Confession: I have never been eligible to vote in an election.
When I lived in Nigeria, I was too young to be eligible, and my adult life has been mostly spent in one of the hardest places to qualify to vote…not the story today, though. I reckon the earliest I will be eligible will be sometime in 2022, and I’m looking forward to it! Such a grown-up thing!
Now, with all the talk about elections, I figure there’s no better time to put aside my undying reluctance to comment on social issues publicly and share some of my thoughts around actual conversations I have had in the last few months. I’ll say now that I don’t care who anyone but my future spouse votes for; never have, never will. But I do care that you vote, and here are some reasons and rebuttals to your favorite excuses…
Is everyone doing it? Yes, all the grownups are. Voting, that is.
The majority of my adult life has been spent in America, and I find that most Americans are quick to try to distance themselves from the less than stellar state of social dynamics in the country. (Side note: I think it happens everywhere, but Americans are pretty vocal on most issues, and so it comes across far more frequently.) People are quick to point out that they are not the issue while accepting that, on some level, there are issues to address. But. We are the ones who care, the good ones, who want to fix things, but they – the government, the banks, the rich, other people groups, everyone else – they are the problem, and they seemingly cannot be stopped. When it comes to elections, the sentiment is similar. The candidates are all terrible. I live in a [insert primary color here] state so it really doesn’t matter. I call BS. And let’s not even get into the fact that elections are far less about the headliners (presidents) and way more importantly about the grassroots (all things local). Yes, it builds up over time, and yes there are long-standing systems that make things a lot more difficult than they need to be, but ultimately every society is a product of the actions of those who care enough to shape the narrative by creating change (or shape the narrative by keeping things the same!), even in as simple matters as voting in all elections. I have friends who won’t vote in the upcoming elections, I am ashamed of them and I no longer believe their lies about not liking the state of things and wanting change. Wishing for a difference is not a noble pursuit, doing something is. And doing something tangible in the real world is what I mean (no knocks to digital activism, it has its merits, but not in matters of putting a ballot in a box, nothing replaces that).This is not about what issues you hang your hat on or who you want to champion, but for goodness sake do wake up and take a stand somewhere. Do some soul searching, figure out some of the things that matter to you and put your weight behind those things with a ‘pencil mark’ on a ballot. It might take time to feel like your voice is leading to change. But that is where we build conviction. Maybe this is how we all figure out who we are and what we are about.
Jesus would have voted. Who He would have voted for is not the point. And who you vote for is not my point either.
I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to vote, unless you are voting against your values or convictions. There is no Christian way of voting. You should have convictions, strong enough that they put steel in your spine, and then you should go out and push for those convictions. Can our convictions be wrong or misguided? Absolutely. And every one of us has a responsibility to sit with Jesus and our convictions and work out the values that make us proud to live each day. And then let God shape those beliefs until they put fire in you to take a stand and fight for them. It’s that simple. This is about you and what you stand for. And I’ll be honest, the state of American politics means you will be walking in some pretty gray areas, so welcome to adulthood! However, we should all get educated and learn as much as we can, and just freaking act. There are too many people actively sticking to the sidelines and doing nothing but clucking at the news, and that is exactly what Jesus never did.
You cannot legislate the gospel…
I think the laziest thing Christians could do, the biggest disservice to the world around us, is to attempt to use human or moral law to force our version of Christian living on others. I find that when it comes to both sides of the political coin, the focus is on pushing to elect those who will serve what we believe to be the right way for people to live. Nothing wrong with that, that’s what voting is. But when we don’t want to do the work of reaching people one loving interaction at a time, and so we hope we can force everyone into a set of rules enforced by human law that will make them all into ‘good’ people, that’s us being unloving. We were not called to go into all the world and elect governments that will stop abortions or make people treat one another kindly (by all means if those are the things you care about, vote for candidates who champion those causes). But we do not get to vote away our obligation to love people to life one person at a time. No matter how closely the constitution resembles the ten commandments, history has shown that we still have to go out there and do the work. That will never change. And it should take the pressure off the fretful need to vote solely to evangelize the world. We do what we should and so create space for God to do what He can.
I’ll keep this short because there’s more than enough people telling us all what we should do. I just hope we all think about this and find a way to not let future selves down.
If you care, vote. Vote, because you care, and when you’re done voting, get back out there and do other things that show you care.
I love you, but first, VOTE.