Do’s and Don’ts for Evangelicals on Election Sunday

Do’s and Don’ts for Evangelicals on Election Sunday October 30, 2012

A couple weeks ago I wrote about “Paleo Evangelicals as Reluctant Republicans,” and I am grateful for the number of responses I have received here, on Twitter and on Facebook indicating that I had “pegged” (as the Institute for Religion and Democracy’s Bart Gingerich put it) many readers’ political convictions.

Luke Moon, also of the IRD, issued a thoughtful rejoinder to my piece, wondering whether the Republican evangelical base ever really argues that voting for Republicans advances the Kingdom of God. I doubt you would find many who would articulate it this way; my concern is the implication that voting Republican is central to our identity as American evangelicals.

Perhaps one way to explain this is to offer some “do’s and don’ts” for evangelical churches on the Sunday before the election. The do’s are optional. You may have more pressing gospel-centered business to deal with, and paleo evangelicals won’t mind if their pastor or Sunday School teacher doesn’t talk about the election at all. The don’ts are non-negotiable.

Do pray for the election. Feel free to echo the words of I Tim. 2:2, which asks that  “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

Don’t pray for specific candidates or parties to win, whether by implication or by name. This makes party loyalty a condition of good standing within the fellowship.

Do encourage the congregation to consider voting as an act of good citizenship, a “rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

Don’t imply that if Christians don’t vote, they are in sin, or that it is transparently obvious what party they should support if they do vote.

Do speak on issues of particular concern to Christians, certainly including religious liberty (again, I Tim. 2:2) and the value of all human life. (Paleos will sympathize with the evangelicals and Catholics who see these two as the “non-negotiable” issues.) Others might also emphasize traditional marriage, or Christians’ responsibility to care for the poor, to welcome the stranger, and to be peacemakers.

Don’t imply that those issues of particular concern to Christians lead necessarily to supporting only one party or slate of candidates. Allow congregants to sort this out for themselves.

Some will undoubtedly see these suggestions as evasive and unnecessarily complex. I see them as an imperfect way to preserve a distinction between our faith and the current political order.

Imagine if a non-believer attends your church this Sunday — will she hear that civic engagement is important for Christians? Great. Will she hear an implication that becoming a believer in Jesus means also becoming a Republican? That would be abominable.

Above all, whatever you say or don’t say about the election, preach God’s sovereignty over politics and all human affairs. God will not be surprised by any electoral outcome, nor will his purposes be confounded.

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  • kierkegaard71

    When you say, “Do encourage the congregation to consider voting as an act of good citizenship, a ‘rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.’…Don’t imply that if Christians don’t vote, they are in sin, or that it is transparently obvious what party they should support if they do vote.” I find these two directives, by implication at least, to be contradictory. Please don’t quote Jesus in support of voting, and then warn against implying that non-voting is sin. If Jesus’ statement on rendering to Caesar so clearly applies to voting, then certainly intentionally failing to abide by Jesus’ teaching would be sin, no? I think your first proposal (voting as a “rendering unto Caesar”) is tenuous, and that you are trying to walk yourself back to a more appropriate conclusion in your second proposal.

  • this was to be my comment as well.

  • “Encourage the congregation to consider” does not mean that “render unto Casear” is a command to vote. Obviously, the Scripture does not contemplate voting in a democratic republic such as ours, so voting can only be a potential application of “render unto Caesar.”

  • Craig

    I’d encourage you to discard your phrase “all human life,” alongside the fallacious anti-abortion arguments that typically motivate evangelicals and Catholics. Refusing that, you might want to encourage your paleo friends to criminalize sunbathing and other outdoor activities that threaten to kill that which is alive and human, like our skin cells.

  • kierkegaard71

    I appreciate your response. I just didn’t want anyone to get the idea that Christians have to be democrats (small “d”). Christians can be monarchists and anarchists, too!

  • Bobby B.

    I am praying for certain candidates to win. But I do so in private. In my Sunday school class my prayers are more generic.

  • Some issues, however, can be weighted by the severity of the possible offense. While many issues are important to Christians, I think some should be more important. For and example, read:

  • Douglas LeBlanc

    I love this prayer that we have offered at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia, for the past several weeks:

    “Almighty God, to whom we must account for all our powers and privileges: Guide the people of the United States in the election of a president and members of Congress; that, by faithful administration and wise laws, the rights of all may be protected and our nation be enabled to fulfill your purposes; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

  • Ooh!!!! Good one, bro!!!! I think everybody on this thread is now a pro-choicer.

  • Great post. My one complaint is that it makes too much sense and that’s not what I read blogs for. I like getting angry and criticizing things, so if you could write something a little less on-point, I’d deeply appreciate that.

  • I know at least one Christian monarchist in America. Anarchists? That might be a tougher sell.

  • that’s a very good suggestion. thanks, Douglas!

  • Thanks Derek! And I’ll try to write something idiotic next time…

  • I’m starting it now: Kidd-Douthat 2016! I’m only half kidding.

  • What did LBJ say? “If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve!” 🙂

  • Mary

    You should go on and point out that infanticide was a widely spread practice and the criminalization of it was certainly Christians imposing their views on others.