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Are Christians required to vote?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Darlene Norman leaves Glen Echo United Presbyterian Church after casting her vote today. (Credit: The Columbus Dispatch / Brooke LaValley)

Today’s election will cost $6 billion, counting all the money spent on campaigns and advertising.  That much money could buy 981 public elementary schools, 451 small hospitals, or one year of lunches for 11 million public school students.  Anyone wish the money were spent on something besides politics?

Surveys indicate that 78 percent of us are “mostly frustrated” by the tone of the presidential campaigns.  The candidates’ acceptance speeches at their political conventions were more attack-laden than any election since 1952—and the attacks have continued.  The Romney campaign recently said that President Obama’s latest interviews were “filled with misleading statements and outright falsehoods.”  An Obama campaign spokesman countered that Romney’s recent speech on the economy was “a nothingburger from a campaign full of bluff and bluster.”

Are our politics more divisive than ever? Candidate Abraham Lincoln was labeled a simple-minded country bumpkin with a tendency toward larceny.  Franklin Roosevelt was called a rich dilettante and socialist.  Dwight Eisenhower was portrayed as a bumbling fool who was lazy and incapable of understanding the complexity of the world.

What about the Founders?  Thomas Jefferson’s campaign said of John Adams that he had a “hideous hermaphroditical character, which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”  Adams’ campaign replied that Jefferson was “a mean-spirited, low-lived fellow, the son of a half-breed Indian squaw sired by a Virginia mulatto father.” And they were friends.

Is participating in something as mean-spirited and demeaning as the American political process worth the time of those called to be “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (1 Peter 2:9)?  Absolutely.

Jesus called us his salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16)—both must contact that which they are to change.  Paul told us to be submitted to “the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1) as law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes and participate in their society (v. 7).  Our Lord stated that we are to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21), a dictum that requires participants in a democracy to vote.

You are the most important person in America today: a voter.  Franklin Roosevelt was right: “Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”  Remember that every election is decided by the people who show up.  So pray, seeking God’s wisdom, and vote.  What should Christians do then?  More tomorrow.