Imagine the impact that Americans of faith could have on the future of our nation, the character of its leadership, and the moral health of its people if we all applied biblical principles to every aspect of our lives—including our participation in the democratic process.
Vote Your Values
Americans are blessed to have a “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” But democracy has one key requirement: our participation.
The most basic democratic participation is voting, yet it can also have the most profound impact. When you vote, you determine who will lead our nation, make our laws and protect our liberties.
More than a right, voting is a privilege millions of people in other parts of the world can only dream about. Still, many Americans choose not to vote.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as many as 28 percent of citizens are not registered to vote—that’s 55 million people! More than one-third of voting0age citizen did not vote in the last presidential election.
In 2004, 39 percent of evangelical Christians did not bother to vote.* When people of faith fail to vote, it is any wonder what policies are enacted that are contrary to believers’ core values?
* John C. Green, Corwin E. Smidt, James L. Guth, Lyman A. Kellstadt, “The American Religious Landscape and the 2004 Presidential Vote: Increased Polarization,” 3 February 2005, http: //pewforum.org/publications/surveys/postelection.pdf (3 March 2008)
Our faith in God should influence our values in life, including the political arena. We shouldn’t be bashful about injecting notions of right and wrong into public debates. These ideas come from moral standards, which help prevent a free society such as ours from sliding into social chaos. People of faith, grounded in moral truth, must be prepared to discern those candidates best able to uphold moral values.
As Christ’s representatives on earth, we have a mandate to be “salt and light” in our culture (Matthew 5:13-16). Dr. James Dobson has said, “We live in a representative form of government where we are its leaders. It means that every citizen has a responsibility to participate in the decisions that are made, and that includes people of faith using their influence for what is moral and just.”
“If America is to survive, we must elect more God-centered men and women to public office—individuals who will seek divine guidance in the affairs of state.”
-Billy Graham, Evangelist
Here’s more sobering news: Many believers fail to consider their biblical values when voting, often choosing candidates whose positions are at odds with their own beliefs, convictions and values. A study by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that nearly 60 percent of Americans say religion has little effect on their voting decisions.*
* The Pew Research Center for the People and the press and The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, “Growing Number Say Islam Encourages Violence Among followers.” 24 July 2003 http: //pewforum.org/publications/surveys/religion-politics.pdf (11 February 2008)
That’s right. Your vote can be a form of ministry. After all, when you vote, you are directly and indirectly impacting people’s lives. By the people you select and the ballow measures you support, you are making a practical difference—for good and bad—in the lives of:
--Preborn children (abortion policy)
--Impressionable youth (pornography laws and education policy)
--Husbands and wives (marriage & divorce laws)
--Hurting souls (religious freedom laws)
It is absolutely critical that Christians get registered, be informed and vote our values. As believers, we have a duty to be involved in the democratic process.
But our charge is not simply to vote the way our friends or family vote, or the way our political party wants us to vote, or even with concern only for our personal finances. Instead, we must vote our values, our beliefs and our convictions.
An informed vote takes effort. The choice is not always easy, but it is always significant.
O, God, we acknowledge you today as Lord, not only of individuals, but of nations and government. We thank you for the privilege of being able to organize ourselves politically and of knowing that political loyalty does not have to mean disloyalty to you. We thank you for your law, which our Founding Fathers acknowledged and recognized as higher than any human law. We thank you for the opportunity that each election puts before us to exercise our solemn duty not only to vote, but to influence countless others to vote, and to vote correctly. Lord, we pray that your people may be awakened. Let them realize that while politics is not their salvation, their response to you requires that they be politically active. Awaken your people to know that they are not called to be a sect fleeing the world, but rather a community of faith renewing the world. Awaken them that the same hands lifted up to you in prayer are the same hands that pull the lever in the voting booth; that the same eyes that read your Word are the eyes that read the names on the ballot, and that they do not cease to be Christians when they enter the voting booth. Awaken your people to a commitment to justice, to the sanctity of marriage and the family, to the dignity of each individual human life, and to the truth that human rights begin when human lives begin, and not one moment later. Lord, we rejoice today that we are citizens of your kingdom. May that make us all the more committed to being faithful citizens on earth. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
-Fr. Frank Pavone