Ask the average American pastor if you can have ten minutes out of the Sunday morning service to encourage the members to participate in the upcoming election, and he will probably look at you like you just spontaneously grew a third ear in the middle of your forehead.
Then, once he recovers his decorum, the answer in most cases will be no — followed by a poorly articulated explanation about the separation of church and state, problems with lawsuits, worry over offending church members, or, my personal favorite, it’s too worldly.
Does God expect Christians to vote? What does the Bible say about our political involvement? Is the church responsible to educate its members on this issue?
Most churches, and most Christians for that matter, would rather just bury their heads in the sand and pretend that these questions don’t even exist. But the effect of that mentality has been devastating.
- Out of wedlock births have increased by more than 500%.
- The number of cohabiting couples has increased by almost 1000%.
- Over 43 million unborn children have died at the hands of abortionists.
- The divorce rate has doubled.
- The suicide rate for 15- to 24-year-olds has more than tripled.
- By age 24, one in three sexually active people will have contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
Obviously, the church has not been as effective as it should for the last half century. But, can the church really be held accountable for the direction of our nation? Much of what has happened has been the result of decisions made by our government. And during this same time, the church has been busy working to reach people with the message of the gospel.
During this same time period, the Southern Baptist Convention reports that more than 13 million people have accepted Christ in their churches. And that is just one denomination. Currently, almost 90% of Americans claim their religious faith is important to them and more than half of those attend church in a typical week.1
So why isn’t the church doing a better job of impacting the culture? Can the church be held responsible that people are not leading morally better lives? After all, we have all been told that you can’t legislate morality.
If that’s true, why is it that our government seems to have no trouble legislating immorality? Just look at the decision by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court that forced legalized homosexual marriage on that state, lending the full weight of the government to legitimize the homosexual lifestyle.
Or what about the court decisions that tell our children they cannot pray in public because it might offend someone who is not a Christian. Our courts also tell us that we cannot prevent a doctor from killing a child of the way through the delivery process because banning partial birth abortion might infringe on a woman’s right to choose.
How did we come to the point where our government could make such evil rulings? Who gave them the authority to do this to our nation?
The sober truth is, we did. We the people, or more specifically, we the church.
If we have judges who make ungodly rulings, it is because we elected the officials who appointed them. If they continue to make ungodly rulings, it is because we elected legislators who don’t have the courage to take seriously their responsibility to stop them. If we have legislators who give us bad laws, who was it that put them into office?
But what can the church do about it? Many people can’t believe that their one vote can change the outcome of an election, and even more don’t believe the church as a group has the power to swing an election. But consider this, according to statistics from the Barna Group, of the 204 million adults who could have voted in the 2000 election, 41% were born-again Christians. And because Christians are more likely to vote than non-Christians, 48% of those who did vote were born-again Christians.
These statistics are not based on the Barna Group asking people if they are born-again; rather, they ask people if “they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their lives today.” The individuals asked must also indicate in the survey that they believe they will go to heaven when they die because they have accepted Christ.
That makes born-again Christians by far the largest single voting block in the country. Considering how close recent elections have been, Christians could easily control the outcome of every election in the country. But there are two simple reasons why we don’t.
First, over 40% of Christians who could vote don’t show up on Election Day, and that’s in the presidential election, which draws the heaviest turnout. The second and even more difficult problem is that more than a third of Christian voters use their vote to put into office the candidate who opposes Biblical values.
This brings us back to the three questions that we started with. The Bible doesn’t directly address the concept of voting, but it does make clear that God judges governments and nations for their corporate actions just as He judges us individually. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness, judging them as a city-state. God judged Babylon as a nation for their destruction of Judah.
God judged Israel because His people refused to stand up against unrighteousness in their culture; they allowed the widow to be defrauded and the poor to be abused, and they allowed children to be sacrificed to the idols of Canaan.
The nation of Israel lived under a monarchy that gave the average individual limited ability to do anything about the moral condition of the nation. Yet God still judged the entire nation. If God judged the people of Israel , how much more will He hold us responsible when we have the ability to do so much more?
If anyone in America ever doubted that a few votes could make a difference in an election, the 2000 presidential race should have forever dispelled that myth. Recent events have also made it abundantly clear that the outcome of our political races have moral consequences for our nation.
If a Christian fails to cast a vote for the candidate who will do the most to uphold Biblical values in our culture, it is the same as casting a vote for the candidate who will do the most damage to our culture. If we are unwilling to use the power of our vote to hold politicians accountable to Biblical standards, then we deserve to live in the moral decay that follows.
1. “Religious Beliefs Remain Constant But Subgroups Are Quite Different” The Barna Update, March 19, 2004, http://www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=BarnaUpdate&BarnaUpdateID=160 and “Church Attendance” Barna By Topic www.barna.org/FlexPage.aspx?Page=Topic&TopicID=10
- Warren Kelley
Warren Kelley serves as President of the National Center for Freedom and Renewal.