“Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens” (Ex. 18:21).
In a perfect world — because it is an imperfect world — political rulers should have three fundamental characteristics. They should fear God, be men of truth, and hate coveteousness. We live in a time when the fear of God must not exist or, if it does, it must not be acknowledged, when candidates manufacture lies deliberately, and loving covetousness usually functions as the foundation of their proposed economic plan.
But those are the requirements that Scripture sets forth, and so that is what we should be laboring for. That happy result may not happen in the next election, but that is where we are seeking to get. In order to get there, we need to do two basic things — we must learn to act locally, and we must desacralize the vote. For those just joining us, this is not the same thing as rocking the vote.
In a secular democracy, voting is one of the basic sacramental acts. It occupies a central, mystic place in our secular liturgy. And when a Christian in such a democracy learns of the standards given in Exodus, and he couples it with a radically secular (sacramental) view of voting, the end result is impossible civic perfectionism.
But a vote is more like pushing than it is like partaking. If I have an opportunity to vote for a man as Exodus describes, then I should rejoice in the opportunity. But what if the choice is (as it usually is) between two men who are distinguished by the degrees of their lack of fear for God, the degree of their complicity in lies, and the degree to which they love covetousness. Now what?
I want to argue that any vote that is genuinely trying to get us to the place where we could vote for a righteous candidate, biblically defined, is a lawful vote. In the last presidential election, I did not refuse to vote for Romney because I thought such a vote would pollute my conscience. I didn’t vote for him because I was tired of pushing that way, and wanted Christians to try something else. But there have been many Christians who have gone third party, or who have stayed at home, because they are afraid of the contamination of compromise. This is not the ultimate response to secularism, but is rather the apex of it.
I have little doubt that Daniel, during all his years in Babylon, never put up a “Nebuchadnezzar is the Greatest” yard sign. He never gave himself over to the religious aspects of that system. At the same time, I have no doubt that there were many times in the course of his life when he raised his hand, yay or nay, at yet another board meeting of the University of Babylon. He knew where it was all going. He was the one who interpreted the dream of a stone hitting the great statue on its feet.
I say all this because we have an important local election coming up on Tuesday. The apostle tells us that we should regularly pray that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life” (1 Tim. 2:2). I suggest that it would be reasonable to vote in the same direction that we pray.