It seems as though it never ends. Even though most major elections in the United States only occur every two years, it feels like the campaign ads, attacks, and arguing never cease. Because the system is relentless, many Americans lose the thrill and excitement that our forefathers desired and died to obtain: the freedom to vote. Many young adult Christians are equally disillusioned by the process as well. Politicians pander to the younger voters, trying to be hip and cool rather than real and genuine. The culture and schools may tell us to vote a certain way while our churches and family may tell us to go the opposite direction. It is easy to understand why so many young people are apathetic toward the system.
As Christians, we are not to be isolated from the world around us but rather engaging the culture on every front, including the political arena. Young adult Christians desire to see spiritual, physical, and social change in the world; many just don’t know how to channel their efforts. Voting is certainly a viable option but it can be overwhelming. The following four strategies can help steer you to confidently choosing candidates that share your values and beliefs.
Vote for a Person, Not a Party
A danger for many Christians, especially those who are not interested in politics, is to simply vote for every candidate running in a certain party because that’s what their family, church, school, or culture tells them to do. Political parties never bring about change; it is the people working within them that do. Parties are flawed because they are vague and anyone can register for any party of his or her choosing. Thus, just because a political party has a vague stance on an issue does not necessarily mean a candidate agrees and supports that stance. In today’s world, where every candidate has a website that’s only a few keystrokes away, there is no reason not to be informed about each candidate’s specific views on issues and policies.
For a few elections, I was a one-party voter. That was until I ran across a candidate I could not stomach. This gentleman was running on his record as a strong, responsible businessman and promised to implement those principles once he was elected. However, it was revealed that his company was indicted on charges of fraud, and as the CEO, he was forced to pay hefty fines. Even though he was labeled in a fashion I supported, I could not in good conscience vote for the candidate once I got to know his character below the surface. Educate yourself before going to the voting booth and be sure the individuals that receive your vote believe and display the characteristics you value.
Vote for a President, Not a Pastor
Nearly every major civilization has intertwined their political leadership with their spiritual leadership and endorsed a national religion. The Queen of England is the constitutional monarch but she is also the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Sharia law is legislated in many Muslim-controlled countries to steer the population toward Islam. Even communist governments promote atheism as a twist on endorsing a state religion. But America is different. America is the Great Experiment. In its founding, the United States separated political leadership from spiritual leadership. However, throughout time the line has become blurred.
Many Christians choose their president with the same discretion as they would a pastor. The founding fathers never intended government officials to lead the people spiritually. Rather, the faith of the people should steer the leadership of the government. The founders of the United States had witnessed firsthand what happens when unconverted leaders are responsible for the faith of the masses. When the U.S. Constitution was drafted in 1787, the founders carefully detailed and limited the powers of the executive branch, leaving no room for ambiguity or confusion.
Recently, I was discussing politics with a friend and shared with him a candidate I am supporting. He was immediately turned off by my choice because that particular candidate believes in evolution. While I certainly believe evolution is a ludicrous explanation of the origins of the universe, disqualifying someone for political service based on his or her belief in it is absurd. Teachings on morality and faith should come from the home and the pulpit, not the White House. The high honor of pastoring is only by the calling of God while the high office of president comes by the calling of the people. When the people are genuinely converted and actively living out their faith based on biblical teachings, they no longer look to the government for moral guidance, but rather the government seeks to answer the voice of the people.
Christians ought to be concerned most about electing a person that will best fulfill the responsibilities outlined in the Constitution and will best promote freedom. When seeking to repair a leaky pipe, most people do not scrutinize the theological principles of the plumber; they just want to hire the person who can best do the job at a reasonable expense. It’s not that his theological principles are irrelevant, but perhaps we have placed unnecessary responsibilities on the President not given in his original job description—the U.S. Constitution.
Values Don’t End at the Voting Booth
Because we live in a fallen culture that has allowed the government to decide morality for so long, change will not come overnight. Unfortunately, placing the power of morality back into the hands of individual Christians is not something that will happen in just one election. This will be a battle won slowly over time. So while we gradually transfer the authority of government back to its original intentions, we must also bear in mind that moral law is still an issue in our country. Therefore, it is of some importance to leave the voting booth with a clear conscious, knowing the person you voted for will follow policies you believe are honoring to the Word of God.
However, do not think your responsibility ends there. Too many Christians have felt a checkmark on a piece of paper every four years fulfills the Great Commission. Expecting people to be genuinely converted through legislation is like cutting off your leg and expecting a Band-Aid to stop the bleeding. If you are morally opposed to an issue, vote against it but then seek ways to minister to the community that is in favor of it. The church’s desire should not to be to establish Christendom through political policy. That only leads to false security and false hopes. It is only when Christians get out into the world, build relationships, and share Christ that social change occurs.
Pray More Than Criticize
I have been a political junkie ever since I was eight years old and bought my first book about the presidents at a school book fair. I have heard numerous promises of a grand utopia by countless candidates and found at the end of the day, the world is still fallen. It is very easy to become a cynic and criticize every aspect of a public official’s policies, promises, and personal life. While there is a place for constrictive criticism, at the end of the day cynicism does not solve anything. If we truly desire to see change, we must turn to the Lord in prayer and seek to live out our faith. The leaders of our country have been placed in their positions by the will and authority of God (Romans 13:1). We should pray that they would be sensitive to the Lord’s leading. Make a personal commitment to pray for your national, state, and local leaders throughout the week, and when you find yourself being too much of a critic, stop and pray. Your faith can fit in the voting booth, but it will only make sense if it’s being demonstrated outside the booth as well.
Jeremy Crittenden is the youth minister at Iglesia Bautista Libre Ebenezer in Miami, Florida. He enjoys visiting Walt Disney World, watching cat videos on YouTube, and campaigning for President of the United States in 2044.