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Why Jesus Wants You to Vote

'Bible' photo (c) 2005, Nicholas B. - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

By Robin Stephenson

Recently, I half-jokingly chided a friend, telling her that "Jesus wants you to vote."

After learning that civic responsibility will be one of the topics discussed during tomorrow’s grassroots conference call and webinar, I decided to explore this idea a bit more. Does my individual belief in God mean that I am also responsible for contributing to my government through citizenship? 

I began with scripture. In Mark 10:17-31, a rich man walks away from Jesus when asked to give his wealth to the poor as the path to heaven. Religious scholar Miguel De Le Torre posits that this tale doesn't caution against prosperity, but against disengagement with the structures of poverty and oppression. Salvation is achieved through engagement with, and responsibility to, the poor—just believing in God is not enough. 

Living Christianity is a process of turning belief into action and building toward God’s vision of the world. The Old Testament laws structure a just society where all of God’s children are cared for and live in right relationship. In Isaiah 25:6-8, God’s banquet is for all people. In the New Testament, Jesus invites us into a kingdom-building partnership as we call forth God’s will, “…on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10).

Does my biblical responsibility to kingdom-building mean I should vote?

 

I am a citizen, not a subject, and I “have a stake, role, and responsibility in my government.” Through voting and advocacy, I can influence the legistlative framework that structures our society. My sister in Christ who is farming in Kenya does not have a vote, but her ability to prosper may be connected to global trade laws legislated by my government. Programs that provide access to healthy food, so that my neighbor next door can provide for her child, are created through participatory government.

Is voting a right or a responsibility? Does the Bible make that clear? Returning to the story of the rich man, I am struck by a particularly American context. De La Torre points out the missing link for the young man was turning belief into action and understanding his tacit responsibility in structures of oppression. If God calls us to speak up for the rights of the poor and needy, as in Proverbs 31:8,  and those rights are decided through government, then voting is a part of speaking up.

Robin Stephenson is social media lead/senior regional organizer, western hub.

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Comments

Greetings!
First of all I would like to thank you all for your heart for the poor. You are right in saying that Jesus calls us to action in regards to alleviating the suffering of the poor and hungry. I do disagree with the premise, though, that "Jesus wants us to vote." Let me say here that I do not intend to start some unfruitful debate or a theological or exegetical firestorm. No, I just want to give another Christian view a voice.

I believe that when we vote we are putting stock in a world-made machine, rather than the living and active Body of Christ. In sum, we are saying, "Hey, we depend on you guys, even though you are not primarily concerned with the Kingdom of God, to make the necessary changes in legislation to help the poor." I believe that as Christians we are to spread the Kingdom of God, and be Kingdom people, living in this world but not of this world. We should put our stock in the Body of Christ, not the worldly body of government.

At the end of this article, you say that the rights of the poor are decided by the government, but if churches across the world created a safe-haven for the poor and developed programs for finding them jobs and supplying them with their basic needs, then the rights of the poor would be decided by the Kingdom of God, not legislation. The government may decide to not help the poor one single bit, but Kingdom people would pick up the slack and serve them. Let's be honest, the amount of money that Christians and churches make in America is PLENTY enough to serve the poor around the world.

Also, when considering voting for a specific candidate because of his or her policy for the poor, one must also consider the other policies that the candidate advocates. Will this candidate likely go to war? (Most candidates are ready to take that step when necessary). If so, then what if that war just creates a whole lot more poor and suffering people in another country? We've seen this happen in America's history plenty of times.

In conclusion, I hope that this is not taken as an attack on your views. Christians come in all shapes and sizes and in regards to issues like this the range of beliefs is wide. Bread for the World has done so many amazingly great things. I absolutely respect your heart for the poor and lowly of society. Jesus calls his followers to actually follow him. I just wanted to open up the dialogue a bit in regards to the views on voting and putting our 'hope' and stock in the government.

What do you think of this position? I would like to hear your thoughts.

All of this in love,

Joey

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