Is Voting for a Cause the Same as Caring for the Least of These?
By Allison Buzard
September 26, 2012
Being a politically educated and involved Christian is important—as Christ commanded His followers to “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21) by doing their due diligence to researching candidates. This election season, scour the Bible to learn about God’s heart for issues, and then cast your ballot responsibly. But placing a vote this November isn’t your ticket to taking care of the poor, the fatherless, the innocent, the refugee, the immigrant or the widow.
Regardless of who you vote for this November, caring for the “least of these” doesn’t happen in a voting booth. There are certainly candidates and platforms and causes that will move legislation and dollars toward certain causes, but a vote for a candidate who supports your cause doesn’t imply your involvement in a cause. Simply being informed about a cause or a platform doesn’t mean you are active in that cause or platform.
About 64 percent of Americans voted in the 2008 presidential election. That same year, about 26 percent of Americans volunteered their time for a charitable cause. That means that 38 percent of voters never volunteered their time to the causes they voted so passionately about.
Jesus didn’t waste a lot of time getting caught up with cultural arguments, but rather, He spent His time getting involved with people. It’s amazing how easy it is to get passionate about a cause, without ever having interacted with people affected by that particular social problem. It’s also amazing how getting involved with people changes your views on causes.
Jesus was out in the community touching the sick, giving dignity to the disenfranchised, fraternizing with those on the fringes of society. He engaged in intelligent discussions with the leaders of his day, but He didn’t solely spend His time in rhetoric and debate. He was out physically caring for people. He challenged His followers in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry, satisfy the thirsty, practice hospitality to foreigners, clothe the cold, sit with the sick and visit with prisoners, because in caring for others, they were caring for Him.
Likewise, James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
The kind of citizens God desires are the kind that demonstrate their faith out in the community, and around the world, bringing physical touch, care, hope, restoration and reconciliation. Arthur Brooks proposes in his book, Who Really Cares; America’s Charity Divide, that religious people are 23 percent more likely to volunteer and 25 percent more likely to give charitably than non-religious people. Our faith requires action.
Of course, it’s important for American Christians to be involved politically. We were placed on this earth as citizens of this earth. But it’s important for us to remember that political research and involvement doesn’t take the place of actually caring for our neighbors. The government’s involvement in caring for the poor, determining immigration laws, creating insurance for the elderly, issuing death sentences or legislating regulation about abortion doesn’t negate the need for our involvement. The truth is, there’s a balance required. We need to do our research and vote for candidates that can create large-scale systems of care, and we also need to commit to getting involved with our time and resources.
Here are a few ways we can be citizens of both our country and our Kingdom:
- Research the presidential candidates’ stances on important issues, then make the best choice that you can make, knowing that even the best presidential candidate can only do so much to fix the brokenness in our country and our world.
- Spend time engaging with people who vote differently than you do and listen openly to their rationale. Try not to debate as much as you listen. Be open to changing your mind.
- Do your research about the causes you are passionate about. Make sure you get your information from various sources. Remember back to those research papers you had to write in school? Doing life research is a lot like school research—varied sources can validate or invalidate information. It’s important to be well-informed about things we claim to be passionate about.
- Get involved with the causes you are most passionate about, and keep being involved. Regular involvement with an organization or group of people will help you build meaningful relationships, will get you insider information about your cause, and will fuel your interest to fight harder for justice. Pick targeted organizations that deal with causes you are interested in and commit to stay involved for at least one year.
- Support causes with your checkbook. Jesus’ statement, “Where your money is, there will your heart be also,” is true at the most practical level (Matthew 6:21). When you invest your time and resources into an organization or cause, you are invested emotionally. You are invested in seeing progress, change and healing from a new, personally charged perspective.
This election season, let’s commit to politics and service!
Allison Buzard is a Christ-follower and a social worker, who is trying to figure out the Church's role in community development. Allison works in urban schools, and blogs at www.allisonbuzard.com. Allison and her husband, Adam, make their home in Nashville, TN.