(Non) Voting As A Challenge to Power – One Non-vote Voter’s Reflection

A couple of weeks ago the Ex-Reverend sent over several interview questions for a story in anticipation of Oklahoma’s Super Tuesday primary. Greg rightly wondered how Oklahoma’s Christian, Evangelical, voters might view Mitt Romney – a Mormon. You may read the piece here. He offers a lengthier discussion here.

Guy Adams, Los Angeles correspondent for the Independent (UK), read the Gazette piece and sent me a complimentary email with an invitation. He would be in town just before Super Tuesday and wondered if I would be available for an interview. We worked out the details and Guy was our guest at Snow Hill this past Sunday. He and I then enjoyed lunch in Norman before his next interview with Charles Kimball. You may read Guy’s article here.

Now that the dust has settled from Super Tuesday here in Oklahoma it seems clear that on some level Mitt’s religion was more problematic than Santorum’s. Evangelicals carried the vote – but not all Evangelicals. Neither received my vote.

I met Patty at our polling location after work Tuesday. All daylong I wondered whether or not I would even cast a vote. While I offered a caveat during the sermon this past Sunday when I suggested that it might be our Christian duty to not vote, internally I really debated this issue. What to do?

The ballot did not offer a “none of the above.” I decided to vote for a candidate that did not call my cell phone to solicit his support.

I am still wrestling with the reality that the right to vote does not necessarily come with a command to vote. And, unlike those who prefer to just let the whole machine run without any involvement, I really do think there is a way to not vote that should be understood as an act of civil disobedience – or at least a religiously motivated conscientious objection.

One of my young Facebook friends suggested that if a person was not going to take the time to think through the candidates and the accompanying issues then it might be better to sit this one out. I agree. Democratic Republics require an educated electorate. Or, they are supposed to if they want to survive well.

For me, the matter came down to a non-vote vote. Only the big three called my house or my cell phone. That they called my cell phone really bothered me. Many will remind me that not voting is voting with the majority. That may be why I chose to let my non-vote vote chase the wind, to borrow a euphemism from Qoheleth.

You see, I don’t think Jesus would have thought an Evangelical cabal gathering in Texas to select a candidate (Santorum) to “get behind” would have fit his admonition to Peter, “get behind me.”

I read Peter’s move in the passage in Mark 8 as an attempt to get out in front of Jesus. He stepped out from the others. What he heard from Jesus was not what he and the band of disciples had in mind for their future. Jesus was going off script. Someone needed to remind him how the group understands Messiah.

Talk of suffering, death, and resurrection were not part of the tradition. When Jesus retorts to Peter’s rebuke to “get behind me” he may have been rebuking his out front move with more of a “get in line” rather than, “get away from me.” Or to put it another way, Jesus’ statement that anyone who would come after – fall in behind Jesus – would need to jettison their notions of tradition that binds itself to the past as self-denial, take up her cross, and follow. Any leadership from the disciples at this point would be from “behind” not out in front. This is still a good pattern to emulate.

Peter followed an agenda set by a particular vision of Messiah. Jesus subverted that popular perception by cutting at the core of its proposed authority. He noted, “You do not have in mind the things of God.” Peter illustrates the long pattern of conversion when he maintained that God’s agenda was to build walls of separation between peoples. The roof top vision was another instance of working to collapse Peter’s interpretation of the Divine agenda. (Acts 10)

Just maybe, there is a way to (not) materially participate in the systems of this world that draws attention to suffering over against power. Who gets the votes is not always the winner. And we know well that he or she who garners the most votes does not always advantage the very people for whom they claim to champion. Sadly, the Church often ends up missing the very people for whom they clam to exist.

Jesus, in those biographies we call Gospels, seems to stay the course. Rather than submit to the way the system works, he calls attention to how it is broken. Just ask those who exchanged money in the Court of the Gentiles who were subject to the whip wielding Jesus. (John 2)

Jesus showed up in Jerusalem for Passover. What he discovered was a system that took advantage of the poor, missed the dream of God for all people, and scandalized the Divine reputation. How could the Temple be a place of prayer for all people when the space created for others was filled with enterprise rather than hospitality? For John who wants his readers to know Jesus I the new Temple, we must underscore that the realities once found institutionally – instantiated in a structure – would be expressed in the person – Jesus.

How Christians today embody the same is critical. It just may be that we would eschew the time, energy, and money (not) campaigning and instead connect with the very people politicians claim to want to help – average/normal people. It may be important who holds office at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. But, it is more important that we who claim to be Christian do more than deliver our block vote to a candidate. We should deliver our collective energies to helping those who do not advantage us. Our impetus should not be power but powerlessness in the Way of Jesus.

Your thoughts?




About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

3 comments on “(Non) Voting As A Challenge to Power – One Non-vote Voter’s Reflection

  1. Frank Gantz says:

    Right on, bro! As my years have progressed, I have become less interested in this political practice which consumes so many resources. This is not a result of apathy, but of what we as Christians should be about. It’s not really about power.

    If only the apostle Paul could have gotten a good Caesar into position, then he might have made something of himself. We tend to think this way today. Thanks for weighing in with some good stuff.

    1. Frank – one of the best lines I have read, “If only Paul could have gotten a good Caesar into position, then he might have made something of himself.” Poor Paul.

      Maybe somewhere along the way we should have been reading Paul politically and discover he radicalized Jesus in such a way he called into question Rome, Israel, and any structure, form, or person failing to live under the Great Commandment for the good of the world.

  2. Jesus Love says:

    It’s sad to know that many Christians leave there faith because of the politics.

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