Christians and political elections
Hugo A. Cotro
There will soon be elections in my country and, as young adult, I will participate with my vote for the first time in my life. The political slogans and conflicting statements of various candidates are not helping me to decide who is the best qualified or trustworthy. I am required by law to participate in the election, and some of my Christian friends tell me that I should cast a blank vote and let God carry out His sovereign will since, according to the Bible, “‘He sets up kings and deposes them’” (Daniel 2:21, NIV). Any counsel?
I respect your friends' thinking, but I don't believe a blank ballot will smooth the way for “God's will in the political arena,” if there is such a thing. If nothing can hinder God's will, a vote for any candidate would be the same as a blank one, don't you think? I don't believe God works in a vacuum, but intervenes in history and in the world, through human beings, just as evil does. The only difference is that evil has never lacked for helpers.
Unfortunately, on many occasions the result of an election has little to do with the will of God. In Hosea 8:4 the Lord says: “‘They set up kings, but not by Me; They made princes, and I did not acknowledge it. From their silver and their gold they made idols for themselves’” (NKJV).
In most electoral systems blank ballots end up favoring the candidate with the most votes. You are fortunate to live in a country that holds elections in which you have the privilege of voting. Remember that even “the worst democracy is better than the best dictatorship.” Your vote counts.
Jesus indicated that we human beings have certain responsibilities to fulfill toward God and toward the authorities who exercise the power of governing a society (Matthew 22:21; see also Acts 5:29). For that reason, and in spite of the imperfections of any political or electoral system, consider a few questions to use in evaluating each candidate and preparing to cast your vote:
What record is there, if any, of his or her political activity in the past? What initiatives has he or she taken and carried out? Have they been faithful to campaign promises or have they been pliable to special interests? How have they administered public funds? What is the platform of the party that supports the candidate? To what extent do its planks agree with Christian ethical principles? Who are their team and advisors?
Have you read their formal statements? Are their proposals realistic or are they simply worded to get the popular vote? Is there reason to believe that they will be transparent if elected to office? Can they be expected to respect and enforce respect for the independent functioning of the legislative and judicial branches of government? Is it reasonable to believe they will protect the freedom of conscience of all citizens?
As far as can be known, is his or her personal conduct a worthy example to be imitated? Will their family and private life be an asset or a hindrance to community leadership?
I recognize that, in an imperfect world, some of these questions are difficult to answer with certainty. Nevertheless, this exercise will develop muscle tissue on your body frame as a useful citizen. I also know that frequently one ends up voting for the candidate that musters the basic requirements and is the least objectionable with relation to our convictions. As a Christian, you are responsible for evaluating, deciding, and exercising your rights as a citizen. Pray for the future of your country and cast your ballot with a clear conscience.
Hugo A. Cotro is completing his doctoral studies at Andrews University. This question and answer have been adapted from his book ¿Qué dice la Biblia? Respuestas bíblicas para sus interrogaciones (Buenos Aires, Argentina: Asociación Casa Editora Sudamericana, 2005).