Rocking Your Vote

November 10, 2014 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

BallotLast Tuesday, I went to vote in the midterm elections. Even though news outlets and political pundits like to play the part of Chicken Little every time an election cycle hits, the line at the voting booth seemed much more reasonable and relaxed.

As I listen to the rhetoric that comes with each passing election, I can’t help but be concerned – not because acerbic political rhetoric is anything new – politicians have been tearing into each other for a long time – but because the rhetoric isn’t right.

The word “politics” comes from the word polis, the Greek word for “city.” Politics has to do with how we order our communities under a set of authorities. The great Greek philosopher Aristotle spoke of the goal of politics thusly: “It comes to be for the sake of living, but it remains in existence for the sake of living well.”[1] For Aristotle, politics was a way of doing what was best for a community by ordering the community under responsible and thoughtful authorities.   The ultimate goal of politics, then, was to serve the common good. Sadly, I think many have lost sight of this goal.

In running for office, one Senate candidate said of his political opponent, “Let’s go out there and sock it to them!” The state chair of this candidate’s party went farther: “We need to crush it. We need to grab it, run with it, push their heads under over and over again until they cannot breathe anymore.”[2] Somehow, I am not sure this was the type of political goal Aristotle had in mind. Many of our politicians have become so obsessed with winning that they have forgotten their true call to work for the common good. Politicians are not be snooty sovereigns, but public servants.

As Christians in a democratic system, we have a unique privilege that is also a heavy burden. In Romans 13:1, we are called to submit ourselves to the governing authorities. But in our political system, as Micah Watson of The Gospel Coalition explains, “We are called to yield to authority, yet we also wield authority.”[3] We wield authority through our vote. My concern is that we, like the politicians for whom we are voting, have become far too concerned with using our authority to defeat and destroy the people and party with whom we disagree and have forgotten that a healthy political process is meant to have as its goal the common good. We have traded Aristotle for Machiavelli.

God has given humans limited and provisional authority in a host of different arenas (e.g., Genesis 1:26-28, Matthew 10:1, Titus 2:15). But because such authority is from God, we must use it only in accordance with God (Colossians 2:10). Jesus reminds us how we are not to use our authority:

You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave. (Matthew 20:25-27)

Jesus is clear. We are to use our authority to serve others, which means, when we cast our vote, we use our authority as “We the people” not to clobber our enemy, but to love and serve our community. When you vote, what do you have in mind?


[1] Aristotle, Politics 1.2.1252b29-30.

[2] David A. Fahrenthold, Katie Zezima & Paul Kane, “Math is forbidding for Democrats in struggle for Senate,” The Washington Post (11.3.2014).

[3] Micah Watson, “Why Christians Should Vote,” The Gospel Coalition (11.3.2014).

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