The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Must you obey the Christian who tells you whom to vote for?

When you agree that a candidate is the most evil choice of the options that you have, you need to not vote for that candidate. I don’t think it is ethical to strategize a “false flag” strategy where you try to promote the worst candidate in the hope of inspiring an awakening. God may do such things. But God is able to make such calculations, and he has the right to do so. We are told that it is perverse to deduce from God’s providence, “Let us do evil that good may come.”

So when you are warned off from a candidate as the worst evil, I think you need to hear him or her and follow that counsel.

But there are also Christians who will tell you it is wrong to vote for the lesser of two evils. I don’t see how that can possibly hold up. If you think only one of two candidates has a reasonable chance of winning, and the one will be much worse than the other, you are free as a Christian to vote for the lesser evil.

To put it another way, no one can claim you are obligated to vote for the candidate you think would make the best ruler, regardless of whether or not he has any chance of winning.

If you choose the lesser of two evils, because you are sure that only one of those two has any chance of getting elected, then you are doing the best you can with the circumstances God gave you.

You’re free to vote for the lesser of two evils. Don’t let any “perfectionist” tell you otherwise.

Lately, however, I’ve notice a lot of Christians who think they have the right to demand of other Christians that they vote for the lesser evil. We have an obligation to defeat the greater evil by means of the lesser evil, we are told.

I don’t think this can possibly be right. I think it is an unsupportable attack on Christian liberty. And, for what its worth, the more such Christians push their “lesser evil,” the more he stinks to those who are being pushed upon.l

No one can tell you to put a sign in your yard for a candidate for a political office.

If you’re a Christian, your obligation to do good to all men does not mean that your lack of dedication to doing all you could possibly do to get the best possible candidate elected can be counted against you as sin. It isn’t sin. You’re free. Your lawn is your lawn and it is no one’s business if you choose to keep it signless.

You’re not morally obligated to send money to the best candidate’s campaign. No one can tell you that you are responsible for the next four years of bad Supreme Court appointments if you don’t donate to them. No one has a right to berate you or morally bully you out of your money.

You don’t have to hand out political flyers. You are not obligated to go door to door to get the vote out.

You are free to decide how much time, energy, or money you will or will not contribute to the candidate you prefer. No one is your judge in this matter.

Likewise, you are not obligated to vote for a candidate who you despise because he is better than the alternative and is the only candidate able to beat that alternative. The way that history changes is that people get fed up with their usual options and simply stop behaving as they once did. If this were not true then we would still be stuck with the same original two political parties. But that is not what has happened. Eventually, people simply stopped responding to one political party and it died to be replaced by another.

Shifts don’t only depend on the next election. There can be multi-cycle trends that build up before they are felt. If the number of registered voters shinks, or if the number of them who participate in voting for one of the two major presidential candidates shrinks, that communicates to both parties that there is a resource that is not being used that might help them win the next election.

If you want to vote for someone who won’t win because you think he is a far superior candidate, your vote may have no positive impact in that election cycle. But history is probably going to last longer than the election cycle. You may be positioning him for a stronger showing in the next cycle. It is up to you.

How do you calculate when it is worth it? Since you don’t know the future, you really aren’t calculating anything. But you vote how you want. You vote for the candidate you want to vote for. You can limit your alternatives to the two most likely candidates to win, or you can simply vote for the candidate you like the most. You are free to vote how you want.

Likewise, you are free not to vote at all. There is no law that obligates you to vote, and the Bible only tells Christians that their civic obligation is to submit to the governing authorities. The fictional claim that we have the power “to choose our rulers” is a socialist fallacy. You are not a collective hive mind; you are a person. In a society of many tens of millions of voters, nothing you do can determine the outcome of the election.

I could go back in time and change all the votes for the President that I have ever made to the other candidate. Do you know what that would change? Absolutely nothing. The question of voting is not like actions where you actually do tangible good in the world. You will wake up in the same world on November 7 regardless of who you vote for on November 6.

If you are obligated to contribute to the outcome of an election, then donating money, actively campaigning, and even putting a sign in your yard would probably have much more impact than your one vote. If you are not obligated to do the former things, then you are not obligated to do the latter.

Should our country make it legally mandatory to vote? If such a law were put in place, then the differences between the two major political parties would become much less than they are. As the system works now, a party can’t simply assume that all it needs to do is run a candidate marginally better than the other guy. The candidate is not just running against the other guy. He is running against the option of not voting at all. If you want to win an election, you can’t pretend that everyone is forced to show up at the voting booth and then, at that point, will make a decision about how to make the best of a bad situation. People don’t like to be in bad situations. They especially don’t like to have to drive and stand in line and wait for them. So you have to try to run a campaign that actually wins people over.

So the point here is that you are free. You vote for who you like most according to Christian values. These can involve a choice among the two most likely options, a choice between all the candidates for the one you like the most, or a choice to not participate because nothing seems worth the effort.

In all of this is a lot of guesswork. You don’t know the future. You don’t know how events will turn out. Your decision has a lot more to do with the imagination and with how you feel than with some kind of calculation you are capable of making.

You do know that your vote won’t change who gets into office and that God controls the hearts of your rulers.

So you’re free.


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4 thoughts on “Must you obey the Christian who tells you whom to vote for?

  1. Pingback: Four Election Options: Explained and Defended « Kuyperian Commentary

  2. Nancy Racies on said:

    Thank you for this insightful article but I need more clarification. Sir, we are accountable for all our thoughts, words and deeds. If we vote for someone who has assured us that he will kill babies (under certain circumstances) then aren’t we then culpable in that deed? We will be standing before God alone one day to be held accountable. How can one justify this? I would not be held accountable if the candidate said he was pro-life and then became pro-choice after the election but since the candidate running now has acknowledged his support of this position, aren’t I advocating this sin by voting for him? Won’t I have blood on my hands as well?

    • Nathan on said:

      I think the issue you are describing is only an “issue” because you are assuming that there only two ways to vote: pro-life, or pro-choice. The issues, unfortunately, aren’t always so cut and dry. In many cases, the candidates have more convoluted policies or voting records on the issues. I think you might also be neglecting the fact that abortion is not necessarily the main or biggest issue in the election. For instance, many people would view war or other foreign policies as more damaging or immoral policies than a pro-abortion policy. In that case, would blood of unethical wars also be on our hands? If it were as simple as a binary vote, I would be pretty excited . As it is currently, however, a vote is usually much more complicated.

    • Mark Horne on said:

      I don’t agree, Nancy. If we have two killers, we can try to put into office the one who will kill fewer people. I don’t think we are required to participate in such a grisly choice, but I do think we are allowed to do so and God will understand we were trying to save lives.

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