This is different for me. This is more of a confession than it is anything else. Nearly everything I put in writing is analytical and has an objective, (hopefully) logical conclusion to make. But not this. I chose not to vote in this election, the first one for which I have been an eligible voter. I didn’t make this decision because I’m apathetic or because I think politics are lame. I had a conversation with my dad tonight about the fact that I’m not voting. He doesn’t like it. He doesn’t understand it, but he tells me that he trusts and respects my opinions and he loves me anyway. He’s awesome like that. I couldn’t quite express to him why I’m not voting on the phone tonight, so maybe putting it in writing will help.
I confess that I have no answers here. I confess that I don’t fully know what I think. I confess that this might be immature, or prideful, or stupid. This is a combination of a confession and an inner dialogue in an attempt to express why I’m not voting.
At the most basic level, I’m not voting because I am still wrestling through what I believe the political responsibilities of a Christian are — whether and to what degree I should be involved politically, to whom I have a responsibility, and where Jesus calls my allegiances to lie. In other words, my quandary is primarily theological, not political. I won’t bore you with the details of the quandary because the specifics of it are not important to what I want to convey, but it is intricate and my lack of a resolution is not simply due to a lack of consideration. If the names mean anything to you, people like Bonhoeffer, Niebuhr, Hauerwas, and Yoder are all dancing around in circles in my head. I believe wholeheartedly that my theology must inform my politics (and not the other way around), but I confess that I haven’t yet formed all of the aspects of my theology that would inform my political decision. I believe my loyalty to Christ and his kingdom should shape the way I interact with the world in every aspect of my life. But I am at a stalemate of sorts in my theology, and that is not going to come to an end in the next 24 hours. And I feel that if I voted now it would be a betrayal of that conviction, because Jesus wouldn’t be informing my decision. It feels as though I would be relegating Him to the realm of the impractical and handling the “important, real-world things” on my own out of other motivations and obligations. It feels as though I would be giving away a part of myself that belongs to my Savior.
I confess that I don’t know how my responsibility as an American fits in to my responsibility as a disciple of Christ, except that it is subordinate. I confess that I wish everyone would stop acting like things are black and white and that there are clear-cut right and wrong answers to political problems. I confess that I desperately just want somebody to acknowledge the difficulties of being a politically responsible Christian instead of glazing over them with the justification that “at least this is better than the alternative.” It seems like almost everybody I talk to says they are essentially choosing which is “the lesser of two evils” in this election — how will anything ever change if we accept that fact? How can I participate in a system that for all intents and purposes is becoming a process of pessimistic damage control when I am a citizen in the kingdom of God?
It would be so easy. My family would be happy with me, and I could stop hearing about it all the time. But I just can’t do it; something inside won’t let me. Something inside me feels like I would be selling out, that I would be settling, or taking the easy way out. That the only part of me that the world can’t touch, unless I allow it to, would be violated. Instead of making an honest decision I would be giving in to some external influence, be it fear or judgment or desire for acceptance. It wouldn’t be a truthful action; it would be coerced. Maybe it’s intellectual pride, maybe it’s self-centered stubbornness or youthful immaturity. Maybe someday down the road I’ll look back and shake my head at how asinine I once was. Maybe I will end up settling on the exact position my dad wants me to take. But right now I do not know what God wants of me, and I cannot–I will not–give this part of myself away for the sake of expediency or out of fear that the wrong candidate taking office will mean the end of the world. It’s as though I would be selling this part of me, which owes all to my Savior, to the highest bidder–whether the highest bidder is fear or wanting to please my family or just wanting to be involved. I confess that I don’t know what “this part of me” even is. I think it has something to do with the fact that I would be taking an action that would make a mark on the world without allowing Jesus to inform that action.
Maybe I’m the only one that feels this way, and this is just a unique season of life for me because the theological issues I’m wrestling with happen to be unfolding at the same time as an election. But I kind of think I’m not alone in feeling this way, at least not in all of it, and that maybe if we were more honest about our reservations it would bring problems out into the open more often.
I confess that I am okay with not having a resolution to my questions and therefore not voting, because no matter how powerful or imposing they are, the rulers of this world do not determine the fate of humanity. Jesus does.