An Unexpected Encounter

October 11, 2016

Living in a Forest instead of a Yard

October 11, 2016

To Vote or Not to Vote

October 11, 2016

I have never voted in an election.

Not because I don’t care about my country. I care very much. I love this country where I live. I love its beauty; love the broad sweep of its land, the diversity of its people, its ideals of freedom and democracy.

My great grandparents of ten generations ago, Christian and Elizabeth Martin, emigrated here in 1732, in search of better opportunities and the freedom to live out their faith as their consciences dictated. They were Anabaptists–from the branch called Mennonites–a group which historically had been persecuted in Europe. Christian, at some point in his life, is believed to have spent time in a Swiss jail cell.

He and Elizabeth, and others like them, must have passed on to their descendants a deep gratitude for the religious freedom we enjoy in this country, because I heard it talked about all through my childhood.

It is such a blessing to be able worship God according to our own consciences, I was reminded again and again. Look, look at the people in that country, where they have to meet in secret to pray; look at our ancestors, how they were persecuted. We have so much to be thankful for.

Truly we as Mennonites were given many privileges. My grandpa, along with many other young Anabaptist men during draft years, was exempted, for the sake of religious conviction, from serving in the military. They were given the freedom to serve the country in some peaceful role provided for them instead of going to war.

Some Mennonites had a religious conviction against taking government support of any kind, including social security, and were allowed exemption from social security tax on that grounds.

Mennonites were not made to take part in jury duty, for the sake of religious conviction.

Our parents, rather than running their children through the general educational mold, were free to run a small private school and hire a teacher of our own faith to teach us–even if that school only went through eighth grade and even if that teacher didn’t hold a degree.

We were all of us, as soon as we turned eighteen, permitted by our country’s laws to vote or not to vote, according to our own desires. My church took a stand against voting.

We choose not to vote for these reasons:

  1. We are part of Christ’s kingdom, and our first allegiance is to him, not to any earthly government. Jesus told Pilate, when he stood on trial, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 8:36 NIV)
  2. The kingdoms of this world and the kingdom of Christ don’t mix well. In almost any issue one could name, the stated goals and purposes of Christ stand in diametric opposition to the goals of any earthly nation or government.
  3. And so we choose not to become involved in the purposes and plans of any government even to the extent of voting. We would rather sway our nation through prayer than polls, and enact change by our own hard work and quiet service than in a voting booth.

This is not to say we don’t appreciate government, and democracy, and the voting process. We do. And it’s not to say we think badly of Christians who vote. We don’t.

We only make this choice for us, because we are blessed with the freedom to choose.

I’ve been saying “we” all this time, as though I was one of those silent, person-less mushrooms Sylvia Plath writes about, with no voice or thoughts of my own. Sometimes, honestly, that’s how not voting has been for me: just something IΒ  don’t do because my church says not to, and I am them, and they are me, and we are Mennonites.

But more lately, not voting has been less of a “we” thing, and more of a “me” thing.

Because I’ve been turned off by Christians who are heavy-deep in politics and by politicians who stand in the public view and say, “I am a Christian. I love God–you know, the big guy in the sky who loved the world so much he sent his Son to die–and now let’s go get ’em. We’ll bomb ’em and bar ’em and show ’em who’s boss.”

Something’s not working for me with that correlation. It feels like sliding backward up a cheese grater.

Not voting has become more of a me thing and less of a we thing because I can see the wisdom of it now. It sets a limit which is clear and simple and easy to follow. “I’m part of Christ’s kingdom,” I say. “I’m not going to vote because I don’t want to get caught up in following a political party instead of Him.” And my choices are immediately simpler, less gray.

For instance, I’d look pretty stupid if, after making such a high-sounding profession, I threw nasty President slams around the internet. And so I don’t.

My non-voting stance reminds me to look for what I appreciate rather than to be always criticizing, reminds me to speak respectfully, reminds me to pray. It helps me to remember that I’m supposed to be living for God, not my pocketbook, and to put my mind and fingers to work on the things that will last an eternity.

Not voting is less of a we thing these days, and more of a me thing, because, in this wild and historic Presidential election of 2016, I find myself largely disillusioned and vastly out of sympathy with either primary candidate. And I’m realizing that it’s not just this year, these candidates, but my values and way of life are vastly out of sympathy with the entire political system.

And so I will support with prayer and respect whichever candidate achieves the Presidency. I will tell the world I am thankful to be an American, thankful to live in this broad and beautiful country which is far from perfect, but which endeavors to protect the individual freedoms of minorities. And this one freedom under the constitution my family and I hold more precious than any other: the right to follow God according to the dictates of our own consciences.

23 comments

  1. This is very well written and is an excellent reminder as to why I don’t vote. I especially like your last paragraph. That is my prayer for myself, as well.

    p.s. I love your writing! I came across your blog through DOP.

  2. Thanks Luci. You put into words many of my own thoughts. I’m glad that for you, and me, this non-voting has become a personal decision. As you said, it makes so many things less gray.
    Blessings,
    Gina

  3. I honestly believe that if Mennonite, Amish & other such denominations/cultures, whatever you’d like to label them, would vote in the primaries & general election, perhaps this nation would be different.

    Perhaps God would return to schools, to the pledge of allegiance, His commandments once again returned to town squares & court rooms.

    Just what if Christians as a whole ACTUALLY stood up & lived out what they claim to believe??

    What if….

    1. What if? The big question.

      D.L. Moody said, “β€œThe world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him. I will try my utmost to be that man.”

      I honestly don’t know or not if the Mennonites and Amish would make a difference to the outcome of the election if they’d get out and vote–but I do know you can’t change men’s hearts through laws. If people believe in God, they will want Him in their lives and public places, and if they don’t, what good would it do to force them?

      If Mennonites and Amish and other Christians would get off their duffs and out into the streets to the ghettos and the bars and the drug rings…if they’d leave off squabbling among themselves and put on thick the righteousness of Jesus Christ…if they’d quit looking inward and start looking upward…maybe that would impact our nation more powerfully than voting could ever do.

  4. >>We only make this choice for us,

    I don’t think you can say that with integrity. Your choice is formed from the study of God’s Word.
    Your choice is a CONVICTION of discipleship. Is modesty also only an option, of which you can say,
    “We only make this choice for us?”

    Anabaptist Christianity never was for “nice” people. You’re gonna have to toughen up a bit πŸ™‚

    Once again, excellent writing and rich content. Keep on.

    1. >>If Mennonites and Amish and other Christians would get off their duffs
      >>and out into the street….

      Hey…you surprise me! You’re already pretty tough πŸ™‚

    2. πŸ™‚ It’s hard for me to be tough. Besides, I know conservative Anabaptist-type Christians who actually do go out and vote, and I respect their stand very much. They take the opportunity to vote, but their lives aren’t centered around their politics, and it is easy to see that Christ is first. I would differentiate between principle (separation) and application (not voting.) Or, as in the case of modesty: I wear cape dresses because it’s a good guideline for modesty (besides, I like them) but I don’t automatically think that any woman wearing a skirt and blouse, or wearing pants, is immodest.

      1. >>I know conservative Anabaptist-type Christians who actually
        >>do go out and vote, and I respect their stand very much

        You CAN’T “respect their stand very much” if you have determined from Scripture that
        faithful discipleship requires abstinence from voting. To respect political action that you have determined to be unfaithful to Jesus renders you unfaithful to Jesus.It’s like talking
        out of both sides of your mouth. God doesn’t like that.

        Your caught in the Christian trap of being nice.

        Being nice maintains friendships, but it won’t create a new world.

        More toughness needed after all πŸ™‚ Convictions are preserved by courageous expression.

        1. I guess I was unclear. I have in no way determined voting to be unfaithful to Jesus. I look with respect at Christians who keep Christ first in their lives, whether or not they vote.

  5. This is well written, Luci, and I am with you. It’s gratifying to me to see a great example of “nice” (loving one another) at work on a tough subject here. You do a great job of being harmless and wise at the same time. Jesus shines through your work here, wonderfully!

  6. >>I have in no way determined voting to be unfaithful to Jesus.

    Last try here πŸ™‚

    About the middle of your post you wrote out three reasons why you don’t vote. If those reasons are drawn from your culture, then fine…your convictions have nothing to do with Jesus.

    But if those convictions are drawn from the Bible, then they have EVERYTHING to do with Jesus and with loyalty to Jesus to boot.

    So take your pick: is your voting conviction cultural or is it Biblical?

    If it’s Biblical, then you’re endeavoring to be faithful to Jesus.

    If it’s Biblical, then you have determined voting to be unfaithful to Jesus.

    I’m not trying to win an argument here. I want you to support your convictions with COURAGE. And being “nice” dissolves courage like acid. For nice-ness is overly aware of men. Courage centers down upon God and His Word.

    “If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.” Gal 1:10

    But you take the last word. I’m out on this one πŸ™‚

    1. All right. Thank you. I will attempt to explain myself clearly.

      Not voting is an application of a deeper Biblical principal. It is a guideline, a limit, something I choose in order to remain faithful to the deeper principles of separation from the world and consecration to Christ. It is not a Bible command, but one aspect of my life, one choice, as I attempt to live the principles of the Bible.

      I believe that I would be stretching this application far beyond its importance to say that anyone who votes is unfaithful to Jesus. It’s just not true.

      In the same way, the Bible clearly teaches simplicity and modesty in dress, but to say that in order to live out this principle, every woman needs to wear a cape dress like me, or every man needs to wear button-down shirts like my dad, is stretching an application from useful to ridiculous.

      When we study the life of Christ and the teaching of the apostles, we learn principles–God’s way of thinking–that, if we are serious about our faith, we must then apply in practical ways to our own lives. Culture does make a difference here. Individual conscience does make a difference.

      For example, in Bible time culture, wine was a staple of the diet, although the Bible clearly teaches against drunkenness and wild partying. I choose not to drink alcohol of any kind, because too many people are harmed by it, and it is in no way a staple of an American diet. For me, it would be wrong. For Jesus, it was just fine.

      Paul also makes room for individual consciences, in 1 Corinthians 8:7-13 and Romans 14:1-7.

      The issues he talked about are issues that have never even entered my own life experience, but he made it clear that we must be true to our own consciences, and also be willing to give up some of our freedoms for the sake of our brother or sister in Christ. And he said all this without accusing anyone, on either side of the issues, of being unfaithful to Jesus.

      1. >>Paul also makes room for individual consciences, in 1 Corinthians 8:7-13

        I have to return to this because you are misusing God’s Word.

        Paul made room for individual consciences at Corinth because the issue at stake had nothing whatsoever to do with the Faith. At issue was food sacrificed to an idol. Paul’s stance was this: “We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do (v8).”

        In other words, the apostle was saying, “I don’t care if you eat meat that has been sacrificed to an idol or not. And idol has no real existence anyway. Eat if you want;
        abstain if you want. This issue bears no relationship to our Faith whatsoever. So do
        what you want here. But if your eating such food disturbs the conscience of your
        brother, then don’t eat it.”

        That’s NOT your argument when it comes to voting. You are associating abstinence
        from voting DIRECTLY to the Christian Faith. You are saying BIBLICAL conviction
        prevents you from voting. That’s NOT the “take it or leave it, it doesn’t matter” stance
        of Paul on the meat issue. To the contrary, you are saying that voting abstinence
        DOES matter. You are saying such abstinence is a matter of faithful discipleship.

        >>he said all this without accusing anyone, on either side of the issues,
        >>of being unfaithful to Jesus.

        Again, Paul did not accuse eaters or abstainers in Corinth of unfaithfulness to Jesus because the issue itself, eating food sacrificed to idols, BORE NO ESSENTIAL RELATIONSHIP TO CHRISTIANITY. It was non-issue to him. He didn’t care one way
        or the other, unless a weaker brother’s conscience was disturbed.

        You are saying the PRECISE opposite with regard to voting. Your abstinence IS a
        matter of Faith. You draw your conviction from the Bible. There is an ESSENTIAL relationship, in your mind, between faithfulness to Jesus and not voting. That’s
        your position, whether or not you are willing to own it.

        It would be different if you said, “Voting really doesn’t matter one way or the other.
        It doesn’t have anything whatsoever to do with Christianity. I just choose not to vote,
        but it has nothing to do with my Faith.” But that is *NOT* your argument.

        So when you write…

        >>I have in no way determined voting to be unfaithful to Jesus.

        That’s just not true. You HAVE so determined. That’s the VERY reason WHY
        you don’t vote!!

        So why then do you have such a hard time admitting the truth here?

        Answer: because you don’t want to hurt the feelings of others who DO vote.

        You’re just being nice πŸ™‚

      2. >>>… as I attempt to live the principles of the Bible.

        You also need to get beyond this very Mennonite notion that the Bible teaches
        “principles.” The Bible does not teach principles. The Bible conveys Reality, it
        reveals Truth, it delivers Commands.

        Voting abstinence is an inference you are drawing from Biblical revelation;
        specifically, two Kingdom theology and the many commands regarding
        non-conformity to the world.

        Good day πŸ™‚

  7. Great post –particularly the part about the “we thing” and “me thing”. Many times people assume that just because I follow my church’s stance on an issue that it isn’t meaningful or personal to me.

    And even though I vote (at times), voting definitely can easily distract from prayer; it can encourage one to trust in the government more than God.

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