LOVE TRUMPS VOTING
Written by Doug Ponder on March 6, 2016
It’s an Election Year. Again.
It’s more predictable than a Rocky plot and more aggravating than sand in your shoes. And I swear the older I get, the sooner it seems to arrive. The presidential election is still just once every four years, isn’t it?!
This election cycle has been particularly sad, scary, and especially eye-opening. At present, the Republican frontrunner is a man who said he’d command our country’s soldiers to commit war crimes and engage in torture—even against women and children. And he’s said this four times in less than two months. Meanwhile the Democratic frontrunner is a woman who has repeatedly gone on record to defend a mother’s “right” to murder her unborn children. And this is one of the primary issues of her platform.
This means we may face an election in which the two main candidates openly endorse murder. Of course, Trump’s supporters give him a pass because he would “only be murdering our enemies,” while Hillary’s supporters give her a pass because labels like “pro-choice” and “women’s health” are a clever way to avoid stating what choice is being made and whose health is protected while another’s is destroyed (but we all know what is really going on).
How Christians Pour Gas on the Fire
If all this weren’t bad enough, many Christians have bought into a lie that essentially pours gas on the fire funeral pyre. The lie is that voting in presidential elections (any election, really) is the best way to do the most good. Toned down a bit, some might simply say that voting is the easiest way to do a lot of good. In truth, voting is more like an indirect way to maybe do a little good maybe. (It may not have always been that way, but it certainly seems to be true now.)
Yet we continue to believe in “the power of the vote” because our view of politics and policymaking is largely backwards. We tend to think of political policymaking as being like turning on a faucet: we elect the person we want so that they can ‘turn on the water’ and let our preferred policies flow. In reality, policy change is often more like bursting a dam than turning on a faucet. It is only after rising tide of public opinion that policymakers make their moves. After all, they are elected to represent the people. For this reason, laws are usually changed after minds are changed—not the other way around. For example, by the time the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was made into law, nearly 60% of Americans already supported it, with only 31% in opposition. (These numbers are remarkably similar to how many Americans approved or disapproved of the legalization of gay marriage last year when the Supreme Court handed down its infamous decision.)
Love Trumps Voting
What this means is simple: Christians have got to stop looking to the political process with great hopes. It’s not that politics is intrinsically evil. It’s just that politics is only one tool among many for achieving change—and even on the best of days, history suggests that it isn’t the most useful tool. Let me say that again, sans metaphors this time, for ultra-clarity: politics is not the best or most important way to shape our society.
If you really want to “impact the world,” try loving your neighbor (or co-worker or friend). Get to know them. Do something nice for them. Ask how you can serve them. Treat them like a normal human being. And love them enough to talk with them about something more important than sports or the weather. The apostles did this and they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6)—all without ever casting a single vote in an election (not that they had any choice).
I know what some of you are thinking: “But voting is a way to love my neighbor. Elections matter! Shouldn’t we vote and serve our neighbors? Isn’t this a both-and, not an either-or?”
Why do we always get around to the one without ever finding the time for the other? I think the reason is obvious: Voting is easy. It doesn’t require much sacrifice (just a couple of hours once every four years or so). But serving my neighbors is hard. It’s uncomfortable. It takes a lot of work and patience and prayer. You can vote and stay selfish (just think of all of Trump’s and Hillary’s supporters). But you can’t serve your neighbor and stay selfish, because to do the former requires putting to death the latter.
Serving your neighbor may be hard work, but it can have an eternal impact proportionately greater than any election ever could. That kind of love trumps voting. And it always will.
Doug Ponder is one of the founding pastors of Remnant Church in Richmond, VA, where he serves in many of the church’s teaching ministries. He has contributed to several published works and is the author of Rethink Marriage & Family. His interests include the intersection of theology, ethics, and the Christian life. Follow him on Twitter @dougponder.