I recently read a Christian blogger who declared he could not will either of the candidates to power, so he would not vote in November. I’ve already written on that, here. Today I want to take up something slightly different. There is a tendency among some Christians to view the entire political process as corrupt and dangerous. The basic truth behind this was stated by Lord Acton:
Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Since power in a democracy is exercised through political means, there is a tendency for politicians to be corrupted by it. But we need not go into the public square to find power or corruption: we see it also in business, in the church, in clubs and associations–even in families. That shouldn’t surprise us. The Bible tells us people are corrupt.
We can also see that with greater power the temptations to misuse it also increase. Does this mean that we must all, always steer clear of political involvement? The Bible gives us several examples of people involved at the highest levels of government: Joseph, Daniel, Esther, Nehemiah, among others in the Old Testament. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea in the New.
It cannot be argued that these people only served wise and pure rulers. Joseph, exercising Pharaoh’s power, enslaved all of Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar built a furnace with the purpose of burning to death any who would not worship him. Darius was vain enough to demand worship under punishment of being literally thrown to the lions. Ahasuerus was no saint. Yet it is clear that God put believers who served these rulers in these positions to accomplish his will. And they are among the great heroes of faith.
I come back to the blogger who could not will either candidate to rule, because of a phrase that these biblical characters used: O king, live forever.
You might argue that this was just a form of address, that everyone said it, that it meant nothing. Perhaps, but do you feel the same way about addressing the Pope as “Your Holiness?” We might also refer to the text about “every idle word” coming into judgment. No, it won’t wash. If a believer speaks in such a fashion, it should mean something.
It’s difficult to imagine a phrase that expresses more will to power than, “O King, live forever.” Nehemiah said it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said it to Nebuchadnezzar on the plain of Dura. Daniel said it to Darius from the lion’s den. Mordecai went further, and foiled a plot to assassinate Ahasuerus. As we mentioned, these were not righteous rulers. Yet servants of God also found it possible to be servants–often in high office–to these heathen rulers.
But what about voting for such deeply flawed candidates as we now see? Through the prophet Jeremiah, God said this to Israel:
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.’ — Jeremiah 29:7.
So yes, I will vote for one of the candidates who has a realistic chance to win the election. I will vote based on which one I believe will be best for the overall welfare of this country: the one who will help it the most, or hurt it the least. If the three Hebrew Worthies can say “O King, live forever,” to the man about to burn them to death for refusing to worship him, I can vote for the lesser of two evils.
I live in Iowa, so I had an early opportunity to influence the outcome. I went to the caucuses, and spoke on behalf of a candidate. Here’s part of what I said:
“This caucus is about more than who wins in Iowa. It’s about more than who can win the nomination. It’s about who has the message and purpose that can unify this country after the election. It has been a long time since a President left office with the country more unified than when he took office. If our party wins, but the country remains as polarized at the end of the next administration as it is now, we will be in deep trouble. I believe (this cadidate) has the message, the demeanor, and the character to unify the country again.”
My candidate did not prevail. Not in Iowa, not nationwide. Both of those who did were at or near the bottom of my list. But that is the choice I have. And that is why I will vote for one of them, and will pray that the winner will truly prosper and will undertake courses of action that will enhance the welfare of my country, and of the world.