I saw a headline here at Faithful Democrats the other day that asked, “Who Would Jesus Vote For?” The question gave me pause. What would it even look like for Jesus to vote?
Imagine Jesus walking into a polling place wearing his usual off-white tunic. He waits in line awkwardly and scans the room, secretly trying to guess who’s voting for whom based solely on their appearance and demeanor. (Wait, scratch that; he must already know.) Jesus gives his name to the election volunteer. “That’s Christ,” he says, “C-H-R-I-S-T… No ‘K.’” He takes his ballot and fills in bubbles for politicians who belong to whatever party is slightly less distasteful to him than the other. Or maybe he does a write-in for God—knowing it’s a throw-away vote that won’t influence anything but it’s the only way to stay true to his principles. As he’s walking out the door, he mutters under his breath, “Get behind me, Satan.” Then it’s back to sitting cross-legged on hills, exhorting people to be perfect as their heavenly Father is perfect.
I don’t buy it. Or at least, it doesn’t ring true. My image of Jesus does not involve lesser-of-two-evils compromises. Somehow, in my reckoning, Jesus never manages to get ensnared in situations where he can only make some halting nudge toward what’s Godly. He’s always doing exactly what’s right. Ba-da-bing, ba-da-boom.
Jesus, of course, has the luxury of living in my heart. I have to live in the real world. Here I am in 2012, trying to be Christ-like, hoping I can pray my way to alignment with God’s will, yet facing messy realities in which no decision can be entirely the right one. There’s always a moral price to be paid. I cannot choose pure justice, pure love, pure peace. I am relegated to using what small level of power I have to push for more justice, more love, more peace. There is no Jesus candidate. We all have to find our own ways of heading toward that moral horizon that Jesus represents as we walk in fits and starts, over logs, under branches, through streams, and in spite of the occasional sprained ankle. We come to a fork in the road, and there’s no sign on one side that says, “This way: Jesus.” There’s only the sound of crickets—and the beating of our own hearts.
I know, I know: theologically speaking, Jesus is that bridge between God and man—the signal God sent to show he’s here with us and can guide us in the complicated muck of real life. “WWJD?” is supposed to be a question we live out at every moment. But sometimes that question just doesn’t help. There may even be a certain earthly arrogance to presupposing that an answer to the question exists, as if there’s always a chance to be perfectly aligned with God’s will despite the systemic sin that surrounds us wherever we go. Sometimes, all we can ask ourselves is, What Would Take Me the Least Far from God, According to My Conception of Christian Values?
Unfortunately, “WWTMTLFFGATMCOCV?” doesn’t fit easily on a leather bracelet. But it’s what we have.
So would Jesus vote? The question has no answer. But are we obligated to do what we can to bring slightly more of God into the world, knowing how limited our ability to do so really is? Absolutely. And voting is part of that. Faith can and should provide the principles we use to inform such decisions. If it doesn’t, it’s not really our faith at all.
So as we go into the voting booth on Tuesday, let’s not ask what Jesus would do. Let’s ask what principles define Jesus to us, let those principles marinate inside us, and then ask ourselves a simple yet profound question: What Would I Do?