Ron Sider on the Importance of Voting and Political Engagment

On the eve of the 2012 election, we thought we would share from Ronald Sider’s recent Brazos book Just Politics: A Guide for Christian Engagement. The following excerpt is taken from the first chapter of Just Politics where Sider explains why faithful Christians should be active in politics and voting.

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It is a simple historical fact that political decisions have a huge impact—good or bad—on the lives of literally billions of people. Think of the devastation and death the world might have avoided if German voters had not elected Hitler to public office. Think of the freedom, goodness, and joy that followed for tens of millions from the fact that evangelical member of Parliament William Wilberforce labored for more than thirty years and eventually persuaded his colleagues in the British Parliament to outlaw first the slave trade and then slavery itself in the British Empire.

It is through politics that country after country has come to enjoy democracy. It is through politics that nation after nation has stopped jailing and killing “heretics”—thousands of my ancestors in the sixteenth century were burned at the stake or drowned in the rivers by fellow Protestants who disagreed with our belief that the church should be separate from the state. It took centuries, but eventually more and more politicians in more and more countries decided that religious freedom for everyone is a necessary mark of a just political order. It is through politics that Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism first conquered and developed and then waned and disappeared in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. It is through politics that we develop laws that either restrict or permit abortion, allow or forbid “gay marriage,” protect or destroy the environment. Politics is simply too important to ignore.

The theological reason for political engagement is even more compelling. The central Christian confession is that Jesus is now Lord—Lord of the entire universe. The New Testament explicitly teaches that he is now “ruler of the kings of the earth” (Rev. 1:5). “All authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to the risen Jesus (Matt. 28:18). Christians who know that must submit every corner of their lives to their wonderful Lord.

Since we live in democratic societies where we have the freedom to vote, our votes—or even our failure to vote—shape what happens in important areas of politics. If Christ is my Lord, if Christ desires the well-being of all, and if my vote has the potential to encourage political decisions that will promote the well-being of my neighbors, then the obligation to vote responsibly follows necessarily from my confession that Christ my Lord calls me to love my neighbor. One way Christians must live out our belief that Christ is Lord, even of political life, is to think and pray for wisdom to act politically in ways that best reflect Christ our Lord.

©2012 by Ronald J. Sider. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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Ronald J. Sider (PhD, Yale University) is president of Evangelicals for Social Action and professor of theology, holistic ministry, and public policy at Palmer Theological Seminary in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. He is the author of many books, including the bestselling Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience.

For more information about Just Politics, click here.
To read a longer excerpt, click here.