How Should You Vote?

Mail in ballots are arriving at Californian homes all over the state. As millions of Californians cast their votes, I thought I'd put some of my own thoughts about voting here.

First, we have a tendency to believe that the course of America lies in Washington DC. My reading of Scripture and understanding of prophecy tells me that it is not civil authority, but religious authority that is the main thing to worry about in the end of the world. As such, my identity as a Christian is way more important to the success or failure of America than my identity as a voter (or even as a politician).

The church has always had an enormous capacity to care for the society in which it exists. However, due to societal reforms in the 19th and 20th centuries, we've inherited a culture in which the church doesn't have the burden to fix the issues in society that it used to. For example, universal access to public education isn't something that happened in America until the early 1900s. Prior to the work of Horace Mann in the 1840s, there were only a smattering of public schools in America–most in large cities. The rest of America was either educated in their living room by their parents, or attended small one-room school houses. Many of these small rural schools were operated by the church. Most of the institutions of higher learning in America at this time were founded by religious organizations (e.g., the Puritans). I was surprised to learn that one of the primary motivators for setting up secular public schools was Protestant xenophobia of Irish Catholic immigrants, whom Protestants feared would come to America, study in private Catholic schools, and take away the Protestant principles of America when they grew up. As a reaction, rather than studying with these Catholic families and individually sharing with their new Catholic neighbors their cherished Protestant principles, Americans favored asking the State to use their tax money to set up secular schools, and enact legislation which would make enrollment in school compulsory. The next time you hear a Protestant complain that the government is using tax money to teach our children evolution in public schools, remind them that it was originally the Protestant's ideas to use the state to secularize our children.

Another example of where the church dropped the ball by asking the government to take over what should have been the church's job is in social welfare. Prior to the great depression, the care of the poor, the widow, and the unemployed were largely left to private social activism groups and churches. Many church institutions were funded liberally by church members through their tithes and offerings. Adventist John Kellogg ran a Sanitarium in the "dirtiest and wickedest" part of Chicago, where he offered free medical care, free laundry, an evening school for the Chinese, food and lodging. Kellogg believed in giving these poorer classes of society dignity, and so he charged a penny for the lunches. However, if a person couldn't afford to pay a penny for the lunches, they could work for the Sanitarium (e.g., sweeping the floor) to earn their fare. However, as a response to the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into legislation what historians call "the New Deal", which included institutions such as the Social Security Administration, the framework of the modern welfare system, and unemployment insurance. With the enactment of these federal policies, many Christians felt less responsibility to donate to their local church's needy fund, since their federal taxes were accomplishing this anyway.

From these two examples, you'll see that the church gradually went from being the organization that educated the people (1 Samuel 19:18–24, 2 Kings 2, 4:38–44) and cared for the poor (Matthew 24:31-46, Isaiah 58, Deuteronomy 15:7-11, Jeremiah 29:7), to an organization that largely met once per week to hear a spiritual lecture.

The biggest agency for change in 2020 isn't on the ballot. Neither the Republicans nor the Democrats are going to fix all the problems in society–only Jesus can do that. And Jesus wants to do it through His church. You, are a member of this church, and so the responsibility for educating our youth, caring for the poor, visiting the sick, defending the oppressed, rests on our shoulders.

So regardless of who wins the election this year, know that God is still looking our way to solve the issues that our politicians are wrestling with. While we cannot appropriate tax money for wildfire relief, we can donate towards our church institutions that are helping the victims of the wildfire. Although we cannot forgive student loans, we can support Christian education with our tithes, offerings, and volunteer hours. Although we cannot appropriate tax money to fix our crumbling roads and bridges, we can show up to work bees to beautify our institutions and places of worship. Although we cannot fund a cure for COVID-19, we can pray for the master healer to draw near to those who are infected, and continue to share our health message with the world to slow the spread. These are all ways that we can effect a far greater change in society than by casting a vote this fall.