Why I May Not Vote (part 1) – The Two-Party System and The Idea of the Lesser of Two Evils

[I have been doing some political and theological soul searching  over the last couple of years. I want to share some of my thoughts with you. I find that forcing myself to write out my thoughts adds clarity, and posting them online adds accountability and feedback.]

I just finished Edmund Morris’ excellent 3-part biography on Theodore Roosevelt. It was a huge endeavor to read (each volume was over 550 pages) but it was a wonderfully written profile on the enormous life and accomplishments of “Teddy”.

As I was reading, I was struck by how different the Democrats and Republicans of the early 20th century were from the Democrats and Republicans of the early 21st century. Some platform elements were the same, but most were very different. As I pondered how I would have voted in the early 1900s, what struck me the most is that I couldn’t in good conscience have voted for either party.

In the early 1900s, the Democrats were still a party of the South (still stinging from the end of the civil war), and much of their platform was downright racist. The Republican platform, on the other hand, was imperialist in its desire to expand and conquer more territories in the name of the United States.

I couldn’t in good conscience place a vote for racism or for jingoism. So I think, as a follower of Jesus, I would have had to abstain from voting.

Then upon further reflection, I asked myself what is so different about the choices of 100 years ago than my choices today. I won’t bore you with my full laundry list of grievances against today’s Republicans and Democrats, but suffice it to say that each list is long.

Some questions I am currently asking: Can I in good conscience vote for a candidate that is for abortion? Can I vote for one that is for the death penalty? What do I do when both parties are for drone strike assassinations that kill an “acceptable” number of civilians? What about both parties willingness to hold prisoners indefinitely without a trial?

In the past, when I have aired these grievances to others, they have told me that I need to choose the lesser of two evils. But today I am going to ask: why? Why must I choose? Why must I stand before my God one day and say that I helped put in office a candidate who was for the killing of unborn children? Why should I try and defend my vote for a candidate who felt they had the right to assassinate others without a trial, especially knowing that the assassination would kill innocent bystanders?

Does God really want me to vote for a candidate that is the lesser of two evils? Does God want me to vote for someone who opposes what is right, to prevent someone else who is even worse from taking office?

In the past I have bought into the lesser-of-two-evils argument, and held my nose while pulling the lever in the voting booth. Today I am much less sure.

Still to come…

Why I May Not Vote (part 2) – If I Don’t Do What the Bible Clearly Says to Do for Members of the Government, What Business Do I Have Voting for Them?

Why I May Not Vote (part 3) – How Can I Vote for a Government While Working for Another One?

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About daveterpstra

Beggar, Abolitionist, Man of God
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8 Responses to Why I May Not Vote (part 1) – The Two-Party System and The Idea of the Lesser of Two Evils

  1. Megan says:

    I think you answered your own question in a way…you’re trying to save yourself and others from, in your words, the “even worse.” One is getting voted into office either way. I think when standing in judgement when explaining why you you voted when the candidate clearly had views that were contrary to your faith, it will be taken into consideration that you were trying to do the best you could with what you were given.

    • daveterpstra says:

      I agree that God will likely be quite merciful to those of us who have chosen the lesser of two evils in the past (or will choose them in the future). I’m just having a hard time living with myself after choosing from one of the parties. I’m wondering if I can do more good with nice public protest every election season than I can by slinging a vote at one of the available choices.

  2. Craig Dodge says:

    There is no law that says you have to vote for either a Republican or a Democrat. I’m almost positive I’ll be voting for a 3rd party candidate, and I feel that others should as well if they have issues with the two main contenders.

    • daveterpstra says:

      Excellent point! I’m most open to the idea of a 3rd party candidate. However, as my next two blog entries will make clearer, I’m not sure I am going to be voting at all. The 2-party system isn’t my only issue. However, you will have to wait for next Sunday to read part-2.

    • Daniel Nice says:

      I completely agree and will likely be looking for a third party candidate to vote for.

  3. Quinton says:

    Whether or not you vote for one or the other, God says He Himself lifts leaders up and brings them down. I think the death penalty is well worth having. We are all held accountable for the actions we make. Should James Holmes be held accountable for killing 12 people, the youngest who was 6? Sure, he will be held accountable to God after this life, and if he decides to repent, God will forgive him and he will be seated with us in heaven. But here on this earth, we have man made laws (though imperfect) to help protect the innocent and punish the evildoer. Just because God is the ultimate judge does not exclude us from enacting man’s judgement on the evildoers that belong to this world. God has given us this sense of justice, and the means to carry it out.

    I think choosing not to vote will hold the same ramifications as choosing ‘the lesser of two evils’. You can’t sit there and say things are horrible economically, socially, whatever and blame someone else while you sat idly by and did nothing. America is the greatest nation on earth, but only by God’s grace and divine providence.

    I will conclude that our allegiance is not to a democracy (which America is NOT!), socialism, or republic but rather the kingdom that has a living, just, merciful King.

    • daveterpstra says:

      Thanks for the post! I agree that God lifts up and takes down leaders. But couldn’t that be a pretty good excuse not to have to worry about voting?!?

      As for the death penalty, my opposition to it is very simple. I agree that those who take others lives (like James Holmes) deserve to die. However, since we have the ability to hold him in a prison cell indefinitely, without a reasonable possibility of his escape, I don’t see the need to take his life. I would rather he live as long as possible to increase the opportunity for him to repent.

      And I agree with your statement about blaming someone else while doing nothing. That will be the subject of my blog post next week.

  4. Quinton says:

    If that is one’s logic, then it is flawed in regards to not voting, since God Himself takes care of it. By that logic, you could have stayed in Denver, not go overseas and let God work it out, because He can/will. Why have missionaries if God can save His own people? You might have to go stay in a country who is hostile towards believers, whites, dudes with long hair. 😉 You may also have to pay taxes to that same country you choose to reside in, that maybe go to support things you know are contradictory to what scripture says. God can use any means He wants to accomplish His will. Whether that be someone who is elected to the highest office in the world, or saving a soul in some distant country. Though we are called to go to those places, and make disciples of all nations. We are also called to pray for those who govern us. We are called to be in the world but not of the world. For believers to sit back and let things unfold is foolish. Though every day brings us closer to the anti-Christ. Be on alert, be diligent, be ready. Take your responsibilities as a citizen of this country and of God’s kingdom seriously.

    My view for James Holmes is he should be tried and if found guilty, should be put to death. Certainly his salvation is of concern to God (if he is not saved already, only God knows). However, if it is in God’s will for this guy to be saved, surely he will! Not everyone is so responding to be called by God, and answer. It is His choosing. If God so chooses to save him then lethal injection, electric chair, gas chamber, shooting squad, a rogue inmate will not stop God’s work. As hard as it is for me to admit, I am just as deserving as James to die and spend eternity in hell. My own sense of justice disagrees with this outcome (hence why I am not the Judge). But this is were grace and mercy come in. God showed me grace by giving me something I am not deserving of. Thereby showing me mercy by withholding His judgement from my just actions, by putting it on the cross. Is it mercy that I do not die right now for my sins, yes. Is it mercy for James to not die this instant for his, yes. But this goes back to what I stated earlier. God has set up this world with physical consequences to our actions, and governments to enforce laws, and for evildoers to be punished. I don’t think anywhere in scripture does it come out against capital punishment, I mean God chose to have His son die by capital punishment! Clearly there will be bloodshed and people will die as Jesus comes down from heaven to have a war against evil. But we are assured the victory. Not for this life, but for the next, victory over death!

    Good discussion,

    Quinton

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