the illusion of democracy

alright, alright, here we go. this is the kind of thing that gets you put on a list somewhere...

first of all, i have to say that as divisive as politics can be i probably shouldn't write about any of this. but none of anything i have to say is held higher to me than the rule of love, and i refuse to allow any opinions about anything at all divide me from any other person. how different would all of our conversations about this stuff be if we read i cor. 13 before them? ok, moving on--it's long but bear with me.

i'm not going to vote. i've been thinking about this post for a couple weeks now, mostly since i saw this video--which, for all intensive purposes says that if you don't vote you don't care about anything. it's not the only one by any means. the push to vote is extreme, at times almost even militant. people will wear their "i voted" stickers/badges on tuesday with a little american flag on them, like they have done their civic duty and couldn't be more proud of it. they will cast suspicious looks at you for your plain shirt as you cast down your eyes in shame.

it comes from christians just as much. i read an article comparing non-voters with jonah, telling them to get on a boat bound for tarshish. i better be careful--without that little sticker i might get swallowed by a whale! and this wasn't even coming from the religious right, which there really is no need to criticize because i think most of you already recognize the complete lack of spirit of Jesus there. if you need any read this, responding to dobson's unbelievable "letter from 2012 in Obama's America."

shane claiborne just wrote an article about voting as damage control. while i agree with some of the things he says, along with the quote i read elsewhere "an election boycotted by pacifists is more likely to produce a war than an election in which pacifists vote," ultimately i can't subscribe to that line of thinking. why is voting "a grave responsibility"?

i know all that stuff about the people who sacrificed for your freedom, and you take it for granted that you live in "the best country in the world." that latter statement is quite arrogant, though i hear it a lot. i've been abroad, and while there i things i very much like about america--i wonder how much of that is because i grew up here; i wonder how much of that affinity is cultural. there are some other great countries out there, plenty that i wouldn't mind living in. ok, i'm ready for the "well if you're not going to vote, then why don't you just go live there." i don't live in america because i think it has the best socio/political system, i live here because of my friends and family.

and don't try to tell me that if i don't vote i don't have the right to say anything. claiborne talks about that in his article in an interesting way. and beyond that--i pay taxes. i contribute to society in a number of other ways as well. voting does not give me any special right, especially if the decision not to vote is a conscious choice and therefore my own vote of sorts.

ok, now getting on to the actual political issues of why i'm not voting. the illusion of democracy.

1. majority rules. is this the definition of democracy? we've been led to believe so. but what if you believe that democracy means that everyone has a voice? well then you better go to europe or canada and join a parliamentary system--because they are far more democratic than we are, even if we want to call them socialists. you see, in a parliamentary system, party representatives are given based off the percentage of the population that votes for them. So, if 13% voted for x party, there would be 13% of x party representatives in parliament. it doesn't work that way for the prime minister/leader of course, but local elections might actually in a lot of ways be more important--at least in their system they are in way. that way parties actually work together, because they have to. and everyone's vote actually counts. that is true representation. here, 49% of the population can and does go completely unrepresented.

2. electoral system. for the simplest problem with all of this, i'll keep it personal. i live in kansas. mccain is going to win kansas. we are not a swing state. unless i vote for mccain, my vote doesn't matter. "oh but if everyone has that attitude then it will never change." that's true. everyone does have that attitude though, and i can't change it. i can change my own--but even if i did vote it wouldn't be for one of the major 2 so that doesn't matter anyway.

3. the lesser of two evils is still evil. why do we limit our choices to only two? if you really believe in "democracy" like the "if everyone did it" mentality of #2, then you would probably be more satisfied with some of the other candidates--especially if you are a chrisitan and there are things from each candidate you like and dislike. but you don't know about them (and neither do i). if we really cared (and like i said, i don't--more on that later), we would look into those other options and maybe actually find a candidate we can truly fully get behind.

i could keep listing things but that would get tedious. what i'm not saying here is that we should subscribe to a form of quietism or remove ourselves from the public sphere. i just don't think voting is the best way to really involve ourselves. politics is not the answer people. it never has been, it never will be. sure we can champion william wilberforce and a few others who have done great things through politics. but i would argue that politics is actually a much more reactionary system than a progressive one. real change is not made by politicians--it is made by social movements and then politicians react and change policy because they have to in order to remain popular and because that's their job--to represent the people. to what extent they actually do that is another problem i have, but not one i will write more on here.

a lot of people talk about government being necessary for major institutional changes like getting rid of slavery or abortion. did you know that the emancipation proclamation came only after decades of fighting against slavery on the social level? started mostly by religious quakers? no you hear about how people used the bible to justify slavery. but if not for christians working hard outside of politics against slavery no real change could have happened. change happens at the local level and spreads, and only then do politicians react. it will be the same with abortion if anything is ever to change there. it will not come by electing "pro-life" politicians (besides, making it "illegal" isn't winning the battle by any stretch of the imagination. case in point: drugs are illegal). it will come if people decide to really start loving people in that situation and changing the tide of what the common, everyday person sees as loving and acceptable. ultimately that will have to reach the politicians, but we are a long way from there to worry about that right now. and when and if we get there, the tide/mass will be what pushes the change from behind, not any speeches or rhetoric about needing "change." it's the oldest political word in the book, "change." but rarely do we actually see that come from one elected official.

so we should work in other ways. yes we can also vote at the same time, but shouldn't we vote for something we truly believe in? if i cared enough about politics then i would research the other candidates more fully and find someone to vote for, even though it wouldn't mean anything because they have no chance of winning. if i thought it would be worth it, i would do it. but i don't believe that the political sphere is where we should concentrate and devote our energy to. (writing this long post and all the other reading/watching is getting close to my limit). if someone is truly passionate about politics and wants to devote all of their energy to working and changing the system then good for them. i will support them and pray for them--because they will need it! it is such a mess in so many ways that much needs to change, and the system is set up in such a way that it is nearly impossible--especially with lobbyists basically running everything, red tape in droves, filibusters, etc. personally, i will devote my energy in other directions that i think will have a much greater impact with far less limitations.

ultimately, i have to ask the question (as cheesy as it is), would Jesus vote? and if he did, who would he vote for? well, i tend to think that he wouldn't. he didn't come as a ruler or king to liberate the people from roman oppression. (maybe oppression was actually better for the christians than the "freedom" he could have brought if he fought a "revolutionary war"). no, he did his thing with no work to change the political tide of that day. granted we are not jesus and we can't always heal people with the hem of our garments, so we need structures and organizations to help true social work. if we really want to change politics and the world, we will work to change the culture of the people around us--not by voting but by loving our neighbor truly. we will do it by being a part of the kingdom of God.

rome is not the answer. a new cesar is not the answer. we are. because we are citizens of the kingdom of God. there is no need to cast your vote in that kingdom, because we know what we are supposed to do. and i don't think propelling america or dividing people because of their political opinions or chastising people for not voting made the list.

we should be careful when we exalt voting, for voting is the act of worship to the god of democracy (slightly joking with the language of crazy fundamentalists)--which we spread across the world through war and bullying. why? because we think it is the best system and it truly liberates people, or because of fear? many terrible things have been done in the name of democracy--of course you could say the same about the church. but if we truly want to liberate people from oppression i don't think it will happen with war and a new political system. and it certainly won't happen by voting.

ok i don't know about that last paragraph--that might be a bit to far. i guess the thing i wonder and maybe might be a good thing to ask, is if voting is a loving thing to do. if you can see how it can be than please go vote. but if you don't think it really is than it isn't all that important. not to discount everything else i've written, which i really believe (though not unwaveringly of course--would love to hear counter opinions). and either way let us see each other in love and unity no matter what people do or do not do politically.


  1. i feel like this is a direct response to me based on a) my last post and b) my shared articles on google reader (both of which you linked in this post).

    i also read the 'not voting = jonah' article and found it a bit extreme.

    i agree with most all of this. it just seems too idealistic. if not voting is not supporting the current system (electoral college, majority rules, only two options) then what will be done to change it? because i agree. it's not the best system, but can we do something about that? i'm not sure.

    ideally i would pick someone else to lead our country - neither of them. probably morgan freeman. but life isn't ideal.

  2. crazily this wasn't a direct response to adam's post (i wrote a lot of it last night and has been in my mind for awhile), even though a lot of it corresponds. and i'm subscribed to god's politics blog where those articles come from.

    and i think that's a good point about the idealism. i don't know what to think about that though, or quite how to respond yet. one thing is certain though--morgan freeman in 2012!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I did not mean to delete the last post, only edit it for spelling errors. So I will say it again.

    Luke, as you may have guessed, I disagree with this post to my very core. I have to go to work, so I don't have time to explain my thoughts, but I will say this. I think you have some very solid observations, and I think you have some very shaky conclusions.

    We'll chat.

  5. Luke, I started a blog and I am going to try to stick with it this time.

  6. Wow Luke, Wow.

    Because of your hateful rhetoric against Gods favorite country and the government he annointed, I feel compelled to put a McCain-Palin Bumper sticker on your car to atone for your sins and so that God MIGHT have mercy on your soul.

    On My way.

    You're Welcome.

  7. two very refreshing paragraphs: the one about making something illegal will not change it (the Law brings death...) and that we do not need a new caesar (or a new Law like Derek Webb sings about). I voted, all the way from Nicaragua, and I'm not sure if it was loving. In some ways, it was, especially for my neighbors here...Obama is wanted in my country here. To living according to the Kingdom, to loving my neighbo...though it might get us killed, as Jesus said.

  8. okay. tyler's comment is a riot.

  9. ok, i'm the dork who comments a week after the election is past because i never read the thing until now.

    but i disagree. i think refusing to vote because we don't believe in the impact of that vote is wrong. like you, i think we'd be better off with more than two major parties, but not voting only further entrenches the system we have. if third party candidates receive certain percentages of the POPULAR VOTE, the are eligible for federal campaign assistance. it seems that you would be better served voting for a third party candidate than not voting at all.

    i also wonder why you question whether voting is a loving thing to do. no it is not. neither is eating or making a schedule, but these are things we do to equip ourselves to do loving things. if you want to end poverty through creating jobs, for example, you want political leadership that will create an environment in which you can create jobs. so while voting is amoral, it is an essential part of us being proactive in our pursuits of love, justice, peace, and any number of other Jesus-following ideals.