Monday, November 01, 2004

On not Voting

My position on voting and thus its admitted judgment on our electoral system are at least borne out of in part an attempt to form a thorough going ethic of life. I begin here largely due to the discussions occurring over at Cliff’s blog ( Single-Issue Voting? , Is Abortion Worse than an Unjust War? How to Think About Voting ). As I understand one of Cliff’s points to be that by his voting for a pro-life candidate he can be certain that in voting he is not contradicting the Church’s position on this issue (what follows though should not be construed as directly addressing the points Cliff is making). This however, presents me with an illustration of a problem that leads me to say that our electoral system is no longer worthy of our support. Why should there be only two parties? So that the “choice” I am provided with is a party that seems to be more concerned with the plight of the poor (subtly hawkish) and social justice, and a party that proclaims it’s opposition to abortion and some form of laiser-fair government as long as it suits their purposes. (I don’t quit see how all the proliferation of departments for our “security” fits with limited government.)
There is something compelling about being able to say that when it comes to issues of reproductive and end of life ethics I can look to party X and know that my vote is not complicit in what is clearly and unambiguously known to be sin (I am not sure this is possible). The refined aspect of this argument is of course a hierarchy of sin, which I will accept here for the sake of argument.
I wonder though can this fixation on the certain lead to an ignoring of more subtle and pernicious evil. Shouldn’t I be concerned with the expansion of the State and its ever widening and deepening reach into the life of its citizens? (If abortion can be likened to the holocaust, cannot this disregard for civil rights and limits on the ability of the government to look into the actions and patterns of its citizens, be likened to the slow movement towards Fascism in pre-war democratic Germany?) Can any disregard for life unborn or living truly be tolerated by Christians?
I am at a loss as how it is currently possible to turn aside from death and the devil, as the baptismal vows bind every Christian, when from where I sit both parties are bound to the logic of death and destruction all the while spouting rhetoric of life.
Christians who see a life affirming ethic in either of our political parties fail to see the dominance of death in both, and the way in which death has dominated our system from its inception. The acceptance of slavery at the beginning of our republic has sown the fruit of an inability to distinguish life from death.
Now this analysis is based on an ideal proclamation, an unflinching judgment that claims that the time for pragmatic compromise with the world and institutions has come to an end. In this unflinching statement it may not speak the whole truth, yet I also wish to claim that my position and this proclamation are specific to our situation. However, I think that as long as Christians in the nation of ours continue to fail to face that they cannot escape the complicity with the power of death in compromising with one or the other of our political parties this judgment stands, as a needful if overly stark painting. What I proclaim in abstaining from voting should be understood an s attempt to correct the currently naïve views that dominate Christian thinking of our relationship to our democratic system.
Vote Republican but do not tell me that George Bush is neither God’s elect, nor that by voting “pro-life”, i.e. against abortion, will eradicate death from our system. Vote Democratic but do not tell me that you can do so and be entirely consistent in your turning away from the power of death. Admit the impossibility the pain and the brokenness of being a citizen of a democratic nation.
In abstaining from my right and duty there is no claim that I then separate myself from the above complicity but is a means to speak a judgment on our system and call my fellow Christians to speak the truth of their involvement in our political system. Our nation is not redeemed or perfect: it is therefore still bound in many ways to Satan and Death.
As far as far as I know there are currently only theologically naïve approaches to the Christians engagement with a democratic culture. So I will speak this corrective and in protest to claims of the holiness of a Christians vote, abstain. The claims that are being made by our candidates and their supporters are largely exaggerated; our hope for the transformation of the world can never be in our political systems nor a state large or small, but in Christ alone. If we begin any where but this ancient political and theological claim, "Jesus is Lord", we fail to truly understand both the necessity and the impossibility of a Christian political engagement.