published Sunday, October 7th, 2012

David Cook: Thou shalt not vote

"If God had wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates."

— Jay Leno

Four short and frenzied weeks from now, after layers and Lehrers of even more arguments, policies, polls and debates, voters will go and select the next American president.

Mitt Romney, a Mormon.

Or Barack Obama, a Protestant.

On Election Day, many Americans will take someone else into the voting booth with them.

Jesus Christ.

Like tithing or fasting, voting has become a spiritual practice of sorts, with high stakes: One candidate we believe to be the answer to our country's spiritual emergency; the other is the Dumpster fire behind it all.

Here in southern Appalachia, Christianity is the lens through which we often see our politics. Many of you -- of us -- have well-worn Bibles nearby, underlined and memorized like a treasure map.

Jesus then becomes our ultimate political adviser. I get that. I understand.

But there's one problem.

I'm not sure Jesus would have even voted at all.

Christ taught many things, but foremost among them: Power is defined by servanthood. Washing feet. Last become first. The least of these are invited to the banquet. Wayward sons get rings and robes. We win by losing.

Crazy, right? The Christian perspective would say that your housekeeper is more powerful than the president.

We ought to read the Gospels while standing on our heads so topsy-turvy do they make things. Turn the other cheek? Love your enemies? The son of the Divine born in a barn?

Compare that to the president of the United States, also known as the most powerful person on earth. The commander-in-chief, in charge of the most widespread and expensive military on the planet. Given the power to veto laws, appoint judges, enforce the law of the land.

He's almost godlike. (Wait a minute. Last campaign, Obama won by promising hope — or HOPE — as the campaign posters said. Isn't that the same thing Christ promised?)

Imagine Christ as a candidate. Think he'd have a war chest? Or $10,000-a-plate fundraisers? The Sermon on the Mount is a direct contradiction to the Oval Office. Christ wouldn't even clear a Homeland Security background check (agitator, enemy of the state, death row inmate).

How many people has the American government killed? How much money is tied up in the functioning of the behemoth that is our nation-state, with its levers of power based in coercion and aggression?

All this violates the Christian ethic, which promises a power of mercy and grace, which finds God residing in the poor, downtrodden and wrecked. There was no Secret Service at the foot of the cross.

When we vote, we encourage and support this system. Our vote is a sign of allegiance as we transfer power from our hands into those of our elected representatives.

Yet Christ said his kingdom was not of this earth. Why then should Christians pass allegiance on to any other authority, especially one so corrupt, vitriolic and centralized? You can't serve two masters.

The servant Christ and the American president? It's like speaking Latin to a water buffalo. Doesn't translate. Two different universes.

Or two different kingdoms.

At this point, if you've made it this far in today's column, you may feel like Zaccheus, the guy who fell out of the tree. Stunned. Confused. With a bad headache.

Thou Shalt Not Vote? What?!?

Don't worry. These are just ideas. In the realms of religion and politics, there is much to consider. This, just something else to chew on.

Halfway through writing this column, I got a call from a woman, distraught and sinking. In debt, sick, can't work, elderly and alone in this world.

So yes, politics matter. Certain policies and budgetary decisions can save her life, or make it even more unbearable. So voting, most certainly, can be an extension of our faith.

Me? I'll vote on Election Day.

But I'll probably ask for forgiveness afterward.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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jesse said...

The Yakuza have a tradition of atonement by cutting off a finger!

I'm gonna vote for Obama and then cut off the finger i use to flip the leaver!

October 7, 2012 at 8:26 a.m.
AndrewLohr said...

Since you brought it up, did you help the desperate lady yourself with your own resources at all, or did you refer her to tax-paid programs? Jesus gave his own life--He is personally very, very, gracious--but He didn't enforce taxes while He was here.

There's some Christian tradition of refusing to vote. I'll probably vote for Wilson Goode (?) of the Constitution Party rather than claim to be satisfied with Gov Romney, though I sorta hope Romney wins--the Obama administration has been 90% failure, since liberalism does not work.

Obviously Jesus when here had other business to do than politics, but on the cross He endorsed the death penalty--the convict crucified with Him who asked for a stay of execution went to Hell, the one who admitted that execution was what he deserved went to Paradise. As did Saint Paul: the government beareth not the sword in vain.

Time to head for church. That Jesus is rather libertarian in His political preferences, I invite you to search "Jesus is libertarian Lohr" for my views; search without "Lohr" for a range of others.

October 7, 2012 at 9:26 a.m.

Give to God what is God's and to Caesar what is Caesar's. One thing that belongs to Caesar, in our context, is the responsibility to vote. That responsibility is accompanied by an important proviso: do not look for political Messiahs (i.e. candidates, appointments, parties, or worldly philosophies like libertarianism). Your comment that there are two different kingdoms is worthy of further exploration.

October 7, 2012 at 11:39 a.m.

The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House - Audre Lord

October 8, 2012 at 9:55 a.m.
NedNetterville said...

Cook: "How many people has the American government killed? How much money is tied up in the functioning of the behemoth that is our nation-state, with its levers of power based in coercion and aggression?"

Insightful. The lever of coercion is the IRS. What it takes fuels all of government's other sins. Wars, etc.) all depend on the State's illicit power to tax.

Cook: "When we vote, we encourage and support this system."

True. If we vote, pay taxes, or otherwise show allegiance to the State, we share in the guilt for the many crimes of all government agents. According to the Common Law, we are responsible for every wrong they do in the conduct of their duties, including murdering innocents by such wicked means as armed drones.

Cook: "Halfway through writing this column, I got a call from a woman, distraught and sinking. In debt, sick, can't work, elderly and alone in this world. So yes, politics matter. Certain policies and budgetary decisions can save her life, or make it even more unbearable. So voting, most certainly, can be an extension of our faith."

As AndrewLohr asked: "[D]id you help the desperate lady yourself with your own resources...or did you refer her to tax-paid programs?"

If you did personally help the lady, keep it secret. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. If you did not help her, or if you thought you were helping by referring her to a government agency, or if you thought your subtle, sophist plug for Obama would help her, shame on you. Unless you personally help her, you are not Jesus' disciple. Jesus provided instructions regarding how we are to treat with our less-fortunate neighbors, most explicitly in his immortal parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus' Good Samaritan relies entirely on "his own" resources to succor the poor stranger who had been robbed and left to die alongside the road to Jericho by both a (progressive?) Levite and a (conservative?) priest. When he finished telling the parable, Jesus instructed: "Go and do likewise!")--Luke 10:25-37

Mr. Cook, you are right about some things but demonstrably wrong about this: "Certain policies and budgetary decisions can save her life." Prove it! Government's social safety net doesn't save lives. It only make the recipients of government largesse dependent on OPM (OPM: sounds like opium, is equally addicting, stands for other people's money.) Recipients of OPM are really the victims of progressive government policies, which have the affect of robbing recipients of self-reliance, personal responsibility, ambition, initiative and integrity. Jesus also had words for those who send armed agents to collect taxes purportedly to aid the poor. To them he said, "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword."

October 17, 2012 at 2:32 p.m.
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