movement, movement

I Will Not Be Voting Today

Posted in community, culture, philosophy, politics, religion by amoslanka on November 4, 2008

I think I may be more tired of this election than most.

It hasn’t taken much this year to finalize my decision not to vote. Between the ridiculous nature of the campaigning and the topics I’ve been studying, I have no reservations about it.

I fear that like most of my deep seeded understandings, I will be unable to fully explain myself. There is much about it that I am still working to connect in my mind, though I have no doubts of the conclusion.  I know there are those out there who understand without my explanation, and those who will resent a decision like this. The former are few and far between, and in the latter I  only find further proof of my dark fears about the ignored reality of humanity.

There are no political solutions to human problems. The solutions  we believe we’ve found are little more than illusions. Few of us are willing to look down the road our civilization is traveling. Ahead of humanity lies exponential population growth and expansion of massively destructive weapons. For the first time ever, the twentieth century saw humanity finally invent a weapon powerful enough to exterminate itself and much life on this planet. The twentieth century was also the bloodiest century in recorded history seeing the unnatural deaths of at 150 million people according to conservative estimates.

Civilization is the building of the Tower of Babel, and it rises with every century.

The scoffers and loyal nationalists  will reply that we must try to make this world better. The complicit Christians will claim Romans 8:28 or the otherwise “chess-player-sovereignty” of God but find only justification of their own actions and participation. Indeed, we must try. But how much more will it take for us to realize we are trying wrong?

When I get into political conversations, especially those including the suggestion that Jesus would favor some form of socialism or the likening of God’s Covenant commandments to some form of socialism, the ensuing reply is usually in the vein of the assumption that I want to supplant American society with something in the neighborhood of national socialism. Please spare me the broken record, the conversation is nothing new, yet still seems to be the standard capitalist reply and is usually used as dismissal rather than honest exploration of ideas.

We have a strange tendency in this celebrity-obsessed, globally-minded culture to think that the ruling by government should be universal, and that what we think of as societally right should be applied to all societies. We believe we can change the world because celebrities tell us we can and we want to believe them but where we end up is some form of ambiguous confusion of the terms and the hope that the universe will just find its way into us “fixing” it.

I claim little naivete about the movement of culture, societal norms, or governmental comfort. The idea of transposing a society such as ours into something resembling Communist Russia is as naive in the assumption that we will try as is the assumption that it can be done. Instead I ask, why must my opinions control the vast populations of others? It is a control that no doubt, were I committed to it, would require a complete selling out of the values that only work in localism. Politics inevitably fails and power inevitably corrupts because it is impersonal and imposing. If our fallenness is now a part of humanity, then it seems likely that combatting fallenness lies in questioning our cultural assumptions.

I have a post-it note attached to my monitor at work that has a large circle on it and outside the circle, a dot. Pointing to the large circle is the words “THE WORLD I THINK I MUST CHANGE”, and pointing to the dot is the phrase “THE WORLD THAT NEEDS ME.”

Trying to change the world at once will get me nowhere. Changing my world around me will change the world around it, and whatever happens beyond my world is beyond my control.

We’ve grown so accustomed to impersonal love (a contradiction) that we ignore the small world we are a part of, our community, and we try to administer solutions to those we do not know. We send money overseas, support authoritated morality, and by voting we take part in a world political system that is creating the problems we are trying to fix. We’ve found a certain comfort in anonymity, a form of love based on the systems of this world that means little compared to the true love of Christ. The love of Christ is personal and intimate, not a vote for nationally dispensed grant of welfare or legislated morality to avoid personal involvement.

So I suppose I should get back to the immediate issue of voting.

The institutions of civilization and hierarchical power (church, government, etc.) are man’s attempt to be like God. In being like God, in controlling life, in building our tower of supposedly righteous civilization, we assert ourselves and our hopes in our own feats over that of any other. We may not be aware of it, but our nationalism is as much a god as any1. As Christians we claim to build what we call the Kingdom of God, a kingdom that we envision as the reigning culture of Christianity, all the while forgetting that seldom was Christ’s fruition the same shape as those his followers expected to see.

I choose not to put nationality ahead of my God. I choose to look for the true definition and actions of love. I choose to put aside in my mind the systems and encouragements to demonize those who disagree and angelicize my own cultured opinions. I choose to search for peace in the midst of chaos instead of demanding the application of my preference. Most of the details of these choices are yet to be understood, but I do not doubt that this is where I start.  The complicity of partisanship and the ignorance of enabling participation are little more than the way of the world, but it is a way of the world that its beyond my reach, and therefore my immediate concern.

Above I mentioned that we must try to make this world better. Of course, changing the world around us before the world beyond us is a revision of strategy. Rethinking our approach can be key to our effect. This attempt, for me, is non-participation in state, national, and global authoritative action. The smaller and more local a government becomes, the closer to representative of its community it gets. This attempt, for me, is to move beyond concern for the circus of politics and care for the world in front of me.

Not voting is paradoxically, a vote. But it is a lever that I do not mind pulling by default. It is a vote against a system of falsehood and corruption. It is a vote against complicity and against comfortable ignorance. In my idealism, it is a vote against the river of a cultural empire. It is a vote for my own focus, my local focus.

Love is personal. Love is local. That is where I stand.

My reasoning in an issue this big is not without holes, but is also not without my faith. I would appreciate all forms of conversation on topic.

1. “Like all religions, this religion has its own distinctive, theologized, revisionist history (for instance, the ‘manifest destiny’ doctrine whereby God destined Europeans to conquer the land). It has its own distinctive message of salvation (political freedom), its own ‘set apart’ people group (America and its allies), its own creed (‘we hold these truths to be self-evident’), its own distinctive enemies (all who resist freedom and who are against America), its own distinctive symbol (the flag), and its own distinctive god (the national deity we are ‘under,’ who favors our causes and helps us win our battles).” – Greg Boyd, Myth of a Christian Nation, 150


36 Responses

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  1. ash said, on November 4, 2008 at 4:13 am

    i have to say, bud, i am a little disappointed. working where i do, i totally understand how overwhelming this whole process is- but not voting? this idea our country is founded on, a belief that that what we have to say to our governement is important- they work for us. certainly it can be disheartening, but amos, there are more than two choices…really, there are…and taking that stand you really believe in? is…really important…you’re taking a stand by not taking one- i get the point, but still…-yes, i see that you disagree, I’m just bummed to hear it and wouldn’t feel like true friend if i didn’t say so.

  2. david said, on November 4, 2008 at 8:17 am

    awesome dude. it’s very true that a non-vote is still a vote, and a very important one. i find myself in an odd place with this.. i fully agree with you but I acted in the opposite in our recent election. but somehow I don’t really feel like I contradicted myself.

    anyone who chooses non-participation for any reason other than laziness has my full respect. keep at it bro!

  3. .escamilla. said, on November 4, 2008 at 9:01 am

    i enjoy your idealism and agree with many of your points made.

    i’m not sure i agree (as ash said above) that just because our country is “founded” upon something means that that something is good.

    i am curious, though (and maybe i should go study this)…didn’t God impose politics upon man in some way by governing His people with laws? maybe the democratic event of voting is different, as it is mankind creating the laws. maybe that is the difference. still, i’m not sure what other system outside of any political one would work best for an entire country to operate successfully.

    i don’t think we’ll ever have this figured out. maybe we aren’t suppose to.

    til then, i walk with you in dust-covered feet that follow our Lord.

  4. Sermon recap « Kyla’s Joy said, on November 4, 2008 at 9:06 am

    […] 4, 2008 Today is election day, and everyone is talking about it. Well, go here if you want more dialogue about it. I’m convinced it’s not the only thing going on in […]

  5. J said, on November 4, 2008 at 9:17 am

    Bravo. i completely agree. Power and our incessant need to declare our independence are the problems that we welcome in and allow to cause all of our social and political issues. we have to stop trying to be God, because that need to be superior is going to tear apart what is left of humanity.

  6. evanweatherford said, on November 4, 2008 at 9:25 am

    mixed feelings about this. i hear you, and am moved by your words, but i decided to vote for who i thought would be the best option. I’m not one of these types that gets behind someone 100%, but I feel there are better options than others, and I chose to try and do my part to implement that person.

    “love is personal. love is local.” – amen to that.

  7. yazz said, on November 4, 2008 at 9:31 am

    I don’t really know what to say, but Jesus is coming.

  8. Katie said, on November 4, 2008 at 9:51 am

    I do not disagree with the fact that you are not voting, in fact it is because you have the choice to vote or not vote that makes where we live unique. America was not founded on the ideals that we, the common man, should all vote. In fact our “founding fathers” feared it and made strict laws aganist it. Women have only been able to vote for the last 88 years. And not all men, even white men, were allowed to vote. A day like today requires time to reflect so that whether you choose to vote or not vote, atleast you know the importance of the decision.
    I do not vote because I wish to change the world beyond reach, I think those who vote for that reason are but strictly disappointed. I do not vote for my single voice to be heard. I do not vote just because I can. I vote because it is a unique opportunity for me to reach beyond myself and join, beyond my little dot of a world, something that I would hope to be better. As idealist as it sounds and is impossible to do, it is the fact that I can activily pursue and openly do so in this country that again makes it unique.
    Man has fallen, as you have said. As a Christian it is termed “sinned,” in Eve haven eaten from the forbidden fruit. But what I find most helpful when I question the state of man is an Islamist view. They term it fallen and it is not because a forbidden knowledge was now bestowed upon man, it was because we forgot God, and the forgetfulness lead to disbelief. Since the loss of the Garden of Eden state, man has been in a constant fall, and to curb that fall prophets and messengers were sent by God to remind us of him. Our culture, better termed society, is too insignificant. Beyond our sphere of today we find an isolated man struggling to go aganist a “fall.” Voting, has nothing to do with this. If more people voted for the right reasons it would perhaps be a better reason of government, but voting is not the reason behind a fallen humanity. Whether you choose to vote or not vote is entirely up to you, and I respect your reason to do so. In fact, I wish more people questioned why they find voting so important and I’m sure they’ll never be able to find a personal answer.

  9. amoslanka said, on November 4, 2008 at 10:13 am

    Please read Steven’s post.

    “When will the American Christian realize that the answer is not the Republican or Democratic party?”

  10. yazz said, on November 4, 2008 at 10:15 am

    by the way, who cares if your disappointed that one of your friends chose not to vote. regardless of whether or not you agree with him, doesn’t really matter. he has his convictions, and you yours. what does matter is his current focus and if that is loving locally, then you should be rejoicing and building him up in that, not scoffing, or questioning his contribution to America, or taking up his right to vote. that’s ridiculous. i wish we were more encouraging to one another. rather than obsessed with philosophical, political and intellectual concerns.

    Amos, may your local love be fruitful, that it may grow to be bigger than you could imagine, helping to change the lives of those around you, compelling them, too, to love…like a wildfire. and may it be rooted in Christ. :-)

  11. amoslanka said, on November 4, 2008 at 10:37 am

    @ash — I am sorry if you get the impression I am not voting because I am disheartened. My intent was not the illustration that I am disheartened, but that the nationalism that replaces God is irreconcilable.

    @david — I can understand your reaction as well. I can understand that when we see the things I’ve seen that we might try to change the system from within by taking part in voting. What I’ve illustrated in this post is little more then my own conscious and an explanation of its logical conclusion. I appreciate your respect and mean no disrespect in return to those who arrive at different conclusions than my own.

    @evan — as I mentioned to david, I most definitely can respect the conclusions of others and thank you for letting me know how you feel.

    @escamilla and kate — let me get back to you when I have more time to write..

    @yazz — thank you

  12. amoslanka said, on November 4, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Also, remember this song/video:

  13. ash said, on November 4, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    well forgive me, but i think you seem disheartened b/c of a number of other blogs. while you claim you’re not pessimistic, you can appear that way politically and philosophically. but the others ARE right. you do have the choice to vote or not. i am also though, a believer in the fact, that if you don’t- for at least the next four years, you shouldn’t complain about the president’s policies, b/c you didn’t voice. that’s not meant to come across harshly…just what i think. i’m also a believe in the fact that there ARE more than TWO choices and what if our generation voted for what we believed in? we’d make a greater dent by not adhering to just donkeys or elephants….shrug, but that’s cool. you are practicing your rights in a nation that allows for that…and that’s what it IS all about.

  14. Stephen Stonestreet said, on November 4, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    I understand what you mean, and i agree on many points, on others i don’t, which are a given. Just thought I’d say I love you man, and may God lead you into all goodness.

    By the way, I especially liked this quote:

    “Trying to change the world at once will get me nowhere. Changing my world around me will change the world around it, and whatever happens beyond my world is beyond my control.”

    I truly enjoyed that.

    Change comes when change happens in you.

  15. amoslanka said, on November 4, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    @escamilla — your use of the word “idealism” is not without truth. I am an idealist, but one who seeks to apply principle to reality. Thanks for your comments. God did in fact impose legality on his people, but we would be fools to believe such legality as the means to its own end. The purpose of legality is not its own existence but its fruition. It is the effect on our hearts and its restorative value.

    I without a doubt say that American Democracy is different from any other governmental system ever conceived, but as such it is not un-condemnable. One could argue its effectiveness but I find this sort of argument to be pointless. The false premise on which its based is the idea that we must globalize and therefore must govern globally. (By globally, I mean across the reach of personal community) I of course have idealistic dreams of tribalism and its benefit and its purity but understand its applicability in modern society. That applicability is the localism that I am talking about. It is the conscious decision to act locally instead of globally.

    As I say, we are based upon the premise of expanded government. Life and Love is found locally.

    Thanks very much for your comments :)

    @katie —

    I can understand that voters do not all vote for reasons i may have alluded to above. Thank you for clarifying, and I should mention that I characterize not to single out individuals but to denote the trends I see in this society. Also as you say, voting is in fact unique. At least to the nature and degree that American Democracy has taken it to. It is, however, not without illusion or complicit in a system that we seem to refuse to question. What I am saying is not that we need to change this government and this world, but that as Christians we need to reevaluate our priorities and what role we take in authority or attempted authority.

    Your comments about the Islamic view of fallenness is intriguing but I no more agree with it. According to this view the foundation is disbelief, while I argue that fallenness is not necessarily disbelief but placing our selves and our pride ahead of God. We are fools to place our judgement ahead of that of God. In a culture like ours, it is rare that we understand the differences between our judgement and Gods, let along examine them in tandem, but the fallen nature of man is not without its tragic implications.

    Voting, as you say, has little to do with fallenness, but this is only so on a humanity-wide level. For me, here, now, today, participation in the kingdom of man is encompassed in participation in its politics. I have much to discern and abstain from in the future, but here, now, and today, this is it. I hope I did not give you the impression otherwise that voting is the reason for fallen humanity. There may be paralleled similarities, but it is the participation and ignorance of human kingdom that I am attempting to abstain from.

    @ash —

    I can’t say that I am not a pessimist, I only hesitate at the statement because the word carries with it an implied arbitrariness. It suggests that if the nature of the world is all in all equally positive and negative, but neither matters. Optimism is just as dangerous of a standing as pessimism, as optimism carries with it for many, a willingness to ignore the negative. This ignorance of the negative would matter little in an arbitrary world, but the world is not arbitrary, and much of what we find as immediately optimistic or comfortable carries with it a more long term negative effect. A perfect example is obviously the general direction of technology. It is blindly pursued as a means to prosperity, while ignored are the values lost and the gain of population expansion and destructive weapons. Just a few things to mention.

    As much as I try, I can’t say I understand the position of those who demand the silence of non-voters, even of present non-voters. (Those of us who vote for reasons other than laziness) Regardless of understanding of each other, we are both entitled to our opinions, and are will both speak out regardless of each others opinions. For me, criticizing the kingdom of man is a right at its root level because I am a part of that kingdom despite my dreams of escape. Non-participation makes me no less aware of its nature than otherwise.

    Ultimately, you are right, there are more than two choices. This is mine and I see its effectiveness where it matters most to me, in my own integrity.

  16. amoslanka said, on November 4, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    @stephen — love you too bro :)

  17. Joel Goodman said, on November 4, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Just one quick thought.. this is the kind reaction that got Christianity shoved into the corner and into hiding in America in the first place. Thinking, loving, active Christians backed out of the public square, stopped taking a stand and have been marginalized since.

    I’m not sure I can’t agree with that sentiment because I know what it has cost God’s kingdom. I know what kind of relativistic thought and love-poisoning selfishness it has saturated Christ’s bride with. I understand. I do. Because I did the same thing last election.

    Because I am Christian (it’s who I am), I feel a need to be a contributing citizen to whatever community I live in–family, campus, church body, county, state, world… And the laws that surround us and govern us (which we’re commanded to follow) certainly can affect how well we are able to communicate and demonstrate our love. God can’t be marginalized, but humans certainly can.

    Anyway. Just some thoughts. I responded to Bush’s post earlier today too.

  18. Josh said, on November 4, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Dude. I see where you’re coming from. I’ve wrestled with this until last night I just had to follow my gut to get out there and have a voice in this historic election. Still your opinion is very well said.

    Also, Derek Webb’s the man.

  19. ash said, on November 4, 2008 at 4:37 pm

    you’re still a cool dude, man, in my book.

  20. Katie said, on November 4, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    I do agree with you that as Christians we do need to reevaluate our position in the world. I think those who try to put God as their politics get confused. God, atleast for me, is above politics but that does not mean that he should not be in the hearts of the politicians. He should not be the government but in the morality that drives the government. No politician should use God as a way to make others vote for them.
    And God is the same God within any person, politician or not, despite their religion. I refuse to believe that Athiests do not believe in something.
    Forgetfulness, atleast what the word is supposed to encompass in the traditional Islamist view, is forgetting that there is no divinity except God. When man tries to associate himself with God, he is forgetting that there is only one God. When man uses God as an excuse, the Bible as a weapon, the word of God as a reason- all of these are examples of forgetfulness. To forget the true nature of God, and that mans true purpose is to remember and worship him. The only reason I mentioned this is you said something along the lines of “fallen man” and it reminded me of the Islamic view and The Cycles of Revelation.
    All that I wish for you is not to get disheartened by the politics of today and not ever vote. I cringe when I see people ask “did you vote?!” for I always wonder “why did you vote?” and “what do you believe?”

  21. Ryan said, on November 4, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    I considered not voting this election as well because i didn’t really like any of the candidates, but as my father brought to my attention… “if you don’t vote, you can’t complain”.

    So there’s always the write-in option. Chuck Norris.

  22. amoslanka said, on November 4, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    @ryan — I mentioned in my comments to ash in particular why the thought that those who don’t vote should hush is a ridiculous idea. (its also un-American, though Americanism is not the grounds for any of my argument.) I would ask, however, what the difference is between voting for Chuck Norris and intentionally not voting?

  23. amoslanka said, on November 4, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    @katie — i’ll reiterate that it is not my fatigue that causes me not to vote. perhaps I should not have led off this article with that note.

  24. subversivechurch said, on November 4, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    i am truly suprised at the anger i have been subject to over not voting. is it because we draw an uncomfortable line in the sand?


  25. Ryan said, on November 4, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    I think the idea is that your vote is your chance to help decide the president and if you don’t submit that opinion while it can still make a difference, then can you really later complain that you’re unsatisfied with the results?

    The idea of the write-in vote allows you to submit your opinion, and while it may effect who becomes the next president as much as not voting, at least you’re opinion is heard.

    I’m not saying that you can’t complain. I’m just saying that maybe a write-in is a more effective way of making known your displeasure with the candidates than simply not voting, which could be misconstrued by the polls as just another person who didn’t show because they didn’t care, etc…

    Do you see what I mean about how your non-vote as a point can get lost in all the other non-votes out of laziness or lack of care?

    Anyway, I respect you as well as your decision. Just food for thought.

  26. Andie Lanka Emmett said, on November 4, 2008 at 8:07 pm

    I don’t know what all this is about. I just voted to get a free Starbucks. ……j/k, of course.

  27. ash said, on November 4, 2008 at 8:16 pm

    just wanted to recognize ryan, good thoughts.

  28. amoslanka said, on November 4, 2008 at 8:58 pm

    @ryan and ash — the entire point that the statement of non-voting makes is to declare the illegitimacy of impersonal human authority. The dogmatic arguments in favor of voting are based on the premise that government is sovereign and will make the world a better place.

    This is not a decision based on my fatigue or disappointment in candidates. In reality the actual candidates are irrelevant. The statement is not against the particulars, but against the system altogether.

  29. alyssa said, on November 4, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    i didn’t vote.

  30. chris (subversive church) said, on November 5, 2008 at 12:55 am

    Good for you man. Did you read our post on “Malkuth Shamayim” for november? I too have seen a lot of hostility in my direction for not voting. It’s simply a personal matter of my personal conviction that I should hold no authority legitimate but God’s, by voting we are advocating the authority of the US Government before God’s. As always, I’m with you 100% brother!

  31. leah said, on November 5, 2008 at 11:06 am

    wow… what a loaded post. amos… i must say that this morning as i was reading some newspapers and then making my way through some subscribed feeds wanting to read some thoughts on the election last night, i thought to myself hmm, i wonder what amos had to say about this. seriously. and then i read this.

    well, all i can say is that good point on the part of “non-voting” is paradoxically “voting”. and also, as i tried to get away from the pessimism that your post inevitably holds… i can see where your point is coming from (at least some of it). being a person who tries to be somewhat optimistic hopefully on more days than not, i dont know… i just think that this new American government rekindles hope and inspiration that people need, crave, desire. but with that said, if i am understanding this discussion correctly that God should be before the government. well all i could say to that is “Duh!” but nonetheless, i think that as God’s people and citizens we should care about what the government is up to and voice our opinions about the decisions that they are making for our country, our nation, our world. i just dont think i could stand another person saying, “well, i didnt vote because i didnt like any of the candidates”. to me, that is just so lame. but clearly with what you wrote here… you voiced something that is far beyond that. and essentially, voting in the end.

    also, i dont think i agree with this: “The dogmatic arguments in favor of voting are based on the premise that government is sovereign and will make the world a better place.”

    is that for real? i vote because i think it’s important. i think it’s important to voice your opinion and hopefully you are voting because you care enough about what is going on around this world, around you… rather than just your little life. i mean yes, this involves politics and the government and i dont want to give the impression that that is the only thing that shows your care for the world… but it’s a big part because they make the big decisions. anyway, i dont think i vote because i think the government is sovereign. and in fact, i think the government could make the world a better place. i think people could make the world a better place. i think you and me and us could make the world a better place too. i think God is just waiting for that to happen. i mean, i see how for you it could seem that people are placing their hope in the government rather than in God… but i would have to say otherwise, personally anyway. i’m sure there are a lot of people who do put their hope in the government rather than God’s- but hey, i dont think that’s surprising and as Christians, i don’t think that should be alarming. i mean, not everyone believes in God, obviously.

    but anyway, in conclusion… i think Christians should be for change. and i pray and hope that it will be a good one. and even though as Christians, we believe that God is above the government, i think God has put people in power for a reason and i think we should be a part of that “putting people in power thing”. so thats why voting is important. but anyway, like i said, i think you voted.

  32. Becca said, on November 5, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    i voted because i get a free scoop of ben and jerry’s icecream!
    and i just wrote that to prove to you that i do read your blogs.

  33. amoslanka said, on November 5, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Haha, apparently both of my sisters only voted for the free food..

  34. ash said, on November 5, 2008 at 11:25 pm

    dude chill, now, the elex is over! you’re still cool and we’re all still alive! i give everyone some freakin’ gold stars, i mean look at this blog….amos you get the most for starting the conversation. this is good one! back to the beers and bread alright?

  35. Trevor DeVage said, on November 7, 2008 at 9:35 am

    Thanks for stirring this dialogue. You know what intrigues me? In the blog world people will leave 3 or 4 comments on the day to day stuff people post, but the moment you post something a tad bit controversial…the comments come out of the woodwork. I love it. Thanks for stirring emotion. Thanks for referencing Bush’s blog post too. I have to say I agree whole heartedly with what he wrote. Hope you are well man. Have a great day.

  36. David said, on November 11, 2008 at 9:54 pm

    Dammit Amos

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