Tuesday is voting day for us in Illinois, and so it’s worth asking the question: how should the fact that we belong to Christ affect our vote?
As “elect exiles” (to use Peter’s wording) who are awaiting our true home, our goal is not simply to acquire power by voting for Christians. Our ultimate hope is not in this government, and we must not confuse it with Christ’s kingdom. God is neither Republican nor Democrat, and electing either party to office does not somehow make America into a Christian nation. What’s more, choosing our candidates based on whether they quote Bible verses or go to church (for instance) often leads to disappointment and encourages candidates to make pretenses of evangelicalism to garner votes.
Rather, our goal is to vote as Christians—to vote with a Christ-shaped understanding of the society he is bringing in his kingdom. We are told in Micah that God desires of us to seek justice, to do what is merciful, and to walk humbly before him. And so, similarly, we should seek a leader committed to justice, even when it is unpopular, who pursues mercy, even when it’s difficult, and who is humble (a rare quality in politics).
Expanding on this in a recent podcast, theologian Russell Moore has argued that a biblical understanding of what is a good and just society should encourage us to ask the following five questions of candidates to guide our voting:
- Is the candidate committed to protecting the vulnerable—the unborn, the refugees, the mentally ill, the underprivileged in society?
- Is the candidate committed to upholding the family? Does he or she see the family as an important institution that should be preserved?
- Is this candidate someone who demonstrates a commitment to moral character? Do we see a commitment in his or her life to being truthful, to gentleness, to fairness? Again, this is not a question of whether or not the individual is Christian. But character matters in leadership and sets the tone for a nation.
- Is this candidate committed to religious liberty? And by this, not just committed to Christianity, but to the protection of all religions?
- Can this candidate win—that is, can they work together with people on both sides to bring about the change they are pursuing? Someone might be unbending in their convictions but incapable of accomplishing anything if they cannot win people over to them.
Obviously, more could be added (for example, I think it’s worth considering how our faith relates to foreign policy), but I think these are generally biblical and prudent.
When we vote, we are not trying to take control of our country. Yet in saving us and bringing us into his kingdom, Christ has given us a fuller vision of what is truly good in society. And so our calling as those who have been loved is to show this love to our country by pursuing what is good for it. Our voting, like everything else, can be an expression of grace.