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October 15, 2004

Voting Christian

Got an e-mail today, one of those "forward to all your friends!" ones, that asked "How Would Jesus Vote?" and suggested that Jesus would vote for John Kerry. This will no doubt come as a vast surprise to many Bush supporters, who will likely be shocked, offended and personally aggrieved at the idea that Jesus might vote for a pro-choice pinko senator from Taxachusetts; that doesn't seem like Him at all. Although why they would think he would He would vote for Bush, who is currently and relentlessly screwing the poor for the benefit of the rich, is a question that remains unasked and unanswered. No one believes Jesus would vote for Nader; that's just sick.

I wonder why people are asking How Would Jesus Vote? at all. I am no more privy to the Mind of God than the next guy -- and well aware of the fact, which is why I'm officially an agnostic -- but based on what I know of the guy, I don't suspect he'd vote for anyone. Jesus is not the voting type, boys and girls. Jesus, you'll recall, was concerned with another Kingdom entirely, and I suspect that One who passed over the worldly temptations of the Devil while in the desert wouldn't spend a whole lot of time worrying about how to cast His worldly vote. Also, when you die for everyone's sins, picking sides in a political scrap seems sort of aside the point. I think it seems rather unlikely that Jesus would say "I died for the sins of the world, but I especially died for the sins of those who vote Bush/Cheney on November 2." We are all equally sinners, and in the eyes of the Lord, none of us more equal than the others.

Here's Jesus's entire political philosophy, best expressed in Romans 13, verses 8-10:

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.

For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

Asking How Jesus Would Vote is a foolish question; however, asking how one should vote as a Christian is not. Christians are human beings; they are citizens of a country (for the purposes of this entry, I'm assuming of the United States), and they are manifestly enjoined to be concerned about their neighbors, which one can easily mean to suggest in a wider sense that one should be actively politically involved. Romans 13 earlier suggests that one should submit to governing authorities: Here in the US, that means us, the voters. The Constitution of the United States apportions power in various ways, but ultimately and by design power in the US devolves to individual voters, who decide who is to represent us in our government. One could very easily say it is a Christian duty to vote.

And for whom should a Christian vote? Well, if one is voting exclusively as a Christian, it would seem that one would vote for the candidate who best exemplifies the Christian ideal of loving one's neighbor as one's self. Which candidate might that be? Well, I have my own personal opinion on that, but I'm not a Christian, nor do I vote based directly on Christian philosophy.

But even I were and I did, there's no assurance that my interpretation of the political ramifications of "Love your neighbor as yourself" is going to jibe with anyone else's. I strongly suspect that many good and conscientious Christians will vote for Kerry; I suspect many good and conscientious Christians will vote for Bush. If they genuinely believe that the candidate for whom they have voted best exemplifies the loving standard of neighborly care set forth by Jesus, then I submit to the extent they vote based on their faith, they have voted well.

I would submit, however, that this sort of belief can only come through genuine individual decision-making. I've got several theological bones to pick with most born-again folks in the US, but one thing I think they get right is that one must affirm one's faith -- one must go through the trial of crisis and decision and make the conscious decision to be born again into the grace of the Lord. This requires an individual and personal choice, which implies a great deal of thought (Catholics, who are baptised early, usually go through a confirmation process later. Some idea, different theological franchise).

In the best of all worlds, every Christian will expend the same effort (in kind, if not degree) in examining his or her vote for the leader of the United States as he or she hopefully expended in accepting Jesus as a savior. I submit the Christian who votes for one candidate or another because that's who they've been told to vote for by their family, friends or religious leaders is not only doing themselves a disservice, they are not voting in a truly Christian manner. Jesus wouldn't vote, but I'm pretty sure He'd want you to really think about yours. You walk into the Kingdom of Heaven with your eyes open; you should be walking into the polling booth the same way.

Posted by john at October 15, 2004 11:24 AM

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Tracked on October 16, 2004 03:12 PM


Dennis | October 15, 2004 12:43 PM

It is always nice to see a non-christian who can speak intelligently about the practice of christianity. That's one of the things that drew me to your writing in the first place. I stayed for the biting sarcasm, of course. That's a great distiction between what Jesus would do and what Jesus would tell us to do. There is much food for discussion there. Also, "theological franchise" is definitely a keeper!

damon | October 15, 2004 02:18 PM

You preach it, brother!

Rob 'Autographed Cat' Wynne | October 15, 2004 02:18 PM

Interesting, just before reading this I was looking for something in the archives of my own journal, and I came across this link that I posted about back in March:


Worth reading on this subject.

Paul | October 15, 2004 03:31 PM

The other day, in a Doctor's office, I aimlessly picked up a magzine and began flipping through it. It turned out to be The Philadelphia Trumpet, which arose from the ashes of The Plain Truth. I almost dropped it like it was on fire, until the headline: How Would Jesus Vote caught my eye. I expected a right wing diatribe about the evils of liberalism, but instead was pleasantly surprised by an article that concluded exactly what you did: Jesus wouldn't vote. He was the ultimate antiestablishmentarianist. Can you believe I wrote this entire comment, just to get to that word?-Paul

Tripp | October 15, 2004 03:58 PM

The email was an attempt by the left to take back Christianity, and it is about time.

Also, it is not just Catholics who baptize early and confirm later. AFAIK all the Protestant religions do this as well. I think for Evangelicals it is baptism, confirmation, then later born again, but I'm not sure.

Christopher Smith | October 15, 2004 06:07 PM

In regards to your last paragraph, I don't think it's as much that people are told who to vote for as much as they're indoctrinated to do so, and it's harder to open your eyes to see indoctrination.

Coming from a decently small town in Ohio, I know that many of the people I lived with were politically very conservative, regardless of the lifestyle they lived and choices they made in day to day life. I'd ask them why, and I'd get some crackpot line about how Democrats support abortion and are sinful and represent the separation of church and state and raise taxes and support more government programs. Coming from people who don't go to church and aren't high on the income scale, it's surprising to hear that kind of talk from them.

So that's where I see the issue is, because so many people are partisans without knowing that they are. How do you convince someone to stop being a partisan and be independant?

Tina K. | October 15, 2004 06:27 PM

FYI, Tripp, Baptists do not baptize until it's a personal choice. No sprinkling or anything as a baby.

Stephen | October 16, 2004 02:35 PM

Paul is absolutely right. According to the bible, Christians are to submit to secular authority, not participate in it. The bible, and Jesus himself, maintained that the only viable govenment for mankind was the coming government of man by Jesus; Any attempt at self-governence by man is fundamentally flawed. Personally, I am atheist, but that doesn't change what the bible says to Christians. I really don't care to look up all of the supporting bible quotes right now, but they are there for the edification of anyone who disagrees.

mark | October 18, 2004 12:20 AM

Well said, John.

AIUI, Tripp, Pentecostals hold off baptism altogether until personal choice time. A friend of mine was recently "born again" as a Pentecostal, after being baptised a fellow Catholic; however, as a conversion I think he's a special case.

Fitzcarralde | October 18, 2004 02:51 AM

Stephen's point is one taken very seriously by Jehovah's Witnesses -- I first learned this from a JW friend, who talked about this very often. Interestingly, his major in college was Political Science; he converted soon after his graduation.

Stephen | October 18, 2004 07:55 AM


That's where I learned it. I was raised as a Witness, then around 14 or so I made up my mind for myself. While not a Christian anymore, I have great respect for them. They sincerely try to live their lives according to what's in the bible, and if you are going to be Christian that's what it's all about. They remind me of the Christians of the first couple centuries AD when they didn't have state support and didn't do things like have crusades or inquisitions.

Tripp | October 18, 2004 12:31 PM


Thanks for the info. Is there a standard age where Baptists traditionally decide and get baptized? The Protestant religions I am familiar with (Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Presbytarian) baptise near birth as far as I know.

Andrew Wade | October 18, 2004 03:38 PM

Paul wrote:
"He was the ultimate antiestablishmentarianist."
I'd disagree. He was decidedly against the temple establishment, but not against Roman authority. Matthew 22:21 "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s" suggests a secular/religious distinction at the basis of this. But he and his contemporaries undoubtedly did not categorize governance quite the way we do today. But I don't recognize His authority, so it is rather academic to me.

Paul | October 19, 2004 02:26 PM

I'd have to agree with you. I was just looking for an excuse to use that word. Jesus' objections were to the politicization (is that even a word?) of his religion. He preached that worship should not be institutionalized. Everybody seems to ignore that part of his teachings. Then again, most "christian" religions ignore huge sweeping swaths of his teachings.

Andrew Wade | October 20, 2004 03:26 PM

Paul wrote:
"He preached that worship should not be institutionalized."
Yeah, that's how I read it too. Now his dislike for hypocracy brooks no misunderstanding; that comes through loud and clear.

Laura J. Mixon | October 22, 2004 11:21 AM

Of course, they didn't have a participatory form of government in Judea back then, so the issue likely didn't come up often...


John Merson | December 16, 2006 01:31 PM


Baptists traditionally decide to get babtisted when they decide it. It's at whatever age you decide to do it as a person. I have seen people get babtised at 10 and I have seen people get babptised at 80... I was babptised at 26.

Depends on what kind of babtist you are, salvation has nothing to do with babptisism. Babptisism is just to show your faith and follow the Lord's will. Salvation can only be obtained through having faith that Jesus died for you and that he saved you.