To vote or not to vote–that is the question…

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or  to take arms against a sea of troubles, pursue wisdom when certainty evades, yet, undaunted, participate in decisions that shape the future of our children and our homeland–or, in more contemporary language, stop bellyaching, get on your knees before a sovereign God, and do your duty as a citizen of the land where God chose to place you. 
The original version of these famous words are the opening phrase of Shakespeare's Prince Hamlet's soliloquy bemoaning the pain and unfairness of life but acknowledging that the alternative might be worse. Hamlet's hesitation to immediately act leads to petrification. That's exactly where many Christians find themselves today. I understand. My favorite candidate didn't win the primary either, but this "I'll just take my toys home and refuse to play" attitude strikes me as a bit self-righteous, out of touch with history, definitely  counterproductive, and dishonoring to God. Here's why.

When God sent His beloved but disobedient Israelites into Babylon, He was sending them to live in a country more toxic, vile, and evil than the USA today. Do a little research into their practices if you have the stomach for it. Yet God's prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to the exiles that read, "This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce…Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper (Jeremiah 29:4,5,7)". In addition Jesus paid taxes to Rome and instructed His followers to do the same. Again, spend some time digging into the ethics, morality, and practices of the Roman Empire–but not right before you eat. Paying taxes to Rome did not make Jesus complicit in their crimes.
The election we face today is particularly difficult for those of us who grew up in a pseudo-Christian country where the Judeo-Christian ethic still colored our world. We are suffering from moral and ethical whiplash, and we are in mourning. I don't know if we'll ever get over it. We must realize that God doesn't owe us the privileges many of us took for granted growing up and during much of our adult lives. Throughout history and throughout the world, the vast majority of Christians never experienced what we enjoyed. I'm pretty sure a Syrian Christian today would be delighted to change places with us and would find their way to the voting booth on election day.
Also voting today requires far more discernment, time, and hard work. Media can no longer be trusted. In my undergrad journalism courses, we were taught that our highest calling was impartiality unless we were clearly writing an opinion piece. Writing with partiality is called yellow journalism, and it's rampant today. We knew that that nation depended on our truth-telling and we worked hard to get it right. Today most journalists have abandoned their sacred duty; Instead they spew poisonous lies about the candidate they hate, and ignore vital information about the candidate they love. We, as citizens, are left helpless to fend for ourselves. 
Where does our helplessness send us in other aspects of our lives? To our knees. God is not surprised by this election. And just as He guides us in the rest of our lives, He's able to guide us as we ask for His discernment and His wisdom. We pray and we do what we can. We ask questions like: What can we know about the candidates apart from what the media feeds us? Does anyone endorse them that we trust? What can we learn about the character and lives of their families or from the people who work for and with them?  What have they accomplished in the past that hints at what they will likely do in the future? 
Rhetoric and speeches aren't terribly reliable markers. Some people can rouse a crowd with their words, but besides what we can learn from body language, words are often hollow and deceptive, especially since the media has abandoned their role as watchdog. All the spin, spin, spin can make us dizzy, but God is not the author of confusion.  
And we can help one another by opening up civil conversations–but keep it respectful and irenic. Good people disagree. Dial back the hysteria and seek God's guidance through prayer and His insight through good judgment and sound reason. As a young mother, I struggled with my expectations of what life should be. I didn't understand how to live well in a fallen world–the result, debilitating depression that threatened my life, and the health and survival of my marriage and my family.  God used a story by Edith Shaeffer, the wife of the late minister Francis Shaeffer, to help turn me around. Bottom line, she said, is that if you insist on perfection or nothing, you get nothing. I realize, with our present two candidates, we are far from perfection, but consider how you'll feel if once the election is over, we fall away from Judeo-Christian values even more, and you stood on the sidelines and didn't do what you could. Get on your knees and pray for discernment, do your homework, trust God, and vote.    

Dr. Edwards is Assistant Professor of Christian Education (Specialization: Women's Studies) at Dallas Theological Seminary and holds degrees from Trinity University, DTS, and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. She is the author of New Doors in Ministry to Women, A Fresh Model for Transforming Your Church, Campus, or Mission Field and Women's Retreats, A Creative Planning Guide. She has 30 years experience in Bible teaching, directing women's ministry, retreat and conference speaking, training teams and teachers, and writing curriculum. Married to David for 34 years, she especially enjoys extended family gatherings and romping with her four grandchildren.


  • Gwynne Johnson

    Well spoken….written…

    And I love the Edith Shaeffer quote! Great advice in the last sentence. Thanks Sue!

  • Beth Barron

    Another perspective

    A slightly different perspective: there are more than two candidates on the ballot as well as the opportunity to write-in in many states. Hisotrically particies have come and gone. Voting for a candidate other than the two getting the most media coverage or writing in a candidate is not sour grapes or lack of participation in the process, but may be participation in a shift in the political landscape. So as we pray about how to invest the trust of our vote this year, voting for a different candidate or writing in a candidate ought to be part of our consideration.

  • Sue Edwards

    Thanks, Beth, for your perspective.

    I've thought about the wisdom of writing in a candidate but my concern is that thus far in American history no write-in to my knowledge has ever won the US presidency, And with so many possible write-ins the chances are tiny that one will emerge among them all to win. Thus your vote will very likely be wasted in the sense that the day after the election your vote won't matter to anyone except maybe to you. I personally would want my vote to make a difference in the election, but we all must do what we believe God wants us to do. That's the beauty of a democracy.  Appreciate your willingness to enter the conversation.