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The Powerful Witness of Not Voting in National Elections #JesusPolitics

Today, I want to take part in the #JesusPolitics Synchroblog hosted by American Jesus. I want to clear the air about a couple of things, especially being said about and by people who choose not to vote. First, to fellow Christians who attempt to shame non-voters by bringing up the fact that people died for our right to vote. This argument is inherently nationalistic and bound up in giving homage to the nation-state’s sacrificial system. The point of Christianity, and why I believe it to be unique among the world religions is that the goal of the Messiah was to end all sacrificial systems. As the author to the Letter of Hebrews tells us, Jesus’ death is the one to end all ritual deaths once and for all, human and animal. These rituals include scapegoating mechanisms set up by the state to make martyrs of the oppressed, including those who were denied the right to vote barely half a century ago. Rather than glorifying violence and empire, the deaths of those political martyrs like those of U.S. American soldiers should be seen as human tragedies to be remembered, that we may reflect on their suffering and let that critical reflection impact our ethical decision making for the better.

Let me make a delineation between my position I am advocating here, and those arguments advanced by other non-voters. First of all, I do not believe that my position is the morally pure way to go by any stretch. Many may claim to be doing this “Anabaptist” thing, but the fact is, if you participate in the economy, buying goods, the latest Apple products or music CD’s, you are still part of the system because how you spend is a very political act. That’s why the threat of boycotts makes companies get all jittery. They don’t want another Civil Rights Movement on their hand. Furthermore, I do side with Tim about Stanley Hauerwas’ comments, that elections are inherently coercive, that the 51% choose the destiny of the 49%. This is an opinion born out of a privileged place, for Hauerwas himself, as a member of a private school’s faculty is indeed in a place of power because of coercion along the tobacco road, tobacco once grown and cut by slaves of African descent. At this point in history, we have to ask, what relationship has not started with coercion and violence? The last disclaimer I would like to put out there is that my argument does not come today from cynicism, but out of hope that there is a better way forward, like this third party proposed by the folks at Daily Theology.

Now, my official position this year is: I am voting. I am voting for the local elections, state, city, and county races. At the top of my ballot, I plan to leave it blank. I am forgoing this abhorrent season of national politics for a couple of reasons. First of all, I am not a fan of President Obama or Mitt Romney. Their policies are too much alike, and I disagree with them so much, I do not wish to affirm either man’s campaign. Voting for a third party candidate (again as I did in 2004) would be nice but not this year. Why? In early January of 2009, President Obama was inaugarated. On that day, there was a lot of joy as well as outrage. The following day, without fail, all of the major cable news outlets began picking and choosing the Republican challenger to the President. We were already talking about 2012 three years ago. The national election is the center of U.S. American life. In short, it has become a weak idol, something we do not like to talk about, but we do talk about it all of the time. Everyone has bought into the myth that we are soooo divided right now more than at anytime during our history, but the fact is, that is not true, we are not willing to take up arms against our fellow Americans, unless of course, you’re part of the Tea Party. Drew is right, “we should not depend on the outcome of elections” but it is not the outcome (the winner and the loser) that concerns me. My concern is how much national politics and topics dominates the conversation, that there is far more apathy to local elections, and that the “culture” wars are struggles for one party to determine the hegemonic nature of U.S. national culture. Yes, we are one nation under God, but let us also work for liberty and justice for all for those citizens living right across the street from us!