To Vote or Not to Vote

Joe Graham comments
| Politics

With the height of our election cycle approaching, many citizens are weighing in with various perspectives to provide their opinions related to our civic duty.  We are frankly being bombarded with media broadcasts vying for our attention to the latest breaking news, sure to turn our heads and sway our ballot.  One viewpoint that I was frankly surprised to hear was a military officer’s conviction related to NOT casting a ballot in elections at all.  An anomaly in an era when people are regularly encouraged to “get out the vote,” why would a service member abstain from this duty?

Wearing Two Hats

Major M. L. Cavanaugh wrote his piece for the New York Times where he describes his personal decision to refrain from exercising his Constitutional right to vote.  The reasons he gives boil down to the following quote:

I am a citizen.  But I have also sworn an oath as a commissioned military officer.  One came by birth and coincidence, the other by belief and commitment.  In certain circumstances, my identity as a military officer should take precedence.  Voting is one of them.

A similar view was presented among Christian leaders as well.  Recently an another article related to John MacArthur’s views regarding heavenly and earthly citizenship was mentioned.

America politically has absolutely nothing to do with the Kingdom of God.  Whether America is Republican or Democrat, whether it is libertarian or socialist, whether is becomes a communist country or whether it becomes a dictatorship—what happens in America has absolutely nothing to do with the Kingdom of God.

Fascinating that these two viewpoints are essentially describing the same dualistic perspective.  In one, a military officer sees no capacity to integrate the differences between his two offices, that of Soldier and citizen.  In the other, a Christian pastor cannot rectify the overlap between Christ’s heavenly and earthly reign.  Both men seek a desire to keep the two separate, while fulfilling the capacities of both and not sacrificing service in one for the other. 

Major, What's Your Opinion?

For one I’m grateful that men are even thinking about such ideas and being thoughtful enough about their obligations to even care about the distinctions and nuances.  What is immediately evident though is a preconceived commitment to the segregation that drives these views. 

Major Cavanaugh reveals the incomprehensibility of his view when he states,

The trouble is I will have exercised a personal, partisan choice, committing myself to a candidate, party and set of beliefs and policies.  I would like to believe that I can separate my political and professional views, but worry that…my decision could undermine my military judgment.

So the problem for the Major is not the fact that he has a personal viewpoint, but that exercising his constitutional right would undermine future decisions.  This leaves me wondering, how can he possibly function in any capacity.  He obviously has personal viewpoints , why is it that they only become detrimental to fulfilling his military duties if he expresses them?  I wonder, if his superior asked his viewpoint on a problem, which didn’t end up being the chosen tactic or strategy, would the Major’s original viewpoint relegate him unable to support command decisions?  I highly doubt it, but consistency would lead to that conclusion. 

I wonder if the same view would carry over into home life as well.  If husband and wife have differing views on where to go on vacation, will the final determination be stained because one person’s choice won out?  The Major’s very premise on voting is ludicrous and certainly not how civilians or military service members can or should operate.

Pastor, Who Should We Vote For?

The same dualism exists for Pastor MacArthur, though in a self-conscience manner, driven largely by inconsistent theological commitments.  Just as the major is incapable of separating himself from his faulty foundational viewpoint, MacArthur also segregates Christ’s Lordship to “spiritual” issues, leaving any material advances of the Kingdom of God to sovereign mysticism and the "secret things of God."     

It should be obviously clear to Pastors and layman that we must operate as citizens seeking comprehensive redemption, which doesn't violate the scope of any of our duties.  If one of our duties must take precedence, the old adage still rings true: God, family, church, & country.  

Citizens should vote, all of them.  This requires us to think about the issues that appear on our ballots.  I recommend that all of us do our due diligence, research the issues, talk about what is on your ballot with your family and friends, and vote to support candidates, measures, and initiatives that recognize where Christ’s Lordship already exists. 


Joe Graham

Joseph Graham is a husband and father of 9 children. He currently serves in the U.S. Navy and has a family business dedicated to “Encouraging Families and Building a Brighter Future.”

My Website: http://www.reconstructionlife.com