Today is election day in the United States of America. Families will be divided, friendships will be strained and all because of the assumption that your vote is your voice. While this is an easily deconstructable argument, that’s not what I want to talk about today. For me, election day will always have a religious dimension to it. From the earliest that I can remember, voting on election day is not just a patriotic duty, but it is also a spiritual and moral obligation. Growing up in a politicized, Evangelical culture I was taught that we must “vote our values” and stop the advance of the great humanist surge. Or something. However it was framed, it was my Christian duty to uphold the values of the Bible by casting my vote for the correct (i.e. Republican) candidate and cause.
While I don’t hold to Republicanism or Conservatism hardly at all anymore, I haven’t exactly jumped to the Left. Honestly, both frustrate me. And I think, in some sense, this is how the Bible frames it. What hasn’t changed for me, is the connection between election day and Christianity. Because my vote, or lack thereof, is deeply tied to my beliefs and this is why I will not be voting this election season.
The familiar passage for Christian engagement in political issues is in Mark 12:14-17, and it is the scene where Jesus is asked wether taxes should be paid to Caesar. He states, famously, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Here, coupled with the declaration of St. Paul to obey earthly rulers because God ordains them, has been the impetuous to political activism. Paul, however, was not talking about blind allegiance. Rather, he was speaking of following God’s authority. It’s not about the government, it’s about who is greater than the government. Likewise, Jesus here isn’t stating, “pay your taxes,” rather He is calling us to decide what is God’s.
Caesar’s image is on the coin. Therefore, this is a reflection of Caesar. It is his power, his authority, his dominion. Same can be said of our own money. Presidential heads appear on the money. It is the United States. Likewise, as human beings hold within us the imago dei, the image of God. So, what should we be reflecting? Who should have our lives? “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s.”
This isn’t to state that we can’t be engaged in the political process. Indeed, nearly everything in life is political. It’s hard to avoid this. But, as Christians, how should our approach be? I would argue that any political stance that seeks to give to Caesar what should be Gods’, is a wrongheaded political stance. This is why I am not voting (well, one of many reasons). My hope does not lie in who will become president. It does not lie in what the outcome of some amendment. It lies in God. In God’s ability to provide, to restore, to heal and to guide humanity regardless of who wins an election and how long a political power lasts.
For a fantastic, Ecumenical movement check out Election Day Communion; http://electiondaycommunion.org/fref=ts