abortion was almost laughable Prostitutes were seen as being immoral anyway, so abortion was the least of their sins and among the impoverished, it was frowned upon, but understood. It was seen similarly to how we might view a starving man stealing a loaf of bread. It was only with the advent of cheap plentiful abortions on demand that this issue began getting much religious attention at all. (For the record, I am staunchly pro-Life. I am merely saying that there are two sides to the issue and it’s not as simple as it is popularly portrayed.)

    Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, being pro-life is not and should not be some sort of litmus test for a politician. It’s only one of many important considerations. There are politicians that are pro-life that are frankly miserable excuses for human beings. There are pro-choice candidates that in many ways are very close to Christ’s teachings on other issues. I don’t think that we can look at one issue and somehow judge the totality of all policies that the person advocates.

    Of course, if you’re simply saying that we shouldn’t vote for anyone that advocates any sinful policy at all, I agree with you. Of course, that means that in all probability we won’t be voting. Welcome to the fold of voluntary disfranchisement, brother.

  11. Lawrence, there are several scriptures that indicate God recognizes prior to birth a human life as a unique child of his created in His image. For instance Psalm 139.13-16:

    13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
    15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
    16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.

    After reading these verses from God’s Word, do they not indicate that human life is known to God before the birth process? Do you really think that a baby doesn’t possess a soul until the umbelical cord is cut or the first breath is drawn?

    So how does a Christian justify a vote for Obama, an incredibly evil man who thinks it’s ok to kill a full term baby even after it is born, if that child somehow miraculously survived a botched abortion (as happened in Illinois – thus prompting the Infant Born Alive Protection bill which he voted against)

    For a Christian voter, a candidate’s stance on the critical issue of abortion must be a litmus test. Do you really want to stand before God unrepentant as one who empowered the slaughter millions of unborn babies?

    1. James, besides the problem of interpreting poetic text as literal revelation, we see the same sentiments expressed prior to conception. For instance, Jeremiah 1:5 says ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.’ implying God knows our soul previous to our conception. Ephesians 1 says we are known since the beginning of the world. As an omnipotent being, that seems to make some sense to me. No one (or at least very few people that I know of) would claim that abstinence is a sin as it prevents the materialization of potential souls that God already knows. As to when exactly how and when the soul is created and/or placed in a body, I couldn’t say. Since Christendom has been fighting about it for the last two thousand years, I have difficulty believing that the Bible is particularly clear on the subject. Catholics take their teaching from a papal bull of Pius XII and the Fifth Lateran council which was a reaction against the transducianism becoming popular amongst Protestants at the time. These aren’t scriptural justifications, but rather decrees rooted in tradition.

      Without clear guidance, we are forced to rely on tradition and our own faculties to make best guesses. As I said, I am pro-life, but I’m not arrogant enough to assume that I know the mind of God. I’m guessing based on what I think makes sense to me, but I’m a flawed and imperfect being. There’s every possibility that I’m wrong. I don’t think this makes those that disagree with my stance ‘incredibly evil’ or minions of Satan.

      For your last paragraph, I don’t particularly want to stand before God unrepentant as one who empowered any politician. I think that there are many, many non-Christian attitudes and actions taken by the government (and all governments for that matter) and I don’t want to be held responsible for any of them. Do I want to be responsible for a very pro-life man who said that it was OK to imprison and torture people that he suspects are bad as long as we get useful information out of it? I don’t think Christ would approve of that. Do I want to vote for a candidate that advocates splitting up families of immigrants and deporting parents back to violent and impoverished conditions? I don’t think that’s what Christ would do. Do I want to stand before God having said that it’s OK to attack a country unprovoked because there’s a chance that one day they could attack you? I’m pretty sure that’s not how Christ said to treat our enemies.

      The reality is, if I make what Christ would do my litmus test, every politician I have ever seen fails. If we’re going to make abortion (a shaky theological proposal at best) our litmus test, then I say we should make the very firm theological proposals litmus tests as well. For instance, any politician that says it’s OK to divorce for non-infidelity-Christ is pretty clear about that one. Any politician that wants to keep pre-marital sex legal-that one’s all through the Bible. Any politician that doesn’t support poverty relief-holy cow, that one’s everywhere. Any politician who supports commerce on Sundays-that one’s pretty much clear as day. Any politician who supports temporal punishment of violence or offence-Christ is adamantly clear on the whole forgiveness thing and not resisting evildoers. I personally wouldn’t want to stand before God and say ‘Yeah, I know you told us to forgive and not resist evildoers, to love our enemies, to do good to those that hate us, but I unrepentantly voted for the guys responsible for the arrest of literally 50% of all men at some point in their life and the current incarceration of one out of every nine young black men. Was massive imprisonment not what you meant when you said turn the other cheek? I must have been confused. When you said if someone takes your coat give them your shirt as well, I thought you meant that when someone takes your coat, lock them in jail for ten years. It was a very confusing passage.’

  12. Jesus was and is Pro-Life! That is the bottom line. Life begins at conception! On the other hand, neither major party really has the answers. I’m a member and supporter of what is called Christian Populism, best embodied within the party platform of the Prohibition Party. But, that’s my opinion, and I’ve been wrong before!