Thursday, November 1, 2012

Another Christian Case for Non-Voting

Over at "The Other Journal" Eric Paul yesterday published a thought-provoking essay called "Not-Voting as a Form of Christian Political Witness".  I don't know much about him or about his theological background, but the essay is very good.  In it, he articulates some ideas I expressed in my post about not voting, but he does so better and more thoroughly than I did.  He also articulates an understanding of voting as idolatry about which I only hinted.  I encourage you to read the whole essay (it isn't long).  But, if nothing else, at least read this paragraph:

"But as a Christian, as one who constantly tries (and often fails) to live into the pattern of the cross set before us through Jesus of Nazareth, I can’t help but question the ways our emphasis on voting shapes us into the practice of nation-state ethics.  I can’t help but wonder if voting parallels the ancient practice of burning incense to Caesar.  It becomes a tangible way in which we allow the nation to guide our stories rather than the cross of Christ.  We vote one way and we declare that we most align with the ideology of one party over others.  We allow that party’s narrative to drive our relationships with others.  But on a deeper level, we give ourselves over to the base ideology of American bodily existence.  In a way, voting acts as a social mechanism to pacify the masses.  Voting gives the appearance of a democratic process.  It gives us an illusion of freedom, an illusion of choice, all the while entrenching our communities into idolatrous notions of peace and prosperity.  I think it’s possible to conceive of voting as an act that actually does the opposite of what it proposes, in that it actually strips us of being politically engaged in any meaningful way as a body of Christ."


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  2. Tried to post a link from an article by Allan Jacobs called "A Long Defeat, A Final Victory." But the link doesn't appear to be working. Anyway, here's a portion:

    What people call political realism often seems to me a kind of short-sightedness. The idea that valid political action requires us to choose from among the most prominent current alternatives — in short, to decide whether you’re going to be a Republican or a Democrat and then work to bring your chosen party more closely in line with your convictions — makes sense if your chief goal is to gain a political victory and to gain it now. Or soon.”

  3. I appreciated you posting your blog earlier, and also pointing to this one as the election approached. It really gave me something to think about. I also consider myself a pacifist and I wondered, maybe I shouldn't be voting either? Perhaps I should be a conscientious objector to voting? I really gnawed on what you had to say.

    In the end I voted. I voted because several years ago I had a political and spiritual conversion. And when that happened, I realized my vote was not my own. My vote was for the orphan, the widow, the homeless, and the immigrant. I gave my vote to the mentally ill, to students needing financial aid, and the sick needing healthcare. I handed it over to those who are denied civil rights because of who they are in love with. I decided years ago that my vote wasn't about me, or what my paycheck looked like or what I felt like I was entitled to. Ultimately I couldn't take it back, even if it meant also giving it to the Commander in Chief.

    But thanks for putting this out there and keeping thinking and learning, Dr. Hillis. I’m going to keep thinking about it right up until the next election.

    -Jessica R.

  4. Ummm, that's "keeping ME thinking & learning".

  5. "I find that the respectable man, so called, has immediately drifted from his position, and despairs of his country, when his country has more reason to despair of him. He forthwith adopts one of the candidates thus selected as the only available one, thus proving that he is himself available for any purposes of the demagogue." Thoreau