Voices: How should I vote? Part 1

  |  Source: Stark College & Seminary


This is Part I in a series written by Ellis Orozco regarding Christian civic engagement.

This is a national election year that promises to be unlike any other in modern presidential history. A little more than 155 million people voted in the 2020 presidential election. That was an historical high. This year’s presidential election promises to beat that number.

More Americans engaging in the political life of our country is a good thing.

However, the increased engagement also has brought a growing polarization that threatens to tear the fabric of our national political life. It seems to have created a much more toxic political discourse.

We live in an anger-filled, 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year election cycle that for many has become nothing more than background noise. For others it has created a paralyzing anxiety, fostering the temptation to walk away from it all.

The question for many Christians is: How do we engage in the brawl without becoming brawlers? How do we participate in the national conversation without descending into lunacy? How do we vote from a biblical, Christ-centered worldview?

Jesus and politics

Jesus was in the Jerusalem temple one day when he was confronted by a group of elite politicians, each with their own agenda (Matthew 22:15-22). They were attempting to destroy Jesus, politically. They wanted to chip away at the hold Jesus had over the general population—the 80 percent of the people who had been abused and silenced for decades.

To that end, they asked Jesus a trick question. Should we pay taxes to Caesar? If he answered “yes,” he would lose credibility with his followers. If he answered “no,” they could charge him with treason. Jesus’ response is interesting.

He showed them a coin and asked, “Whose image is on this coin?”

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They answered, “Caesar’s, of course.”

Jesus threw the coin back at them and said, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:21).

Modern interpreters have over-spiritualized Jesus’ question. On the day he asked it, the question actually was quite enigmatic and may have initiated a heated debate that would cause modern-day political discourse to blush.

What belongs to God? The answer, in Jesus’ day, depended on your political perspective.

The Sadducees would have said the Temple and the sacrificial system belongs to God.

The Pharisees would have been divided, some saying it was the throne of David that belongs to God, and others saying it was the Mosaic Law.

The Zealots would have screamed with one voice it was the Promised Land that belongs to God.

A few Essenes, had they happened to wander into Jerusalem that day, might have said it was the community of true Israelites that belongs to God.

Jesus’ answer was designed brilliantly to elicit such a debate. In the end, his central thesis most likely was missed in the brawl that almost surely ensued.

Jesus’ thesis: It’s all of the above. Everything belongs to God. Including the passionate debate.

A biblical foundation for voting

Let’s begin with this basic truism: Politics is not the most important thing in life.

Can you take a deep breath and just live in that for a moment? We have survived some pretty ugly political circumstances in the past, and we will survive these days as well.

This nation, as we know it, one day will cease to exist. All nations come and go, and if you think ours is any different … you’re wrong.

Jesus, however, is eternal, and our relationship with him is the most important thing in life.

Most Christians seem to understand this truism and, therefore, are tempted to wash their hands of the nasty, political climate and walk away from it all. That would be a big mistake for two reasons.

Two reasons for political engagement

1. Political decisions impact people.

The decisions we make as a country impact the lives of people all over the Earth.

We have a mandate from Jesus to stand on the side of the weak and oppressed—to fight for the rights of the vulnerable and the voiceless; to advocate for the responsible and ethical stewardship of our collective resources; to fight against corruption, hatred, violence and racism wherever we find it.

Political action is a vital way we stay true to that mandate.

2. Jesus is Lord over all things.

The central confession of the Christian church is this: Jesus Christ is Lord.

There is evidence that when confronted with the political mandate to confess, “Caesar is Lord,” some first-century Christians chose death over capitulation.

Before his ascension into heaven, Jesus said to his disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

Christians believe Jesus has power over all things and ultimately is in control. The Bible teaches us God cares deeply about his creation—all of it. And he calls us to care for it as well (Genesis 2:15).

One of the most effective ways for us to be good stewards of the Earth God gave us is to be involved in the political process.

If the Christ ethic demands we remain involved in the political process, how then should we vote? Is there a biblical-theological framework that can guide us as we prepare to vote in 2024?

That question will be the subject of my next article.

Ellis Orozco served as a pastor 30 years. He is the founder and CEO of Karooso Ministries and the public theologian in residence at Stark College & Seminary, where this article first appeared. Republished by permission.

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