A set of pre-election queries for Friends
1. Is voting for a presidential candidate a form of wielding the carnal sword?
When we pull the lever in the polling booth we are declaring that we want this one, and not that one, to serve us as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. If our candidate wins and proceeds to wage war, or have Federal prisoners executed, he has every reason to claim that we gave him his mandate.
“But we voted for him because of his stand on the economy,” we may protest. “The system gives us no way to give a mandate for one thing while withholding it for another.”
Then why participate in a system that forces you to say what you don’t mean?
Some Friends withhold income taxes so as not to wield the carnal sword by proxy; one can also avoid it by not saying “yes” to a candidate willing to take human life.
2. Is choosing a lesser evil over a greater one a thing God wants us to do?
When we knowingly do a “lesser evil” we know we’re doing evil and have strayed from God’s will; otherwise we wouldn’t call it that. We know in our hearts that God never wishes us to do evil.
The important thing is to will what God wills. God’s given us a conscience to guide us in doing that. Divine Guidance, which comes through that conscience, is always preferable to the often-wrong reasoning by which we devise means to reach ends we’ve deemed desirable. Can’t hear the Guidance? Ask the Holy Spirit to speak louder. It will.
The prophet Isaiah was uncompromising about blurring the lines: Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil! (Is. 5:20a.) Some centuries later, the apostle Paul denounced those who’d say “Let us do evil, that good may come of it.” (Romans 3:8.) But this teaching is common to all religions.
God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our power to resist (1 Cor. 10:13), and if God wants us to live with undefiled consciences, God, being Almighty, can be relied on to make that possible for us.
That acknowledged, do we need to query ourselves as to whether we’ve carved out areas of life and choice from which we’ve shut God out?
3. Have you asked God whom to vote for?
If there’s continuing revelation, as Friends have always held, and God (let’s suppose) wishes So-and-so to become President, mightn’t God reveal the divinely chosen candidate to Friends gathered in worship and then direct them to minute their discernment that all voters should be encouraged to vote for So-and-so? For we are urged to be of one mind (2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 1:27, 2:2; 1 Pet. 3:8; 1 Cor. 2:16); why not be of one mind about the upcoming election?
“But we couldn’t do that,” we’d protest, “because then we’d lose our tax-exempt status. And it would split the Meeting, and our entire Society! The Democratic Friends in the East and the Republican Friends in the Midwest would never forgive each other! Please, God! No political endorsements!”
Then perhaps God is keeping the divine preference – if there is one — hidden from us only as a tender concession to our frailty. Or might God wish to set up So-and-so as President without Friends’ involvement in the process? For “the servant of the Lord must not engage in quarrels,” 2 Timothy 2:24.
4. Is our praying “Thy kingdom come” to God contradicted by our going to the polls to pray – by voting – that our candidate’s presidency come?
There’s an interesting parable about this in the First Book of Samuel, Chapter 8; but many have found it easy to be faithful citizens of God’s kingdom while also enjoying the citizenship of a secular nation-state, “rendering unto Caesar those things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21). However, Jesus warns us that where our treasure is, there will our heart be also (Matt. 6:21), and the political discourse of the secular state has almost never concerned itself with the spiritual good of all souls, but rather with the outward wealth, power and security of its own people. Which of these shall we call our treasure and set our heart on? Jesus advises us to seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33), and the other goods will follow. Does this suggest the relative importance of voting and prayer? Of Caesar’s things and God’s? Does Caesar even have or control anything, “unless it were given him from above?” (John 19:11.)