Nothing in my lifetime has divided American Christians like the upcoming presidential election. I’ve been getting unsolicited emails from respected Christian leaders on why it is imperative that I vote for a Democrat. On social media and in print, other equally respected Christian leaders contend that I’ll be sinning if I don’t vote for a Republican. Worst of all, they tell me, is not voting for either candidate – something I’m seriously considering this week after reading theologian John Piper’s blog post on “Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin.”
I don’t often read Piper, a staunch conservative with a wide following, but when I saw that he’d written about the election, I was curious. While the popular teacher and author generously supports an individual’s right to vote without risking damnation, he implies that he himself will not be voting for a major-party presidential candidate this year, calling either choice, “a pathway to destruction.”
Of one candidate, he says, “When a leader models self-absorbed, self-exulting boastfulness, he models the most deadly behavior in the world. He points his nation to destruction.” Of the other, he highlights policies that promote abortion and other activities that many consider contrary to a Christian way of life.
“I will not develop some calculus to determine which path of destruction I will support,” Piper says. “That is not my duty. My calling is to lead people to see Jesus Christ, trust his forgiveness for sins, treasure him above everything in this world, live in a way that shows his all-satisfying value, and help them make it to heaven with love and holiness. That calling is contradicted by supporting either pathway to cultural corruption and eternal ruin.”
Rather than endorsing a candidate, Piper says that he will “stand for Christ-exalting faith and hope and love.”
Perhaps, more than anything, that is what is truly at stake in this election. How can we show faith to our neighbors and communities when we are fighting with each other? How can we show that our hope is in a heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one, when we wear the name of a political candidate instead of the name of Christ? How can we show love when our social media posts are filled with hate?
Most persuasive was a letter to the editor in this November’s issue of Christianity Today, responding to last month’s article, “When is it a sin to vote for a political candidate?” Elaine Creasman, of Largo, Florida, responded, “If there are two bad candidates, many tell me, ‘I voted for the lesser of two evils.’ If we strip that sentence to its core, it says, ‘I voted for evil.’”
Where will my vote fall on Election Day? I’m not sure. But when I read Scripture I don’t find a mandate on how – or whether – to vote. What I do find is a mandate to pray (I Timothy 2:1-4). And so, like my family did last night around the dinner table, I plead, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the award-winning memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book The Lantern Hill Light Parade and four other books celebrating the holidays in a way that builds children’s faith.