Theology of Politics | Voting Principles for Christians

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“Christians should vote to exercise responsible citizenship, showing gratitude for the heritage of the American Revolution, and we should also vote because the biblical principles and commands for us to love our neighbor, exercise faithful stewardship, and seek justice compel us to vote.”

–William Wolfe

Why Should Christians Vote?

From A Civic and Historical Perspective

For many Christians, the responsibility to exercise our right and the freedom to vote as American citizens may be self-evident. “Why should I vote?” is not a question, but rather a given: “Of course, I’ll vote!”

Historically speaking, however, the ability for free people to freely and fairly choose their leaders and their government is an anomaly. For most of human history, mankind has been subject to a monarchial rule, living as serfs or vassals — subjects, not citizens.

Yet for Americans, that all changed in 1776 when we fought — and won — the War of Independence against Britain. In their defense of the extreme action of separating from the rule of the King of England, the leaders of the American Revolution penned the Declaration of Independence, grounding their reasoning for the pursuit of equality in the status given to them not by a random social contract or the process of evolution, but by God. They wrote,

“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

Pay close attention to what our Founders anchored their right to pursue freedom: “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Historian C. Bradley Thompson explains that “the Americans had done something…that no other people in history had ever achieved: They founded their new governments ‘on a moral theory…on the indefeasible, hereditary rights of man.’”

Inextricably bound up in what God, and our political inheritance, has given to us is the right to a representative government. One that is not gifted to a singular man simply because of the lineage of his birth but rather arises from the sovereign will of those who come together to rule themselves.

While voting is not compulsory in the United States, given the sacred solemnity of this inherited right, Christians should indeed view it as a duty — an exercise of a right secured by our Founding Fathers. We do so in recognition, first and foremost, of the fact that we, as those made in the image of God, are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” When Christians vote in America, we are proclaiming these truths — that mankind is made by God, whether the fallen, secular world realizes it or not.

We are also doing our part to perpetuate the public and civic morality our nation needs to function. Reflecting on the constitutional republic that the Founders created, John Adams, the second president of the United States, wrote, “Our Constitution was made only for a religious and moral people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” In our increasingly secular society, if Christians retreat from the public square or the ballot box, we are removing the necessary ingredient for our society to endure: religious and moral people, actively involved in the governing process.

The Apostle Paul understood that Christians, even though we are indeed citizens of a heavenly kingdom, can and should still use all rights afforded to us by our earthly governments to seek justice, both for ourselves and others. Paul appealed to his citizenship and subsequent rights as a Roman citizen in Acts 22:25 to avoid criminal mistreatment by Roman soldiers. Paul is an instructive example for us here. Christians should use their rights to vote, both for their own good and the good of others.

In summary, Christians should vote in America because, by voting, we 1) affirm mankind’s natural equality as being made in the image of God; 2) celebrate our status as citizens and remind ourselves that no one man has the right to rule over us as subjects; 3) work for the continuation of our nation as the religious and moral population needed to sustain our constitutional republic; and 4) exercise a right of earthly citizenship here in the United States that is a gift and stewardship from God.

While those are compelling reasons on their own, let’s also turn to what the Bible has to teach us about why we should vote.

From a Biblical Perspective

Having addressed the question from an angle of our civic responsibilities and our historical inheritance, let us now consider reasons for voting drawn explicitly from Scripture. As Jonathan Leeman, author of How the Nations Rage: Rethinking Faith and Politics in a Divided Age, put it, “The Bible is the book by which all our political activity will be judged.” There are any number of good, biblical reasons why Christians should make the effort to participate in our government by voting. Before we cover some of the most important issues that Christians should vote for, here are three biblically-based arguments for why Christians should vote.

Out of Love for Self and Neighbor.
In Matthew 22:37-39 Jesus summarizes the entirety of God’s Law into the two “Great Commandments,” calling His followers to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Voting for candidates who have pledged to enact, defend, and uphold righteous laws or policy positions that will allow you to serve the Lord freely, benefit fairly from the fruit of your labor, and raise a family in the fear of God is both an act of appropriate “love of self” and also, by extension, an act of “love for your neighbor.” Think of this: When you punch the ticket for a pro-life candidate, you are loving your unborn neighbor. When you make whatever sacrifices are necessary to get to the voting booth in order to vote against that resolution to legalize transgender treatments in children, you are — whether they realize it or not — loving your neighbor.

When you vote for a candidate who will defend the right to self-defense, because as an informed Christian motivated by a proper understanding of the fact that we are all made in the image of God and our lives have inherent value, you are…you guessed it…loving your neighbor and yourself.

As an Act of Stewardship Before God.
The Bible is very clear about this point: Everything we have is a gift from God and He will hold us accountable for how we use — or fail to use — the gifts He gives us. This includes our freedom to participate in our government. And that freedom — that gift, for such a time as we have it — is most particularly manifest in the act of voting. This is the Christian concept of “stewardship” drawn from throughout the Bible, but it is perhaps most clearly illustrated by the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30. In this passage, two servants are given the responsibility to care for a portion of their Master’s (God) finances while he goes away on business. When the Master returns, one servant is rewarded for having invested his Master’s money wisely and turned a profit, while the other is judged, and punished, for simply burying his Master’s money in the ground.

Christian, when you fail to make the effort to vote in our (still, largely) free and fair elections, that is the modern-day equivalent of burying in the dirt those talents that God has entrusted to you to steward on His behalf. Such neglect of the gift God has given us doesn’t honor Him or use that gift to good ends. Most Christians around the world do not have this same gift, this same stewardship, so we should be sure to be thankful for it and use it well. So be a “good and faithful servant” and go vote.

To Seek Justice.
For Christians, seeking justice isn’t an option, it is a command from God. Micah 6:8 tells us, “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” While commanded, justice is also, sadly, a matter of great confusion in our society, and even among many professing Christians. Understood properly, seeking justice means living in such a way as to fear God rightly and give each and every human being what they are due, before God, as fellow image-bearers. This means justice must be first and foremost defined — and constrained — by the moral and ethical principles found in God’s Word (Exodus 20:1-17). One of the most fundamental principles of biblical justice is the equal treatment of all before the law: “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly” (Leviticus 19:15).

Therefore, one of the most significant ways that Christians can obey God in the pursuit of justice is to vote for candidates, causes, and policies that promise to create and ensure equal treatment of all people before the law, regardless of race, economic status, etc. This means voting against policies that promote inequality, like Critical Race Theory in our school systems, etc. What is true justice may have become a hotly debated and confusing topic in our day and age, but as Christians, we can find clarity in God’s Word and a clear call to concrete action: Go vote as a means to seek justice!

In summary, along with the civic and historical reasons to vote, Christians should also be motivated to vote by love, stewardship, and justice. These are worthy motivations. Considered together, and especially the point about stewardship, one could easily argue that Christians, in fact, have a duty to vote, to use a word that has fallen out of favor in our society. Duty can be defined as a “moral or legal obligation, a task that somebody is required to perform.” Voting in the United States, where the power is vested in the people, not the politicians, and secured by an abiding document, not the whims of a monarch, is just that: A duty to discharge to honor God and love our neighbor. But it is a privilege as well. This nation is a land of freedom worth fighting to preserve, because as Ronald Reagan once famously said, “If we lose freedom here, there’s no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.” So, Christians, cast your vote, motivated by love, as a faithful steward of this gift that God has given you, as a means of seeking justice, and as an act of duty, but always with the recognition that it is a great privilege.

How Should Christians Vote?

Six Critical Issues Christians Must Get Right

1. Abortion
When applying biblically-based moral reasoning to the issues at hand, Christians should conclude that casting effective votes to end the holocaust of abortion is the single most important reason to vote in our nation today. God commands us that “you shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Yet abortion is horrific, legally-sanctioned murder. Christians believe that every life is a sacred gift from God and that God is the one who sees and forms us in the womb (Psalm 139). Just because a baby is inside the womb, and not out of it, in no way detracts from their value, worth, and dignity — they are wonderfully and fearfully made and fully human.

The unborn are entitled to equal treatment before the law, which, despite the recent overturn of Roe v. Wade, they are still denied in almost all states in this country. Thus, at every level — local, state, and federal — and with every opportunity, Christians should turn out to the ballot box and cast votes for pro-life candidates and pro-life measures. God will hold us accountable for our action — or inaction — to defend the most vulnerable among us. In his book Good and Bad Ways to Think About Religion and Politics, Robert Benne sets forth the idea of “straight line” and “jagged line” issues when it comes to the application of our faith to politics. While I don’t agree with his overall application of that taxonomy, it is painfully obvious that the issue of abortion is the “straightest line” issue facing Christians in politics today.

Leeman, in How the Nations Rage, sets forth the clarity like so: “There is a direct path from biblical principle to political application with abortion. Abortion is murder, and the Bible commands governments to protect their citizens from murder. The path is that simple.” Therefore, I would argue that Christians should never vote for a pro-abortion — a pro-murder — candidate when a pro-life candidate is available (of course, taking into account the other issues the pro-life candidate supports). So, when you go to vote as a Christian, remember: You must always vote for life. There is no other faithful way to vote.

2. Religious Liberty
Christians know that the Gospel can and will advance regardless of whether there is religious freedom at any given time and in any given country. That said, all nations, and their rulers, should recognize Christ as King and submit to His Lordship (Psalm 2, Philippians 2). It is wicked and wrong of any nation to forbid the free exercise of the one true faith, the Christian religion. At the same time, because we live in a pluralistic society, it is critical that adherents of other religions — as long as obedience to that faith doesn’t include mandated violence or other moral evils — have the freedom to exercise their faith freely and obey the dictates of their conscience as well. Freedom of religion and freedom of conscience are among the most basic and fundamental of all human rights.

Christians should care deeply about voting to uphold and defend a properly ordered religious freedom within our nation. Finally, insomuch as religious liberty (and not just freedom of worship) is guaranteed to all citizens of the United States by the First Amendment, Christians should be the first in line to ensure this freedom is maintained. It’s important to understand that the majority vision of our Founding Fathers was not that the church had no role or right to speak to the affairs of the state, but rather that the state should not 1) have an established and sanctioned state church, and/or 2) interfere in the genuine religious beliefs and practices of free citizens (presuming such beliefs and practices did not undermine the common good of society or actively promote violence, etc.). One of the most notable Baptist advocates for religious liberty was Isaac Backus. In The Separation of Church and State: Writings on a Fundamental Freedom by America’s Founders, scholar Forrest Church explains that “Backus placed his emphasis on freedom for religion, a freedom uncompromised by any form of state interference, however preferential. In such a view, church-state separation protects the church from the state, not the state from the church.”

Therefore, when you vote as a Christian, you should feel no concern whatsoever to vote for policies or candidates that are unashamed about how their Christian beliefs will govern, guide, and inform their political decision-making. We don’t want to protect the state from being impacted by the Christian faith, but rather prevent the state from sidelining the freedom of the faith.

3. Free Speech
God cares deeply about our speech, especially that it is truthful. Christians are commanded not to lie or bear false witness against our neighbor and to speak the truth in love (Exodus 20:16, Ephesians 4:15). Freedom of speech, also protected by the First Amendment, goes hand in hand with religious freedom and the freedom of conscience. For example, in the age of transgender pronouns, Christians are facing increasing cultural pressure to lie about the biological reality of a given man or woman, who they are being commanded to refer to as the opposite of what they really are.

Christians should care deeply that they have the freedom to speak truly about transgender issues, the nature of marriage being between a man and a woman, etc. And Christians should care that all citizens of the United States have the same freedom to speak the truth, without coercion, or fear of reprisal. Free speech is under attack, and Christians should lead the way in defending it for all. Just above our northern border, in Canada, we have seen a troubling rise in the crackdown on various forms of freedom of speech, directed towards both Christians and peaceful protestors. The Canadian Parliament recently passed a bill (C-4) that became law on January 8, 2022, which bans LGBT conversion therapy in broad enough terms that simply encouraging a person to accept their biological sex or to embrace heterosexuality could lead to criminal charges.

Additionally, as the Canadian Freedom Convoy protested the vaccine mandates, “the government began taking steps to shut down the protest, including encouraging GoFundMe to freeze and seize $9 million of the convoy’s fundraising haul.” Christians in America should heed what is happening in Canada — and remember it when it is our time and turn to go to the ballot box. Once a government begins to restrict our freedom of speech and expression, rarely does it ever reverse course.

4. Right to Bear Arms
The Second Amendment, the right to keep and bear arms, secures for our citizenry all the freedoms (religion, speech, press, assembly) of the First Amendment. While increasingly controversial in the age of “mass shootings,” Christians should continue to wholeheartedly support the right to bear arms. Why? Primarily because we know, as Christians, that the problem is never in any given instrument or weapon, but rather the real issue is a problem of sin in the human heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Jesus taught that it isn’t what is external to a man that is the cause of sin — food, money, or an AR-15 — but rather what comes out of us (Mark 7:20).

To put it bluntly, Christians of all people should know that if guns are banned, only the bad guys will have guns, because law-abiding citizens will honor the law, even if it is unconstitutional. Christians should vote to preserve our right to bear arms so we can bear our children in safety and raise them in security, fully embracing both the risks and responsibilities that come with the freedoms found in a self-governing nation.

5. Judicial Appointments and the Courts
In our modern era of an increasingly politically-aggressive and activist court system, directly electing righteous judges at the local level, or voting for a president who will appoint righteous judges at the federal level — including the Supreme Court — should be a high priority for all Christians. The Bible makes this very clear: Judges who pervert justice and fail to uphold the rights of the poor and needy (such as unborn children) are an abomination before the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:19, 1 Samuel 8:3, 2 Chronicles 19:7). Christians should play no part in the election of any judges or justices — to any court in our land — who fail to acknowledge the rights of the unborn, the rights of Christians to worship freely and live according to their conscience, etc.

On the other hand, what our nation needs right now is more judges who are committed to an “Originalist” jurisprudence (simply interpreting the law, not remaking it outside of the legislative branch or amendment process) and a commitment to upholding our God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Recent events in the U.S. have only underscored the importance of having judges who respect our fundamental and constitutional rights. Grace Community Church in Los Angeles, California, led by its faithful pastor, John MacArthur, challenged the arbitrary lockdown order from the county during the COVID-19 pandemic. MacArthur and Grace Community Church ultimately won their legal battle with the state of California and Los Angeles County — and the governments agreed to each pay $400,000 as part of a settlement for violating the church’s religious liberty during the pandemic.

As John Wesley Reid, senior editor of the Standing for Freedom Center, explained of the legal fights over the lockdowns and mandates, “The frequency by which the Court is reviewing state restrictions is indicative of two things: Governors are unabashedly ignoring the Constitution, and President Trump has installed jurists to the High Court who are up for the fight.” The importance of righteous judges in our nation is perhaps seen most clearly in the Supreme Court’s recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs case, bringing an end to the fake “constitutional right” to abortion and sending the issue back to the states.

6. Education
Concerned parents across the political and religious spectrum have become some of the most engaged and vocal drivers of this political moment in the United States. During the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, many parents of public school students had a direct window into the radical progressive content that was being foisted upon their students. Additionally, once back in the classroom, parents protested over the absurd and unscientific mask mandates, appealing to school boards to free their children. The uptick in parents’ activism was not met kindly by local and federal officials.

The Biden Department of Justice even went as far as to imply they would treat engaged parents as potential domestic terrorists. Parents also expressed concerns about the uptick in Critical Race Theory (CRT) and CRT-infected ideas being forced on their children, not to mention outrage over incredibly sexually explicit and pro-LGBT and transgender content put in front of their kids. Parental rights, quality of education, and curriculum transparency have, rightly, become some of the most important political issues of our day. But how should Christians approach the issue of education when it comes to politics? In brief, Christians must remember and vote to reflect this truth: God gives children — and the responsibility for their education — to parents, not the government. So, as Christians go to the ballot box, we must vote for educational systems, leaders, and school boards that will 1) respect the God-given right of parents to control their children’s education, and 2) support educational policies (standards, curriculum, reading lists, etc.) that promote righteousness — not wickedness.

Christians should vote for measures to do things like ban sexually explicit material, pro-LGBT or pro-transgender propaganda, and CRT from the classroom. Christians should vote for increased accountability for school boards to concerned parents. And this is true for all Christian parents, even those who homeschool or send their children to private school. So, do your research and vote for candidates and policies that further parents’ rights to raise their children without government interference, promote righteousness, and ensure that children are well-educated, not propagandized.

Conclusion

As Christians enter the public square, we must confidently remember: Christ is King. Just because the rulers of this world don’t all — or always — acknowledge Him as the one true sovereign doesn’t in any way threaten His throne. As Christians, as little Christs, our calling is to help further His rule and reign here on earth until His return. We do that by being part of local churches which herald the saving Gospel of repentance and faith, seeking to enlarge the Kingdom of God by obeying the Great Commission and making disciples of all nations.

But as we seek the salvation of sinners, and remember that we are indeed strangers and aliens on this earth with heavenly citizenship (1 Peter 1), we also work for the good of those we live side-by-side with now. This is simply a faithful expression of “loving our neighbor as ourselves” (Mark 12:31). To love our neighbor is inherently a political act. It is more than politics, but it is certainly not less than politics. And the way we do this, most significantly, in America, is by voting.

Therefore, Christians should vote to exercise responsible citizenship, showing gratitude for the heritage of the American Revolution, and we should also vote because the biblical principles and commands for us to love our neighbor, exercise faithful stewardship, and seek justice compel us to vote.

When we vote, however, we must do so in a way that honors God and upholds His revealed moral standards and creation-order wisdom. This means Christians should vote to end abortion, protect religious liberty; protect freedom of speech and conscience; protect our Second Amendment right to self-defense; and ensure that righteous judges and justices are elected or appointed who will honor God’s standards of life and freedom. They should also vote in such a way as to ensure the educational system in our nation is teaching and training the next generation in paths of righteousness and moral formation, and not poisoning their minds with wicked, progressive propaganda. There are certainly more issues that Christians can and should care about, but these six are “foundational moral-order issues” that we cannot afford to overlook or get wrong.

On behalf of the Standing for Freedom Center, I hope and pray this defense of the “why” and “how” Christians should vote equips you to better uphold the Christian faith and defend America’s Constitution and to more faithfully serve God and love others here in the United States.


William Wolfe

A 10-year veteran of the conservative political movement, William Wolfe served as a senior official in the Trump Administration, both as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon and a Director of Legislative Affairs at the Department of State. Prior to his service in the Administration, William worked for Heritage Action for America and as a Congressional Staffer for three different members of Congress, including the former Rep. Dave Brat. He has a B.A. in History from Covenant College and is currently finishing his Masters of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Combining his political experience and theological education, William plans to pursue a Ph.D. with a focus on Christian ethics and public theology, enter pastoral ministry, and engage at the intersection of faith and politics, cultural commentary, and Christian worldview issues. Originally from outside of Charlotte, N.C., he is married to Lauren Wolfe and they have two boys, Evan and Jack.