“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” – George Washington
An old friend posted this question on facebook last night (and by “old” I mean “a friend for a long time” not “a friend who is old”). It’s a question that has been posed many times and many people have attempted answers. Here are my thoughts.
First, the imagery of the question puts us outside the meaning of elections. One thinks of Jesus actually voting? (Thus my original comment to the facebook post was “the King needn’t vote in the elections of men”.) It gives one the impression of the Lord choosing a leader to rule over us, which misses the point.
While true that there is no authority except what God has established (see Romans 13), viewing elections through the lens of “someone to rule over us” leads us to two basic problems. The first, which is easily dismissed, is that it allows us to conflate sovereignty, will, and outcomes. Those who support the eventual winner say silly things like “he won, therefore this is God’s will”. Yes, and Hitler won an election too. For that matter, the opposition party wins about half of the elections in this country – will that same logic apply then? No, God has allowed the children of men to mistreat each other without wishing them to do so – we are free, not automatons, but we are also fallen and corrupt.
This leads us to the second difficulty posed by the “someone to rule over us” viewpoint of elections – it makes the government an abstraction beyond ourselves. But we live in a democracy, so the government is us. Elections are not so much about choosing someone to rule over us, they are about how we shall rule over each other. This is, to my mind, a key distinction.
Who would Jesus vote for? No, the question should be “how would Jesus have us treat each other through the rule of democratic government?” After this, the answers begin to emerge – for Jesus had much to say about how we should treat each other.
The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. – Gal 5:14-15
How should we treat each other? Love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto your neighbor as you would have then do unto you. But don’t, I repeat don’t bite and devour each other (oh boy).
Do you want me to help you when someone threatens to kill you? If so, then help me when they threaten to kill me. (Even if I’m pre-born.)
Do you want me to take your wages away from you and give it to someone else? If not, then don’t take my wages away and give them to someone else.
Do you want me to help you when you are poor and in need? Then help me when I am poor and in need … and you don’t need the government to do this – you help me.
Do you want me to take your wages and determine how to make benevolent use of them (even if you disagree with my definitions of benevolence)? If not, then don’t take my wages to address your social justice causes. God has seen fit to entrust each of us with our talents, our abilities, our jobs, and our possessions – and has seen fit to allow each of us to use them for the benefit of mankind; and we will answer to Him for failure to do so. We go too far when we think ourselves wiser than the Creator, better able to make decisions for our neighbors. We go to far when we make ourselves their masters.
Did any of the candidates in the election meet these criteria? Not really. Ron Paul would have, but not the others. Furthermore, you never really know what will happen once a candidate gets into office. He may have campaigned on conservative principles, but in the end decided to plunder your wages and give billions to the banking class (sound familiar?).
So what shall we do? Well, we do the best we can. We start by talking about issues of justice in governance (thus my writing of this blog). We start a conversation with our neighbors about how government has become nothing more than a tool by which men bite and devour their neighbors.
And then, when we vote, we do the best we can. Do we choose the lesser of two evils? Are we even able to determine that? (I suggest that in the short term we are, but in the long term it is beyond our grasp – and the greater of two evils in the near term might actually work out better in the long run.) Do we choose a protest vote? Also a plausible option. Do we cast aside all decency and buy into the system of fear and corruption and use the system to plunder our neighbors before they plunder us? No, we don’t do that … at least we shouldn’t.