Despite their opposing views of who should win the upcoming election, Republicans and Democrats share a sense of urgency over the 2020 presidential race. Both parties would have voters believe that this is “the most important election of their lifetimes” and they have a responsibility to vote in the right candidate.
It’s always awkward to be a nonvoting Christian during campaign season, and this year, nonvoters really feel the pressure. The enthusiasm over the 2020 presidential election, combined with increased voting options due to the pandemic, has already led to record-setting early voting numbers. Nonvoting is assumed to be a decision made out of resignation, apathy, or lack of concern for the country.
While some religious traditions abstain from voting because they do not take part in politics at all (think Jehovah’s Witnesses) or because they separate themselves from broader society (the Amish), evangelical nonvoters say they can be politically engaged beyond the ballot box.
“I’m still involved with changing things, but I didn’t want to do that in the name of a political party,” said Natasha Kennedy, an evangelical in Washington State who has never voted in a US election and doesn’t plan to this year.
Instead, she pushes back against both parties and advocates for Christ’s kingdom without any allegiance to a political platform.
Her position dates back to when she turned 18. As she considered entering the mission field, Kennedy decided she would demonstrate her devotion to Christ and his kingdom by not voting in US elections.
Like many Christian nonvoters before her, she saw the act of casting a ballot as a sign of approval for a political power structure that in many ways opposed the way of Christ. She couldn’t do it. If Jesus brought about his kingdom by laying down his rights and spurning political power, Kennedy wanted to follow his example.
“It was my way of being part of his kingdom without doing it the world’s way,” she said.
Four presidential elections later, Kennedy and her husband, Lindsay, an Australian citizen (who voted while living in Australia where voting is mandatory), have together cemented their conviction that they will work for change by speaking up about their convictions around biblical and moral issues but won’t do so within the US political parties.
This commitment sometimes puts them at odds with fellow Christians in their family and at their nondenominational church. Most Christians do vote, and white evangelicals historically have higher turnout rates than other groups. They hold a range of views on how Christians should approach voting (see “When Is It a Sin to Vote for a Political Candidate?”), and some suggest that biblical principles on public justice compel Christian citizens in a democracy to elect ethical leaders into positions of authority.
While voting Christians on both sides of the aisle tend to see the Kennedys’ nonparticipation as passive, the couple stands by their decision—especially in a year when they believe partisan divisions are damaging the church’s witness.
“We’re seeing a lot of division in the church and people on either side of the political spectrum being more shaped into their party and forfeiting their Christian identity,” Lindsay said. “This other allegiance is causing such division in the church when it seems like the church should have greater conviction from a Christian perspective.”
The Kennedys believe their nonvoting stance also removes a barrier to conversation and evangelism. Lindsay Kennedy said it enhanced his credibility with students as a Bible professor. The students knew when he pushed back on their political positions, he was not simply trying to convert them to his party.
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Source: Christianity Today