Got an e-mail today, one of those “forward to all your friends!” ones, that asked “How Would Jesus Vote?” and suggested that Jesus would vote for John Kerry. This will no doubt come as a vast surprise to many Bush supporters, who will likely be shocked, offended and personally aggrieved at the idea that Jesus might vote for a pro-choice pinko senator from Taxachusetts; that doesn’t seem like Him at all. Although why they would think he would He would vote for Bush, who is currently and relentlessly screwing the poor for the benefit of the rich, is a question that remains unasked and unanswered. No one believes Jesus would vote for Nader; that’s just sick.
I wonder why people are asking How Would Jesus Vote? at all. I am no more privy to the Mind of God than the next guy — and well aware of the fact, which is why I’m officially an agnostic — but based on what I know of the guy, I don’t suspect he’d vote for anyone. Jesus is not the voting type, boys and girls. Jesus, you’ll recall, was concerned with another Kingdom entirely, and I suspect that One who passed over the worldly temptations of the Devil while in the desert wouldn’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about how to cast His worldly vote. Also, when you die for everyone’s sins, picking sides in a political scrap seems sort of aside the point. I think it seems rather unlikely that Jesus would say “I died for the sins of the world, but I especially died for the sins of those who vote Bush/Cheney on November 2.” We are all equally sinners, and in the eyes of the Lord, none of us more equal than the others.
Here’s Jesus’s entire political philosophy, best expressed in Romans 13, verses 8-10:
Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.
For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Asking How Jesus Would Vote is a foolish question; however, asking how one should vote as a Christian is not. Christians are human beings; they are citizens of a country (for the purposes of this entry, I’m assuming of the United States), and they are manifestly enjoined to be concerned about their neighbors, which one can easily mean to suggest in a wider sense that one should be actively politically involved. Romans 13 earlier suggests that one should submit to governing authorities: Here in the US, that means us, the voters. The Constitution of the United States apportions power in various ways, but ultimately and by design power in the US devolves to individual voters, who decide who is to represent us in our government. One could very easily say it is a Christian duty to vote.
And for whom should a Christian vote? Well, if one is voting exclusively as a Christian, it would seem that one would vote for the candidate who best exemplifies the Christian ideal of loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. Which candidate might that be? Well, I have my own personal opinion on that, but I’m not a Christian, nor do I vote based directly on Christian philosophy.
But even I were and I did, there’s no assurance that my interpretation of the political ramifications of “Love your neighbor as yourself” is going to jibe with anyone else’s. I strongly suspect that many good and conscientious Christians will vote for Kerry; I suspect many good and conscientious Christians will vote for Bush. If they genuinely believe that the candidate for whom they have voted best exemplifies the loving standard of neighborly care set forth by Jesus, then I submit to the extent they vote based on their faith, they have voted well.
I would submit, however, that this sort of belief can only come through genuine individual decision-making. I’ve got several theological bones to pick with most born-again folks in the US, but one thing I think they get right is that one must affirm one’s faith — one must go through the trial of crisis and decision and make the conscious decision to be born again into the grace of the Lord. This requires an individual and personal choice, which implies a great deal of thought (Catholics, who are baptised early, usually go through a confirmation process later. Some idea, different theological franchise).
In the best of all worlds, every Christian will expend the same effort (in kind, if not degree) in examining his or her vote for the leader of the United States as he or she hopefully expended in accepting Jesus as a savior. I submit the Christian who votes for one candidate or another because that’s who they’ve been told to vote for by their family, friends or religious leaders is not only doing themselves a disservice, they are not voting in a truly Christian manner. Jesus wouldn’t vote, but I’m pretty sure He’d want you to really think about yours. You walk into the Kingdom of Heaven with your eyes open; you should be walking into the polling booth the same way.