Who Turned Up the Volume?
Man, it’s loud. Lately it seems someone turned up the volume. Most election years naturally excite enthusiasm and rancor. However, the volume seems particularly acute this year. Politically speaking, the country appears more divided than I ever remember it being. From those who bleed democrat blue to those who rage with republican red, and the graduated shades of independent gray in between, it seems the noise of contention and animosity is at an all time high. According to most political enthusiasts this is one of the most important elections in our lifetime (though I hear that analysis every four years). I will grant it is the most important only because it is the one happening right now. Nevertheless, it is fresh on everyone’s mind, and as near as the radio, television, Facebook, or after church conversation. Everyone, in one-way or another, is talking about it. And with the election officially one week away, I wanted to share a few thoughts about how I process some things. I pray they are helpful to you. First, beware of being “a one issue voter.” Many people find themselves so engrossed in a single political issue that they dismiss or disregard many other important policies. For some it’s the economy and poverty alleviation. For others it is immigration and the treatment of foreigners. Still for others it is healthcare or education. Even more, for many of us it is scourge of abortion. As one who takes the abortion issue serious and desires for the scourge to be removed from our society (and church), I sympathize with my brothers and sisters in Christ who tend to make this issue the sine qua non of their balloting. In fact, many Christians find themselves so appalled and offended by the abortion industry in our country, that they are ready to vote for any candidate who gives a smile or a nod in the pro-life direction. Believe me, I understand. I have found myself leaning in that direction from time to time. However, as one seeks to be shaped by the whole of biblical thinking, I am also cautioned as a Christian not to view the world or politics myopically We must beware of oversimplification because neither the Bible nor our God lends himself to such simplifications. In other words, the Bible is not a one-issue book, and more importantly, our God is not a one-issue God. Therefore, as Christians, I believe we must guard against being one-issue citizens just as we guard against being one-attribute theologians. For example, to emphasize God is love (1 John 4:8) is right and biblical. However, to overemphasize God’s love to the neglect of his other attributes is not just wrong, it’s sinful. As we know, God is love, but He is also holy (Isa. 6:3), righteous (Dan. 9:14), sovereign (1Tim. 6:15), good (Psa. 119:68), wise (Rom. 16:27), and true (John 17:3) et al. If we simply focus on one attribute and neglect to give equal weight to his other attributes, our understanding of God is skewed and we easily begin to worship a god of our making rather than the God who made us. Consequently, as Christians and citizens we should understand that God is pro-life (Jn. 10:10). Yes! But God is also pro-justice (Isa. 61:8), pro-prosperity (Psa. 90:17), pro-peace (2Thes. 3:16), pro-equity (Psa. 98:9), pro-education (Dt. 11:19; Pr. 4:13), pro-fatherless (Psa. 27:10; Dt. 27:19), pro-immigration (Lev. 19:33-34), and many other “pros” that should cause us to rethink the idea of being a one-issue voter. Secondly, beware of being a “non-voter.” There are Christian brothers and sisters who would suggest that absent a candidate that provides their preferred moral and political emphasis, the best option for the first Tuesday in November is to opt for the no option and not vote. While understanding why some of my brothers and sister may sit out this presidential election, I would suggest to you that is not the wisest course of action. In fact, I would agree with John Piper when he writes, “It seems to me that the good that can be done, presumably by the protest of not voting, is mainly done by talking about not voting rather than by not voting.” (read more) In fact, I would argue that those who refuse to vote resign themselves to be governed by fools. Admittedly, someone will say, “We will be governed by fools anyway.” Perhaps. However, by surrendering our vote we also surrender our right to complain and thus silently perpetuate the hierarchy of the fools. So let me encourage you to vote. I have no particular party agenda, or am I seeking to warm you to one candidate or the other. I just want to encourage you to stay involved in the process. This is political system God has ordained for us at this moment. No, it is not perfect. Imperfect men and women, elected by imperfect men and women, run it. Nevertheless, I believe not only do we have the right, but we also have the responsibility to change what we can change, and a non-vote is not going to change anything. Consider Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who died in 1968. If he had lived, today he would be the same age my mother is. His children are of the same generation that I am – that Barack Obama is. If you had told Dr. King that one of his children would be elected president of the United States, he would have looked at you and said in the common vernacular of his day, “Negro, you crazy!” And yet it has happened! This country elected a black man president one generation after the sacrifices and indignities suffered by Dr. King and others. How? By people doing what Dr. King would have encouraged us all to do – voting! Don’t misunderstand; I am not stumping for Barack Obama, just the process. If you don’t agree with President Obama, vote against him. If you want him to continue for four more years, vote for him. I simply want to encourage you to vote. Change comes when we vote, not when we sit on our hands. Christians above all should know this. We worship a sovereign God, who governs all things. Yet, we pray and then we get to work. We even work out our salvation, knowing that it is God sovereignly at work in us to bringing about his good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13). I don’t believe God calls us to be passive. On the contrary, I believe he calls us to pray for the candidates and the leaders of this country, and with informed consciences vote and trust God to work his will through the process he has ordained for us. Again, I am not interested in telling you for whom to vote. I am naïve enough to believe that the church of Jesus Christ consists of democrats, republicans, libertarians, independents, and some I don’t know. In fact, I am convinced that heaven will be filled with former republicans, former democrats, and even a few former libertarians . These will all be former because in heaven there will be no political parties or caucuses. There will only be one King, and neither you, some political action committee, nor me elected him. He is the Sovereign Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns now and forever over every king and kingdom – even the ones he calls on us to participate in today. And so I will. I hope you will too. Oh, and by the way, please forgive me if I got a little loud.Anthony Carter is the pastor of East Point Church in East Point, Georgia. After completing studies at Atlanta Christian College, he attended Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida, where he received his Master of Arts in Biblical Studies. While in Orlando, Pastor Carter also worked for Ligonier Ministries for several years. He is the author of On Being Black and Reformed: A New Look at the African-American Christian Experience and the editor of Experiencing the Truth: Bringing the Reformation to the African-American Church and Glory Road: The Journeys of 10 African-Americans into Reformed Christianity.