Why Should I Vote?October 25, 2004
What is a Christian's responsibility toward voting? Various guests including historian Stephen Mansfield, Kay Arthur, Janet Parshall and more speak out on this timely issue.
What is a Christian's responsibility toward voting? Various guests including historian Stephen Mansfield, Kay Arthur, Janet Parshall and more speak out on this timely issue.
Why Should I Vote?
Bob: The right to vote is one of the great privileges that comes with citizenship. Here is Alistair Begg.
Alistair: In May I became a citizen of the United States, and I was in there with people from China and from Russia and from Nigeria and Ghana and all over the place, and I realized, as well, that Americans are not about location, they're about a concept, they're about an idea. You know, we are those who embrace these principles, and we come from everywhere, and we share them. And, you know, as much as I love my home and my birthplace and everything, I was able to embrace all these things with alacrity because I believe in them.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 25th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll talk about exercising our right to vote on today's program.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. You know, I kind of am interested in politics, and every four years when we've got a presidential election, I read the magazines, and I watch the TV news, and I kind of stay with what's going on. There's a part of it that's exciting and interesting and engaging. But about this time in the election year cycle, I've had about all the Swiftboat Veterans, you know, I want to hear from. You know what I'm saying?
Bob: You get a little weary of it, and you're ready to -- let's just go to the polls and vote and, of course, that's what we're going to be doing next week. We hope that's what all of our listeners are going to be doing.
Dennis: That's right, and it seems like, Bob, with each passing election that the whole process starts a little earlier and what happens is we have all these voices that are blaring at us certain messages and, in the process, we're trying to decide -- you know what? What is a Christian's responsibility when it comes to voting and when he does vote how should he vote?
Bob: And with the election next week, we thought we ought to just spend a little time with our listeners just kind of thinking through some of those issues.
Dennis: And who you listen to as a thoughtful follower of Christ -- well, it's important that you have godly counsel. Now, I know some of our listeners who have listened to us over the past couple of months as we've talked about registering to vote and how to vote from a biblical standpoint. Some have disagreed with us and you know what? That's okay. We can agree to disagree agreeably, all right? But what you are about to hear are some godly counselors, some of the wisest people that we know of in the Christian community who don't have a political agenda. They do have a biblical agenda. They are all about wanting to obey the Scriptures and Jesus Christ in terms of having our vote reflect our Christian beliefs and values.
Bob: Yeah, so we're not going to talk about any specific candidates for any office; we're not going to talk about any political party, we're not even going to talk about the right wing or the left wing. We're just going to listen to the wisdom of some different folks with some reminders about things we ought to think about before we head out to vote next week.
Dennis: And, Bob, we've never done anything quite like this, but I really like this because you are about to hear a collage, of sorts, by leading Christian thinkers that I think is going to stimulate Christians and their thinking about voting and how they vote and, most importantly, how they pass this on to the next generation. We really have a responsibility when it comes to encouraging our children to be responsible citizens as well.
Bob: You all set?
Dennis: I am, let's listen.
Bob: All right, so let's go.
Next Tuesday, November 2nd, is Election Day in the United States. One of the privileges of living in a free country is that we have the opportunity to participate in choosing who will lead us as a nation. The word "vote" isn't in the Bible. There were no democracies in Bible times, no elections. In the Old Testament there were kings and judges. The New Testament was written at a time when the Western World was ruled by the emperor in Rome. So as Christians approach Election Day, we have to ask does the Bible give us any guidance about voting? Is it a sin not to vote? That's the question we put to a number of Christian leaders. Pastor Alistair Begg.
Alistair: We are accountable before God for everything, aren't we -- for what we do and what we fail to do? And someone who fails to do good, it is sin. I think it is a good thing to vote. I think it's a right thing to vote; it's a privilege of democracy. The whole idea of the institution of a state that God has provided this so that within that framework may be punished and right may be upheld. And I think in the same way that a Christian on the factory floor ought to be one of the first people to help when one of his colleagues has found himself in difficulty. I think in the same way that Christians ought to be in the forefront of involving themselves in civil responsibilities.
Bob: Bible teacher and "Revive Our Hearts" radio host, Nancy Leigh DeMoss agrees.
Nancy: The privilege to vote, the privilege to live in a free country is a great gift, and it's a gift from the Lord, and it's one that we have a stewardship responsibility over, and so for any citizen of a country where there is the freedom to vote, to exercise that freedom is a responsibility. But I think, particularly, as the people of God, you know, as go the people of God so goes the nation. The nation, in so many ways, is a reflection of the condition of the church, and for us, as the church, to wring our hands, to be in despair, to be lamenting the decline of moral values, of common sense, decency, order, and law, et cetera, in this nation, and then to sit at home when we have an opportunity to have some influence and some say in that process is really to forfeit our responsibility to be salt, to be light, to represent God's heart and His ways in this nation. I just shudder at the statistics of how many so-called "evangelical believers" don't even bother to register to vote and then how many are registered to vote don't exercise that right and that responsibility.
Ken: How can we be the salt of the earth if we are not participating in who is leading us on the earth?
Bob: Seattle Pastor Ken Hutcherson.
Ken: I think Romans 13 dealing with the government while the government was put in place, but also God says obey that government, and the government has given us a way to help control itself by democratic by a republic type of government that we have, especially the republic here in the United States. So, as believers, we can't get away from him, but regardless how much we want to, we have a tremendous responsibility to be governed by God, and that is to put people in that is going to be close to His views. Because I think it was William Penn that says, "The people that will not be controlled by God will be controlled by a tyrant." It is one of the greatest freedoms that we have in our Christianity, to follow the government and help establish what our government should be and to push it closer to what God would do and how God would do it, and it is a sin not to take advantage of the freedom that God has given us in the political arena.
Bob: So is it a sin not to vote? Attorney Randy Singer who works with the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention says it is.
Randy: I think it's absolutely a sin not to vote. I mean, James tells us that anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it -- to him it is sin. And we can go to numerous other Scriptures to show the incredible civic responsibility we have in Romans, chapter 13, in the first few verses, they're making it real clear that all the authorities that exist have been established and ordained by God. And in our country, the civic authority comes from us, the people. And so for us to have the right and the ability to participate in the election process and to not do it, it seems to me we're falling right into that verse in James, chapter 5. We know we ought to do it, we know voting is right, and if we don't do it, I think that's sin.
Bob: And radio talk show host Janet Parshall agrees.
Janet: I do. Scripture says if you know the right thing to do, and you don't do it, it is a sin. The right thing to do when you live in a representative form of government like we have here in the United States is to influence and occupy your culture by putting the right people in the job of defining and deciding public policy. You know, there isn't a public servant who doesn’t have some impact on your faith, your family, your finances, or your freedom, and Scripture says when the righteous rule, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people moan. So you bet it's a sin if you don't vote. You've been given that opportunity. Ours is a dual citizenship. Until we walk the streets of heaven, we have to walk the streets of America and let our voice be heard by voting.
Bob: Theologian Wayne Grudem says, technically, not voting would be a sin of omission; one of the things we ought to have done that is sometimes neglected.
Wayne: And I think if Christians do not vote, I think they are violating responsibility that God has given us a privilege; that God has given us to have influence in the course of human affairs. People sit back, and they say, "Oh, things are so terrible in our country. Look at how things are so bad. Look at how things are going." And then if they don't vote, they are bearing some of the responsibility for the direction the country goes.
Bob: Pastor and author Stephen Mansfield.
Stephen: You know, if you and I were walking down the street, and there was a woman on the other side of the street being beaten by a thug, and we did nothing about it, if we kept on walking to our lunch appointment, even though we saw it, we not only would be in violation of man's law -- we could be arrested for not rendering aid -- but we would also, I think, according to teachings of Jesus, be considered in sin and not help someone when we have the power to help. Well, every so often our country turns to us and says, "How would you like things to go? There are things that are wrong. Tell us what solutions you would propose?" Exercise your voice to do good. The country is in trouble, the woman is being beaten, and you have an opportunity to make a difference. And for us not to vote, to not even express what we perceive to be the will of God as Christians in the public sphere, I believe, is absolutely a sin, and I think that it has led to some of the quagmire that we have been in politically in the last decade.
Bob: So why would anyone fail to vote? Randy Singer says many of us still think our one, lone vote really doesn't matter.
Randy: I think there is an assumption, and it's still amazing to me, Bob, that this assumption is still there after the last election, that "my vote doesn't matter." And no one ever thought it could come down to a handful of votes like it did in the 2000 presidential election. But every vote matters. I think voters need to understand how critically important their vote is.
Bob: Again, radio host Janet Parshall.
Janet: People have to understand they're responsible to be obedient, and if the call before us is to vote, to let your voice be heard, to try as much as is humanly possible to put the right people in office -- to fall into that mythology that says somehow your vote doesn't count is just that. It's a snag of a life that's being permeated in this culture that says you don't count. The truth of the matter is, you count tremendously, and in this election, you count perhaps more than ever before. Every person in Washington is saying, "You thought 2000 was close? Wait 'til you see 2004."
Bob: Pastor Alistair Begg things that maybe some of us have taken the privilege of voting for granted.
Alistair: Our brothers and sisters in the Sudan would love to have the luxury of even the worst of circumstances that we could describe here politically. People in Nepal and in other parts of the world, in parts of Korea, you know, and so on. It really is a form of escapism of the worst kind to fail, I think, to exercise this wonderful privilege of democracy, and I don't understand it.
Bob: Voting is a privilege that has come down to us at a high cost. Here is Campus Crusade for Christ vice president, Dr. Crawford Loritts.
Crawford: There are 19- and 20-year-olds who have died in Iraq; there are people who walk up and down the streets of New York City holding pictures of loved ones who died in the Twin Towers. And that may sound like a drastic illustration, but if ever there was a time in which we needed to undergo a few extra minutes of inconvenience to make a statement that will help this country go in the direction in which we feel it needs to do and honor those who paid a dear price for the freedoms that we enjoy, it's right now. It is ultimately an insult, an insult to people who have died in wars, who were bitten by dogs because they peacefully protested and wanted the right to vote, who are hosed down in streets -- it is ultimately an insult to them to say that I can't stand 10 minutes in a line or half an hour in a line to vote and to make a difference.
Bob: There are people in our country who become concerned when they hear Christian leaders calling people to vote. They raise the issue of the so-called "separation of church and state," the limitations the government places on political speech that comes from tax-exempt nonprofit groups, but pastor and author Stephen Mansfield says there are important ways the church can and should influence the thinking of voters.
Stephen: I'd like to see Christian leaders do a better job of training people to think in terms of Christian perspectives on politics and understand the governmental sphere as ordained by God but not get into the dirty, backroom kind of gunning for a candidate and finding dirt on him and putting it on television. I don't think that's the calling on the people of God, but I think most Christian leaders could go to a great deal more good if they were bolder about a Christian perspective on politics.
Bob: Alistair Begg is pastor in Ohio, one of the so-called "battleground" states in the coming presidential election. Will he preach to his congregation about the issues? He says he already has.
Alistair: The notions of righteousness and of justice and of truth are not moral categories that are divorced from the political process. And so given that we have a shepherding role with our people, we are helping them to frame a view of the world and of their participation in the world. Then without trying to direct their actual voting patterns, I think that it would be wrong of us not to give them guidance as they expect guidance from us in other areas.
Bob: Ken Hutcherson is the pastor of Antioch Bible Church in suburban Seattle, Washington. He is also planning to give his congregation biblical guidance before they cast their votes this year.
Ken: We have been so frightened by this separation of church and state that we don't know what the law really says, and we're fighting the wrong battles. Instead of trying to say, "I am not stepping over the line" -- that's not the question the church should be asking, and that's not the fight the church should be fighting. The battle should be what does the Constitution really say about the separation of church and state? You can't find it anywhere in the Constitution.
Bob: Should pastors like Begg and Hutcherson be worried about violating IRS guidelines when they talk about moral issues that have political implications? Because the church is tax exempt, they do have to abide by specific guidelines. Again, Attorney Randy Singer.
Randy: What they cannot do is be involved in the political process to the point that they endorse a candidate or a party. What they can do is to preach and teach God's Word on issues that come up during the election process. So long as when they go into the informative part of it in terms of what the candidates say about this issue has to be done in a nonpartisan, evenhanded way, and to some that's kind of a thin line, but I think it's a real clear line that the IRS has given us, and the problem is that churches back so far away from the line that they don't touch anything that is, to them, smells like a political issue when the fact is almost all the big moral issues of our day are being debated in politics and have some political element.
Bob: And for those who are concerned about invoking God's name or biblical concepts in the process of governing a nation -- Bible teacher Kay Arthur is quick to remember the lessons of history.
Kay: In 1787, in Philadelphia, it was unbearably hot. It was a city filled with humidity, and sweat soaked the clothes of those that were trying to come up with this Constitution so that they could hardly bear to be in that room, and the tempers there were as hot as the men were. And the only glue that was holding this Constitutional Convention together was George Washington, and even Benjamin Franklin, who was a Deist, was ready to give up. However, when it came his turn to speak, this is what he said -- "How has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of Lights to illuminate our understanding?" and he went on to say this -- "I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proof I see of this truth that God governs in the affairs of man. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured in the sacred writings that except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it. I firmly believe this. I also believe that without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests. Our projects will be confounded and we ourselves shall become a reproach and byword down to future ages, and, what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, or conquest." He says, "I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of heaven and its blessing on our deliberations be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business."
Did Benjamin Franklin believe that Christians should be involved in politics and that God was an integral part of the future of a nation? It's very obvious. And I think that we, as Americans, have to go back to our roots. We have to go back to the beginning of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America and realize that our founding fathers gave us the privilege of voting for those men who would serve this country under the fear of God, and I think we need to vote accordingly.
Bob: That's some helpful food for thought just as you think through what we ought to do in exercising our civic responsibilities and our biblical responsibilities to be involved as voters and as good citizens, right?
Dennis: And, you know, what we're representing here is that many Americans believe that they have the right, as well as the responsibility, to go to the Scriptures as the authority for living and the determination of beliefs and convictions that -- well, for all practical purposes, direct their vote. I mean, it's going to be a matter of what, for some, is a right or a wrong choice around issues of importance for them.
Bob: And it's possible that some good people will go to the Scriptures, and they'll come away with one set of conclusions about who to vote for. Other good people will go to the Scriptures, and they'll come away saying, "No, I think the Scriptures push me in a different direction." And that's okay, isn't it?
Dennis: Yeah, it is, but make sure the Scriptures are the ultimate basis for your judgment. I want to encourage any listener who would like just a little more additional information about what those biblical issues might be in an election, to go to our website at FamilyLife.com, and you're going to find a statement around several ethical issues that are represented in this election. They are not issues around two candidates but of many candidates. It's not one issue, I believe it's seven issues that we have listed there, and you'll also see a group of Christian leaders -- you're on there. I've signed it as well -- in terms of making a statement about what the Bible teaches around issues that we think the Bible is very clear on.
Now, again, you don't have to agree with us about this. Some of you have written us. I've gotten some pretty pithy e-mails; had some folks take some shots at me in terms of our stands here, calling people to a biblical worldview concerning your vote. That's okay, that is okay. But if you want to see where I stand and what I stand for and Bob, as well, go to our website at FamilyLife.com and check out what the Bible says about several ethical issues represented by multiple candidates in this election.
Bob: And when you stop by our website, if you can help us with a donation, you are able to donate online, those donations go to enable us each day to be on this station and to get resources into folks' hands. We appreciate those of you who do stand with us financially, and we've tried to make it easy for you to make an online donation if you'd like, or if you want to call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, you can do that as well. And, again, we appreciate those of you who step forward and help with a donation.
Tomorrow we want to talk about some of the differences that exist within the body of Christ -- different folks who see things differently on different issues.
Dennis: Do you think?
Bob: We're going to hear from some of them tomorrow, and I hope our listeners can be back with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.