so i wrote about the elections the other day and think some people may have been disappointed by me not actually talking all that sepcifically about the elections and voting in it, as the bottom line of my post was that ‘we vote every day by our actions’ which is completely true and probably a lot more specifically relevant than the actual vote i do or don’t cast [well i don’t cos i am from africa… you know, the country, and they won’t even take my blood here to save peoples lives so they definitely don’t want my vote]. but for those of you who felt cheated by it i thort i would look at some of the myths or statements people make [or just downright lies] when it comes to voting… these are all ideas that came out of our midrash the other night and so i am not saying they are all my points or ideas, but are definitely an interesting perspective on some aspects of voting [so please view these as interesting points to get you thinking rather than definitive absolute truth statements]:
# my piddly little single vote doesn’t count – a lot of people feel like this and with the voting being in the millions, mine surely doesn’t count at all right? Only if you haven’t seen ‘A Bug’s Life’ and I’m talking beyond the brilliance that was “Stay away from the light!” “I can’t, it’s so beauuuuutifiuuuuuulllll FZZZT” or Antz… one bug vs the big scary insects – impossible – but a million bugs vs the twenty big scary insects… life-changing… one of the people at the midrash posed it this way – what if people said the same about recycling? with the millions of kilograms of recycling needing to be done, how does my little bit count? well, for it to count it needs each of the millions of little bugs to do their bit but whether it is recycling or voting, each one adds up.
# i’m going to vote for the lesser of two evils – party one has people who want to raise taxes and increase the burden on the poor, party two has people who want to make it okay to kill babies… well i can’t pick any one because they both have bad things about them, so let me pick the lesser of two evils… this is probably a punt for the ‘don’t vote’ people but the question raised was, ‘Why would you pick any evil?’ – i remember someone arguing against someone else years ago and it turned out they didn’t even strongly believe in what they were arguing for – “Well, how can you argue that then?” asked the first person. “I’m playing devil’s advocate,” was the response/ “Well why would you ever want to work for him?” was the comeback. And i think there is some truth to this – the phrase ‘lesser of two evils’ is not a phrase that you would ever hear Jesus advocating because He always picked the route of no evil and as far as the Bible is concerned it seems to indicate that there will always be a way for us to do this [No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10.13] as well. And maybe not voting is that way.
# voting for one of the smaller parties makes no difference – this used to get me so mad in South Africa – there was a Christian party that came along with some really good people in it who really seemed to have some good ideas about education and other important aspects and i heard so many people use this excuse as to why they didn’t vote for them – in fact many people chose what they saw as the lesser of two evils over a party that many of them believed in… and so it became the truth… but if the amount of people i heard say that line was a small representation of everyone thinking that line and voting that way, then if all of them had voted for the small party it would have made a significant difference, even if it only meant one or two more people from that party would have gotten into parliament because that would have meant one or two more voices of sanity and Godliness… [this reminds me of the little kid with the starfish on the beach making a difference to them one at a time but WHAT IF EVERYONE WHO WAS MEANT TO BE ON THE BEACH WAS ON THE BEACH – then suddenly you are making a difference to hundreds and thousands and eventually millions] – the more people who vote for parties they believe in, the more representation those parties will have which will hopefully encourage more people to vote for them and eventually get them to a place where they can make a difference.
# if you don’t vote then you can’t complain – there was a great response to this one which was turning it on its head and saying actually if you voted someone in then you can’t complain, but if you didn’t vote and someone who you didn’t want to get in got in then you definitely have a right to voice concerns whereas if you voted someone in and they turned out to be not the person you were hoping for, well, then it is your vote that got them there and can you really complain?
# as followers of Christ it is my duty to vote – a lot of people play this card and i just don’t know if it’s true – i think a lot of us grow up with the line of ‘voting is a responsible thing to do’ and so even considering not voting feels like a completely alien concept – and i don’t know that i have settled on whether voting or not voting is the answer [which is why i will continue to focus more heavily on voting every day with how i live my life, decisions i make on recycling and what food and clothes products i buy and where i eat out and so on] but i imagine if we are trying to put spiritual pressure on people to vote then we really need to go back to the bible and ask if that is really what we are being commanded to do. Jesus didn’t overthrow the Roman government [which many of the people were hoping he would] but He also didn’t always align Himself with the religious or political leaders of His day. so i think it becomes a question of conscience and as a follower of Jesus what might be more important than voting or not might be how i treat my friends and others around me who arrive at a different opinion than mine…
to vote or not to vote? that is a question…
but to love God, to love people, to always forgive anyone who has wronged me, to look after the least of these [especially widows and children] and to make disciples of all nations and teach them to obey what Jesus taught us… no question! So let’s start with that.
for some radical and revolutionary thoughts from Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw in the ‘Jesus for President’ mould, check out this updated article on Red Letter Christians where they share some creativity about how we can engage healthily and in a way that may spell out revolution.