Tag archives: voting

After Election Day Is Over, Christians Must Continue Engaging the Culture

by Claire Gatzke

October 29, 2020

As political campaigns get more combative and election seasons last longer, election fatigue can come early for many people. With election day now less than a week away, I’m sure many Americans are thrilled that another presidential election cycle will have come and gone so that they can check out for a couple of years before the next one starts up.

While I am empathetic to this sentiment, this is not the right mindset for Christians to have. No matter what happens on November 3 (or whenever the results of this election are called), Christians cannot “check out” and take a vacation from political engagement.

As Christians, we must have a long-term perspective. Our engagement in the public square does not start and stop based on election cycles. Since our political engagement is based on God’s commandments and biblical imperatives, we must keep following these commands and imperatives even when an election is not fast-approaching. How are Christians to continue to engage when there is no voting opportunity any time soon?

For one, Christians must continue to pray for elected officials and government leaders. Obviously, we should pray that leaders that fear God and govern according to biblical principles are put in positions of authority. However, once the election has happened, we should be praying for whoever ends up in positions of power, whether they are God-fearers or not. In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul “urges that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

As soon as the election is over, Christians must diligently and continually pray for our elected officials, whether we ourselves voted for them or not. No matter who is elected, we must pray that God would speak to them, that they would surrender to God, and that they would govern justly. We must pray this not only for our own benefit so that we can live peaceful lives as Paul said, but we must do so out of our desire for justice and out of love for our neighbor, knowing that God’s way is the best and most conducive way for all humans to flourish.

Not only must we be diligent in our prayers for government leaders, Christians also must be committed to talking about political issues with their family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. The novelty of voting is that everyone gets to do it (if they’re eligible). However, voting won’t help our culture flourish if people are voting contrary to biblical principles and values. The only way to really sway the political and cultural environment is by changing people’s minds so that when they vote, they vote biblically.

For example, even if Trump is elected and the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, decisions on the legality of abortion will be left up to each individual state. The only difference is that abortion will not be legalized at the federal level; it could still very well be legal in many states.

We are absolutely obligated to restrain evil by voting; however, this is not sufficient. To successfully stop abortion and other evils, Christians must engage with individuals in their spheres of influence conversationally to change hearts and minds. If public opinion on abortion is swayed, then people will not elect officials at the local, state, or federal level who advocate for the moral acceptability of abortion. Also, a cultural shift toward valuing unborn life will have a positive impact on women with unplanned pregnancies to move away from seeing abortion as their only option, which will in turn lead to fewer women seeking underground abortions should abortion be made illegal.

No matter who wins this election, there is still a lot of work to be done in redeeming the culture and influencing the public square. People’s eternal destiny, as well as the soul of our nation, are at stake. As we continue our engagement post-election, we must keep an eternal perspective. Every political loss and win is temporary because this earth is “passing away” (1 John 2:17). While we must engage passionately, we cannot put our hope or faith in any political candidate or party, only in Christ our Savior and King. Regardless of who is in the White House and whether that person is friendly or hostile to orthodox Christianity, Christians have orders from God and must be faithful to Him alone; we cannot disengage, give up, or get comfortable.

Christian Voting Myth #4: “I’m Not in the Majority Where I Live, So Why Bother?”

by Joseph Backholm

October 14, 2020

This is the final part of a 4-part series debunking four common myths Christians use to not vote. Read myth #1: “One Vote Doesn’t Make a Difference”; myth #2: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote” and myth #3: “I Don’t Like Either Candidate, So What’s the Point?”

It’s election season, and with every election comes polling. And with every poll comes the quest for 51 percent. After all, just one more vote than the other guy and I win. The fact that the person with the most votes wins elections is the reason most of us believe that the majority wins. But is it true? Not entirely. Here’s why.

In the United States, the population is 327 million people. But not everyone who lives in America can vote in elections. To be eligible to vote, you have to be a citizen, at least 18 years old, and, in most places, not a felon.

Out of 327 million people, only 253 million are eligible voters. But that doesn’t mean all of them are voters. In fact, of the 253 million eligible voters, only 153 million are registered voters. That means less than half the U.S. population is a registered voter. But that’s not all. Not every registered voter actually votes. In 2016, 137 million people voted, but they didn’t all vote in every race. Only 127 million votes were cast for president.

Put it all together, and we learn that 54 percent of eligible voters and less than 42 percent of Americans voted.

As a result, Donald Trump was elected president with just under 63 million votes. That’s right. The President of the United States was chosen by only 25 percent of eligible voters and less than 20 percent of the population. That doesn’t represent a majority of Americans, that represents a majority of Americans who voted.

This phenomenon is true in every election and in every race around the country. Even candidates who win comfortably aren’t getting support from a majority of their constituents.

In 2018, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf won comfortably with over 57 percent of the vote, but he received the votes of only 22 percent of his constituents.  

The lack of participation in every election is magnified in close elections. In 2017, a Virginia House of Delegates race ended in a tie after more than 23,000 ballots were cast. Even one more person deciding to vote would have made a tremendous difference.

In 2016, a New Mexico State House seat was decided by two votes out of 14,000 ballots cast. Two votes made a big difference there.

In more local races, the drop-off rate increases, meaning that races are decided by a smaller number of total votes and a smaller percentage of the electorate. State legislative races are often decided by less than 10 percent of the people in a district. School board races are commonly decided by less than five percent of the people affected. Sometimes it’s closer to one percent.

So, yes. It’s true that the majority wins elections, it’s just not the whole story. Elections are not decided by a majority of a country, state, or city, they’re decided by a majority of those who actually participate.

According to George Barna, 61 percent of eligible evangelicals voted in the 2016 election. This means that almost 40 percent did not vote. In other words, four out of 10 people you go to church with do not vote when given the opportunity. 

Despite this, the church still has a disproportionate impact. According to Pew Research, in the 2018 election, white evangelicals were 26 percent of all voters despite being only 15 percent of the population. Imagine the impact the church could have if everyone did their part.  

The point is, participate. It isn’t hard but it is important. If you’re not registered to vote, get registered. If you don’t usually vote, fill out your ballot. Don’t worry that not everyone in your community agrees with you, that may not even matter. After all, it’s not the majority who wins, it’s the majority of those who actually show up. It’s our job to show up.

Christian Voting Myth #3: “I Don’t Like Either Candidate, So What’s the Point?”

by Joseph Backholm

October 12, 2020

This is part 3 of a 4-part series debunking four common myths Christians use to not vote. Read myth #1: “One Vote Doesn’t Make a Difference”myth #2: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote”; and myth #4 “I’m Not in the Majority Where I Live, So Why Bother?”

In an ideal world, you would always have the option to vote for really great people that you agree with in every respect. In the real world, however, your ballot may give you choices that make you feel less like you’re choosing someone to represent your values and more like you are choosing a cancer treatment. In that situation, what you want most is a different option. But sometimes there is no different option. What should you do then?

For a lot of people, the answer is “nothing.” Instead of voting, they choose to be absent from the process, absolve themselves of responsibility, and blame God for allowing it to come to this.

One reason it’s sometimes difficult to vote is because we want to support someone without reservation. On social media, we “like” people that we care about, things that makes us laugh, or ideas that we agree with. Our “like” is our stamp of approval. If we only like it a little bit, we’re likely to move on to something else.

There’s a temptation to treat our ballot the same way. If we can’t give unqualified support, we are tempted to abstain and wait for something better. But voting is not like social media. It’s more like filling a job vacancy. The job has to be filled and the Constitution has dictated the timeline. The fact that you haven’t found the ideal candidate may be frustrating, but it is not relevant to the fact that the job is going to be filled.

Your desire to find someone you can give unqualified support to is noted but not especially helpful under the circumstances. In that situation, it may be more helpful to think less about good and bad and more about better or worse. Is that possible? Maybe.

Character always matters, but if a completely virtuous person is not one of your choices, maybe the policies represented by one candidate are more virtuous than the policies of the other candidates. Is one candidate working on behalf of the abortion industry while the other works to defend life? Does one candidate defend conscience rights while the other supports suing nuns and churches that live out their faith? Does one candidate want parents involved in their child’s education and health care decisions while the other wants the state to interfere with parental rights? In a situation where all the candidates are flawed, we might be able to find clarity if we allow ourselves to think less about people involved and more about policies that will be affected.

In addition, if there is no “best candidate,” it may be helpful to think about the “best team.” No politician works alone. Most candidates are part of a political party, and all candidates have donors and supporters. Executive offices, like mayors, governors, and presidents also appoint cabinet members, judges, ambassadors, and thousands of other positions that affect how government operates.

Which candidate, for political reasons, is going to be pressured more often to do things you like and which candidate is going to face pressure to do things you won’t like? If the two foremen are not people you especially care for, is there a reason to prefer one crew over another?

Though it sometimes seems the end is near, we do still live on earth and that means we will be consistently faced with imperfect choices. It would be nice if the choice was always clearly good or evil, but it’s not. Sometimes the choice is better or worse, and if you aren’t willing to choose better, you may find yourself stuck with worse.

Read myth #4: “I’m Not in the Majority Where I Live, So Why Bother?”

Christian Voting Myth #2: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote”

by Joseph Backholm

October 8, 2020

This is part 2 of a 4-part series debunking four common myths Christians use to not vote. Read myth #1: “One Vote Doesn’t Make a Difference”myth #3: “I Don’t Like Either Candidate, So What’s the Point?” and myth #4: “I’m Not in the Majority Where I Live, So Why Bother?”

Anyone who has spent 15 minutes around a church during election season has heard someone say some version of the following: “Don’t worry about the election. It doesn’t really matter what happens because God is always in charge anyways.”

It’s true, of course, that God is always in charge. Neither human frailty nor human stupidity threaten God’s plan for the world. He will accomplish His plan despite us. But it isn’t logical to conclude that because God is sovereign, we don’t have to care about what happens in government. Here’s why. 

The freedom we enjoy in America is unusual. Even if you’re not a political activist, you’re probably thankful that life in the United States is different than life in places like Venezuela or North Korea. It’s not just different, it’s better. We can own property, say stupid things online about our government without fear of the police arresting us for it, and even help determine who our government is.  

These freedoms are so normal for Americans that we tend to take them for granted, but they were unimaginable for generations past. Billions of people have lived and died under a monarchy, oligarchy, or some form of dictatorship. That’s not only true of the past, it’s true of the present. Most people alive in the world right now are not free in the way Americans understand freedom.  

Those of us who have freedom and prosperity probably didn’t do anything to earn it. We inherited it. We’re political trust fund babies. Though we didn’t do anything to get it, we are responsible for what we do with it. To whom much is given, much is required. That’s why indifference isn’t an option. The American form of government is a gift, and we owe it to those who gave us that gift to treat it with appropriate respect and appreciation. One way we do that is by taking care of it.

A republican form of government, like everything in our lives, requires constant maintenance. If you decide to never mow your lawn again, never replace the breaks on your car, or never fix the leak in your roof, God will still be in charge and He will still accomplish His purpose. Nothing about neglecting adult responsibilities threatens God’s sovereignty. But we don’t decline to fix our roof because God is sovereign, nor is God’s sovereignty the reason we would fix it. We fix the roof as an act of stewardship for the good gift of a house that God has given us and as an act of service to the people in our family who live in the house. So it is with governments.

Educating ourselves, voting, and running for office are forms of civic maintenance. They feel like chores because in a real sense, they are chores. They’re civic chores and they’re a privilege. We shouldn’t complain about our civic duties any more than we should complain about the maintenance costs on our private fleet of jets. Some problems aren’t problems, they’re blessings. It is a privilege to be able to query which candidate is most tolerable. At least we get to have an opinion. Doing the work necessary to keep the luxury items God has given us in good condition does not show a lack of trust in God’s sovereignty, it shows good stewardship of what He has given to us and kindness to our neighbors.

After all, well maintained governments make life better for everyone. Ideas are not neutral. All ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. When we allow bad ideas to take root in government, people get hurt. Engagement in our government is not just a way to fulfill a civic duty, it’s a chance to make life tangibly better for other people. Babies who would otherwise die get to live. People who would otherwise be punished for speaking the truth get to speak. Businesses that would otherwise be shut down can flourish. Parents who would otherwise lose the right to direct the upbringing of their children get to have the final say. Communities that would otherwise be unsafe are able to thrive. Justice exists where it didn’t before. Some political choices are purely a matter of opinion—chocolate or vanilla? But sometimes they’re a matter of life and death.

It’s true that God is in charge and we can trust Him, even when things are hard. It is also comforting to know that God will restore all things in His time, even if something bad happens. But that’s no excuse for indifference. God has placed us on earth to be His hands and feet in a broken world. Our efforts to make the world better by living out our beliefs are not a sign of misplaced trust but a recognition of who He made us to be.

Read myth #3: “I Don’t Like Either Candidate, So What’s the Point?”

Christian Voting Myth #1: “One Vote Doesn’t Make a Difference”

by Joseph Backholm

October 6, 2020

This is part 1 of a 4-part series debunking four common myths Christians use to not vote. Read myth #2: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote”; myth #3: “I Don’t Like Either Candidate, So What’s the Point?” and myth #4: “I’m Not in the Majority Where I Live, So Why Bother?”

In an age where we’re constantly told to follow “the science,” everyone wants their decisions to be data driven. We study and research to ensure that what we are doing does not simply feel helpful, but actually is helpful.

At the same time, we’re all told we should vote because every vote makes a difference. We’re often told this by the same people who tell us that our decisions should be data driven. Sometimes the idea that every vote makes a difference isn’t actually supported by the data. For example, in the 2016 election, 139 million people voted in the presidential election. That’s a lot of people.

Those of us who followed the law only voted once. You don’t need to be a math major to realize that one vote out of 139 million isn’t going very far to determine who the president is. Let’s be honest, if you or I had decided not to vote, we would still have the same president. But our vote still matters. Here’s why.

While presidential elections are usually the first thing we think about when we think about elections, elections are about much more than a presidency. State and local elections not only have a big impact on your life, they are often decided by a small number of votes. In 2017, a Virginia House of Delegates race ended in a tie after more than 23,000 ballots were cast. The winner was decided by pulling a name out of a bowl, which also decided the majority in the Virginia House of Delegates.

In 2016, a New Mexico State House seat was decided by two votes out of 14,000 ballots cast. School board elections, which happen in every town in America and determine what kids will be taught at school, don’t have hundreds of millions of votes—in many cases they have hundreds of votes cast. Total. These are critical decisions that make a big difference in our lives that are decided not by millions of people, they’re decided by dozens of people. Each one of those votes matters a lot.

But that’s not all. In elections, as in all of life, many small decisions make a big difference. When one person decides not to vote, it’s easy to make the argument that it doesn’t really matter. But what happens if millions of people decide that voting doesn’t matter?

In 2016, there were 235 million eligible voters in the United States, but only 139 million of them actually voted. That means that almost 100 million people who could have voted chose not to. Many of them probably thought their vote wouldn’t make a difference. But it did.

For Christians, however, voting isn’t just a practical decision. It’s also about doing the right thing.   

Romans 13 tells us that government was created by God in order to punish evil and reward good. If any of us had been born into royalty and grown to be king or queen, our duty to God would require us to use the power God gave us to punish evil and reward good. Most of us weren’t born into a royal family and won’t be monarchs, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have political authority. Those of us privileged enough to vote have authority, and it, like everything, came from God. That means we have stewardship responsibility to use our authority in a way that recognizes where that authority came from and what it is for. Indifference is never good stewardship.

It’s true that we can’t always control what happens, but we can always control what we do with what we have, and that’s what we’ll ultimately be responsible for.

Read myth #2: “God Is in Charge Anyway So It Doesn’t Matter if I Vote”

Voting from the Bering Sea

by Robert Morrison

November 3, 2014

I’ve never missed voting. I’ve had to fight for it at times, but I have voted in every election since I was old enough. The closest I ever came to not voting was when I was serving in the military.

I was stationed on a Coast Guard Cutter and we were steaming in the Bering Sea. We were patrolling that imaginary line in the sea between the old USSR and the United States. It is the only place on earth where the two nations share a common border. And yes—Gov. Palin was right—you can see Russia from Alaska.

I knew I was going to require an absentee ballot because the Cutter Boutwell* was not scheduled to return from her Alaska Patrol until after Election Day. So I dutifully filled out my request and mailed it in to the King County (Seattle) Election Board.

Well into October I still hadn’t received my absentee ballot. I was the ship’s Communications Officer, so I handled all the incoming mail. Every time we got mail, I was thrilled to get a letter for each day from my fiancée. But no absentee ballot.

I contacted Seattle via teletype: “Where’s my absentee ballot?” I sent several follow-up messages with no response. I was becoming concerned.

One evening, after dinner and a movie, I heard a sharp rap on the door of my stateroom. It was our Executive Officer. He never visited any of us. We were always summoned to his stateroom. This might not be pleasant.

What’s this [same word as a White House official describing an Israeli Prime Minister] about your sending teletype messages back to Seattle?”

Oh, that, ” I said, relieved it was nothing more serious. “Well, Commander,” I responded cheerily, “I have applied for my absentee ballot and have not received it. I need to fill it out and make sure I get it in the outgoing mail so it can arrive at the King County Election Board in time to be counted. We have less than two weeks until Election Day, Sir.”

The XO’s face darkened. He was not soothed by my breezy explanation.

We don’t have time for such things. And I don’t want you sending any more teletype messages to Seattle about voting. Besides, it’s only an off-year election. It’s not that important.”

Sir, respectfully, I have to vote. It’s why we are out here.” He was not happy with my answer and he left the stateroom, slamming the heavy metal door behind him.

Happily, I received my absentee ballot in the next batch of incoming mail. And with it a fistful of letters from my beloved. I quickly filled out the ballot and slipped it—as inconspicuously as I could—in the next day’s outgoing mail.

My Executive Officer was a dedicated career Coast Guardsman with many responsibilities. I didn’t want to make his burden greater. But I was determined to keep my perfect record of never having missed voting.

Every day that autumn, I was part of the boarding inspection team that boarded those Soviet trawlers. Everybody in the old USSR voted, too, and their votes meant nothing. “What counts is not who votes,” said the cynical old Communist dictator of the USSR, Josef Stalin. “What matters is who counts the votes.” That was as true under Stalin as it is under Putin.

It was no exaggeration to say what I said to the XO. We were on patrol checking on fisheries, to be sure, but the reason the U.S. Coast Guard policed those waters at all was so that American freedom would be preserved. And we served on the frontier of freedom.

Pollsters tell us that only 39% of Americans look forward to voting next Tuesday. I am happy a higher percentage—49% of Evangelical Christians—tell pollsters they are very eager to vote next Tuesday. I only winh 100% of us would exercise this precious right. It was indeed bought for us by the blood of patriots, many of them our fellow Christians.

I pray that all of us who have not yet taken part in early voting or sent in our absentee ballots will make it a point to show up at the polls. Some of my friends tell me they’re not enthusiastic about going to the polls. It may be the case that some candidates in some places have not made their best arguments to earn the support of Values Voters.

My answer to these friends is another lesson I learned in the service: Damage Control. We may not be thrilled with where our ship is headed at the moment, but we have a much better chance of a course correction if the ship hasn’t sunk. Next Tuesday, we can all go out and vote for Damage Control.

And then we can all work to steer a better course.

*Recently, the Coast Guard Cutter Boutwell seized some $480 million worth of cocaine. This was the largest seizure in history. And it was achieved by a ship first launched in 1967.

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