The Election and Moral Responsibility

My buddy Michael Foster and myself have been having a discussion on Facebook about the election and moral responsibility. Here’s how it’s gone:

Mike: I will not vote for the lesser of two evils. The child-murder supporting socialist or the old war-monger with his ill-equipped hockey mom? No, no.

Me: perhaps voting based off highest level of efficacy in achieving the highest amounts of your ideals?

Mike: Matt, isn’t that same thing as lesser of two evils but reversed.

Me: I can completely understand having a moral issue SUPPORTING either candidate. I am not convinced the same issue exists in VOTING for a candidate. In the case we are faced with another moral dilemma that our postmodern hearts have grown hard to: civic responsibility. We all comprise a Representative Democracy, which in terms of being “subject to one’s authorities”, might just mean that we are subject first and foremost to the constitution.

So how can we think that the blatant evil policies of both candidates somehow abdicates us from the moral responsibility of participating in the political process? Which has led me to ask the question, “Of the policies that I am morally convinced are good for people, which candidate can most effectively accomplish them?”

Does this leave the blood of innocent children, either here or in Iraq, on my hands? I am an American, their blood is already there.

Care to join the discussion?


14 Responses

  1. Sure–I’ll join in.

    1) If there was a box that I could check (proverbially) that was labeled “No to Obama” I would check it. To think that voting for McCain is equal to that is contrary to sense. We’re supposed to vote for the candidate of our choice. If neither one is our choice, that really presents a problem.

    2) Here we are coming up on “election day” yet that one day is only one part of a process. I voted for a candidate in the primaries and my candidate did not make it. So, just because someone isn’t voting in the general election, does NOT mean that they are failing to participate in the process.

    3) What would happen if all of those who really don’t believe in either candidate wouldn’t fall into the lesser of two evils trap? Perhaps that voice that refuses to “speak” would actually be louder than those who do. As a Christian, I find it funny that in our times, the presidential election is one of the rare times it’s ok to choose evil over evil. It seems quite ridiculous to me. I understand not voting out of laziness is one thing, but what if the choice to not vote is a conscious one, from a person who otherwise understands and participates in the political process through a gospel lense?

    4) Perhaps it’s time for the church to just stop voting for the next Caesar. No doubt, in my opinion, too many Christians put too much stock in the idea that if we could just elect the right official, things would get better, as though the kingdom was going to come about by earthly politics. The truth is that if the church did her job of applying the gospel to all spheres of our socio-economic culture(s) that people wouldn’t need to depend on the government to solve their issues, since ultimately the government cannot solve one ounce of the real problem. If the church spent less time voting and more time actually engaging in the work the gospel compels us to, this would be a non-issue.

    5) Where in the Biblical narrative to we draw the idea that we MUST vote as a matter of civic duty? Furthermore, I think it is an illusion that we are in a representative democracy. I suggest we’re living in a psuedo-socialist plutocracy. We are not subject first and foremost to the Constitution, but to King Jesus. We are certainly under the authority of the Constitution in one sense, yet even that document (which our government has long left behind as a guide) doesn’t command us to vote in a general election.

    I guess that’s what I’m thinking off the top of my head.

  2. “The truth is that if the church did her job of applying the gospel to all spheres of our socio-economic culture(s) that people wouldn’t need to depend on the government to solve their issues, since ultimately the government cannot solve one ounce of the real problem. If the church spent less time voting and more time actually engaging in the work the gospel compels us to, this would be a non-issue.”

    Deeply convicting and empowering. Thanks Mike.

  3. Edwards and I’ve been having this conversation of late and his comments pretty much nail the sentiment under which my facebook status update was made.

  4. I must agree with Edwards. I will not be voting for either Obama or Mcain, and it is a sad misunderstanding that they are our only choices. If America would stop geting their info primarily from mainstream media we might realize that we DO have other choices, and we don’t have to choose the lesser of two evils.

  5. “Where in the Biblical narrative to we draw the idea that we MUST vote as a matter of civic duty?”

    How about “To him whom much has been given, much will be expected”?

    Civic duty, in light of all the people around the world that do not have a voice in government, nor freedom for self-determination, nor the opportunity for free religious expression, warrant your thankfulness and engagement. Otherwise, you bury your talent.

    Or are we too fat with luxury to appreciate this?

    It irritates me to no end how so many Christians want to overspiritualize government and the political process. Vote your conscience and reason…or don’t vote, and sneer at what many have fought for, and many would die for.

  6. Adam I love how you can consistently hit the nail on the head. We had a forum at seminary recently in which people argued for each candidate. I was moved that God, in his providence, placed me in a time and place in which I have the right and freedom to listen to this arguments and cast a vote as to the outcome.

    We are not electing another “Caesar” because Caesar’s were never elected and it would have been unfathomable to for the common man to have a say in their future leadership. Our country may not be perfect but we live in possibly one of the only nations in the history of humanity in which the two individuals running can debate one night, and then show up at a dinner and roast each other the next. Besides the office of President is greatly overstated in it power and all who think they are picking a “savior” on either ideological side are just plain wrong.

    Let’s cast our votes not because we put so much stock in the political process as to think we are finding a substitute Christ, but because a well thought out vote that we believe will lead to good leadership and governance is a blessing to our community and neighbor.

  7. Spot on, Ryan.

    And people shouldn’t forget, as Aaron mentioned, that more than two people are running for President.

  8. Excellent comments. Very thought provoking. As I read, I can’t count the times I said, “hmmm…good point”….”hmm…another good point”….”hmmm…good point to counter the first good point.” I think the mere fact that christians are waking up to the idea that if we simply rely on the government to do our job or helping the ‘least of these’ that not only will it never be done, but simply voting doesn’t excuse my personal obligation is fantastic. Perhaps there are more than two candidates, but lets be honest, there are only two viable ones. If not voting for either helps your conscience, go for it. I don’t believe that either one is evil. I may not agree with all parts of either of their plans, but I do believe they both want to see america prosperous and loved by the world. I think one has a better plan than the other, so that’s who I’m voting for. But, as Ryan said, the mere fact that we get to vote should be enough of a reason to put the PS3 controller down on for an hour and go do it. I like the point that Edwards made on number 2. The entire election is a process. Nevada had a caucus for the first time this year. It was a blast. You got to hear real people argue for their beliefs in a candidate. There was interaction. Very, very cool. Anywho, keep up the commenting smart people.

  9. the election is a lot like the economic stabilization package (mainstream media liked to call it a “bailout”). totally sucks, don’t want to do it, but only one real option here.

    adam’s comments were spot on. unfortunately, politicians are professional compromisers; realize that neither william wallace or jesus is running for office, make a choice, and cast a vote.

  10. Speaking of economic plans, I got the flyer about Obama’s economic plan stuck in my door the other day. Three things made me laugh:

    1. He will “restore fairness.” According to whom? I’m sorry, but I can’t be convinced that fairness has anything to do with taking something away from someone that earned it to give it to someone that didn’t. I know this blog’s readership and writership skews Christian; I am not talking about charitable giving and tithing. Taxes are not tithes, and the state is not the church. Possessions are to be stewarded, not forcibly reallocated.

    2. He will “cut spending.” Just like his campaign has? He will have spent nearly $1 billion on his election campaign…and he is tied. McCain has spent a fraction of that…and is also tied. By that logic, McCain gets more for the less money. That and he comes with a veto pen. he is the value candidate.

    3. He will “eliminate special interests.” Again, like his campaign has? He has taken foreign donations (illegally) and has bundled together smaller donations in order to allow individuals to give more than the legal amounts (also illegally). And he has taken money from many special interests and large corporations. It’s OK, though, because it is for the greater good.

    Hilarious. Economic plan.

    (Jake – I don’t have a clue who you are voting for, so this isn’t about your comment – it just sparked when I got that flyer.)

  11. The idea of “to whom much is given much is expected” doesn’t create a necessity to vote for the lesser of two evils in an election year. I feel that part of being responsible for what has been given to me could in fact be NOT to vote, in light of being responsible as a citizen. This could be true if I felt that this country needs people who will not vote as a means of sending a message.

    But, like someone else pointed out–you don’t have to vote for those two. We are told to do otherwise is to “throw our vote away” whereby we illegitimize the very responsibility we say people have to vote. Is voting for the libertarian candidate irresponsible because they “don’t stand a chance”?

    I’m not sure if what I just typed is as clear as it could be, but I hope it’s clear enough to demonstrate how the scripture referenced doesn’t infer from necessity the conclusion that we must vote for one of these two guys (Obama/McCain).

    Thanks! Great conversation!

  12. Hey Mike,

    Thanks for your comments I have found them to be well reasoned and illuminating.

  13. i always find mike to be well reasoned and illuminating

  14. You’re forgetting “awesome”

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