This Tuesday, we will go to the polls and elect people to serve in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Perhaps I shouldn’t say “we,” because in the 2016 elections only 58% of eligible voters actually participated in the elections.[i] That means that if a candidate gets elected with 51% of the vote, by 58% of the eligible voters, that candidate’s election only represents the desire of roughly a quarter of Americans who are eligible to vote. To say that our system is flawed is an understatement—but it’s the best system we have. I understand that it’s boring to talk about elections, and boring to pay attention to politics. That’s why so few people do. Recently, I read:
A lady who was known as Churchill's main rival in parliament was giving a speech. Churchill, with his usual enthusiasm for his rival, dozed off while the lady was speaking. She stopped her speech and awoke Sir Winston by yelling, "Mr. Churchill, must you sleep while I talk?" Churchill sleepily replied, "No, ma'am. I do so purely by choice."
This seems to reflect the attitudes of many, when it comes to politics. But boring or not, how we vote is important. With the title of this article, you might be wondering what I mean, when I ask the question, “Who’s side are you on?” You see, I wouldn’t dream of trying to influence the way you vote in this particular election—but I would be bold enough to try to influence the way you vote, in general. I'm not talking about voting Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or otherwise—but voting ethically, based on the virtues you learn in the Bible. The Book of Proverbs has a lot to say about government. Proverbs 14:34 says, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.”[ii] When we vote, we shouldn’t be on the side of a particular candidate or specific party—but on the side of righteousness. Keep that in mind, and look for righteousness in a candidate, and you can’t go wrong.
Proverbs gives several examples of what a leader shouldn’t be. Proverbs 17:7 says, “Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool— how much worse lying lips to a ruler!” In other words, dishonesty ought to be the first thing to disqualify a candidate. Proverbs 28:3, 15 says, “A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops…Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a helpless people.” A ruler shouldn’t disregard the needs of the poor. When you’re looking for a good candidate, see how he or she treats the weakest people, and how their policies affect those who cannot stand up for themselves. Proverbs 28:21 says, “To show partiality is not good— yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread.” This means that it’s a bad ruler who makes policies that benefit their own bank account. Instead of showing partiality based on their own special interests, they should do what’s right and just. Unfortunately, J. O’Rourke was right in saying, “When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.”
It’s been said that once a little girl asked her father, "Daddy, do all fairy tales begin with 'Once upon a time'? "No, sweetheart," he answered. "Some begin with 'If I am elected.'"[iii] We need to make sure that the goodness of a candidate is the real deal, and that they’re not just telling us a story to get chosen for office. James Freeman Clarke reminds us, “A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman thinks of the next generation.” If you ever see a statesman or stateswoman running for office, instead of a politician—vote for them, because we need more people like that!
Proverbs gives us some examples of what an ideal leader ought to be like. 16:12 says, “Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness.” Pick a person who doesn’t just say the right things, but who lives the right kind of life. Proverbs 20:28 goes beyond righteousness and adds a deeper quality: “Love and faithfulness keep a king safe; through love his throne is made secure.” If you vote for a politican who’s unloving and unfaithful, you voted for the wrong person! Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Our votes ought to support the kinds of public servants who will do just that.
We like to blame the sad state of affairs in American politics on those who run the country. Unfortunately, we can’t do this, because we forget that our leaders were elected by the people. All too often, we go to the polls uninformed about the candidates, the parties, or the issues. Winston Churchill said, “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” What an indictment—but it’s true! If we voters made it impossible for crooked politicians to get into office, all we’d have running our country would be people of integrity. Unfortunately, we’re willing to vote for anybody who will serve our special interests, regardless of the kind of character the candidates have. Orson Scott Card once said, “If pigs could vote, the man with the slop bucket would be elected swineherd every time, no matter how much slaughtering he did on the side.” In other words, whoever offers you a little something is who you’re likely to vote for—but Christians ought to be better than that! We should be first to make sure that we’re voting for people of virtue and truthfulness—and if our parties won’t field candidates who represent these traits then we need to either replace those people in our parties who choose candidates, or we need to consider changing parties.
When I ask the question, “Who’s side are you on?” it’s certainly not my intention to get you to choose one party over another—because maybe each party makes a good point about this issue or that. But I’d hope you’re on the side of the weakest and most vulnerable, the people who can’t speak for themselves. And I hope you’re on God’s side, insisting on candidates who reflect Christian values. 2 Timothy 2:1-2 says, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” I pray you’re on the side of truth, and I pray you’re on the side of peace.
[i] What does voter turnout tell us about the 2016 election? Politics Nov 20, 2016 3:03 PM EDT. . September 26, 2018.
[ii] Bible quotations taken from the NIV.
[iii] . September 26, 2018.