(Photo: Screengrab/John Piper)
Theologian and Desiring God founder John Piper is saying this week that a Christian is free to not vote; Followers of Jesus, he asserts, must first show their allegiance to another world.
In a message delivered at Bethel College and Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota Wednesday, Pastor Piper addressed the moral reasoning behind the question that has bedeviled many believers in an election season many characterize as a "lesser of two evils" decision.
"[God's] children are free! Free from human institutions. As citizens of heaven, we are not bound in every situation to participate in the processes of human government. We are not bound! This is not our homeland! We vote — if we vote — because the Lord of our homeland commissions us to vote, and he does not absolutize this act above all other considerations of Christian witness!" Piper said.
In light of the moral and ethical failings that are very visible in both leading presidential candidates this year, many Christians have been deeply conflicted about who they ought to support. While polls consistently show that a vast majority of evangelicals are backing Republican Donald Trump, many remain conflicted in doing so.
In an Aug. 23 CP editorial, Dr. Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, takes a different view, contending that Christians do indeed have a moral obligation to vote, grounding his reasoning in Romans 13.
"[S]upporting the civil magistrate 'for conscience sake' includes not only obeying the law and paying your taxes, but voting your values, your beliefs, and your convictions. Your ultimate loyalty must be to Jesus, not any political philosophy or party. Choosing not to vote is disobedient to our Lord's command to be salt and light," Land said.
Clinton's extensive corruption and unconscionable stance on abortion were but two reasons that Land simply could not abstain from voting.
"In a fallen world, faced with the painful choice of choosing between the lesser evil (Donald Trump) vs. the greater evil (Hillary Clinton), I believe I have a moral obligation to vote for the lesser evil. Otherwise, I become morally culpable for the greater evil prevailing. Some Evangelicals have said, 'If I voted for Donald Trump, I would have to apologize to Bill Clinton.' Frankly, I feel that if I didn't vote for Donald Trump in order to defeat Hillary Clinton, I would have to apologize to Jesus."
"With sadness of heart, I will cast my vote for Donald Trump and pray that God will have mercy on him and on my beloved country," he continued.
By contrast, in an Oct. 23 CP op-ed, Luke Davis Townsend, a Ph.D. Candidate and Adjunct Professor of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University, echoed Piper's rationale while acknowledging the complex relationship between Church and state. Concerned with the conflation of love for country — particularly the charge that it is ones duty to exercise the right to vote because people died for it — and the Kingdom of God, Townsend asserted that Christians "should never feel impelled to vote by social forces, manufactured guilt, vain invocations of God's will, American ideology, or American idolatry thinly veiled behind pretensions of patriotism."
"At some point, a vote can be a capitulation to an unjust system and a refusal to vote can expose the system's absurdity. At some point, a vote can be a sacrifice to Caesar and abstention can be a witness to the Truth," Townsend wrote.
Others share Piper's sentiment, but are still hoping something extreme occurs in the final days before Election Day.
Writing about Piper's remarks at Caffeinated Thoughts Thursday, editor Shane Vander Hart argued that Christians are indeed "free to hear the voice of their Master about the best way to witness to His supremacy," adding that he would not vote for either of the two leading candidates "unless a supernatural intervention of cataclysmic proportions happens in the next seven days with profound transformation."
"Then I might consider it," he concluded.