We Can't Vote

Leallen M Zimmerman

Politics, Separation, Church and State

The year 2016 will forever be remembered as a year of significance. It was the year a celebrity, TV star, and real estate mogul with no prior political service became the 45th president of the United States. I had just turned 24 years old when Trump was elected, and while I was largely uninvolved in the political fray, I remember catching some of the fervor surrounding the election results. People were calling this “the work of God’s hand,” and even I felt some stirrings of excitement.

Throughout Trump’s presidency, I followed the political scene a little more closely than I had in the past. I also caught some of the evangelical spirit from studying and following some of the titans of the evangelical world, such as Ken Ham and Ray Comfort. However, fast forward to 2020 and the ugly battle for the presidency, and I found myself nauseated. As I watched Anabaptists around me board the Trump train, something inside of me recoiled. Something didn’t seem right. If we are truly Christian people, then we have access, through Jesus, to the omnipotent power of God and all the answers to life. So why were we then turning in desperation to the U.S. political establishment for solutions?

Yet on the other side, people like Ken Ham were encouraging Christians to get involved, even going so far as to say it is a Christian’s duty to vote. Hearing this, I realized there were only two possible alternatives: either they were right, and we are outdated in our thinking and traditions, or we are right, and we should be explaining our stance at an equal volume. This thought encouraged me to look deeper into my life and figure out what I really believed. I studied Ante-Nicene writings, the Martyrs’ Mirror, the history of the Reformation, and messages from people like Dean Taylor and David Bercot. I compared what I learned with what I heard and saw around me in the evangelical world. Out of this was borne a sincere burden to reach our Anabaptist people with the message that goes back to red letters in John’s epistle: My Kingdom is not of this world.

Growing up in an Old Order Mennonite setting and then experimenting with evangelical thinking for a time has allowed me to come back and confidently embrace the teachings that the world knows as Anabaptism. This does not mean Anabaptism is “The Way,” but rather that true citizens of God’s Kingdom will live out their faith in a way that looks very similar to what the Anabaptist movement has taught and still teaches.

My burden is for the people inside this Anabaptist community that have become disillusioned. They have allowed their ears to be “itched” by the voices coming from the world. Although they no longer understand why they do what they do, they continue to do it out of tradition, just as God told Isaiah in chapter 29, Their fear of me is only by the teaching of men. My burden is to ignite a desire to study and understand the two kingdoms so that all of us can confidently embrace God’s work on this earth and stand up for His Kingdom. 

If we are true followers of Christ, we are on this earth as ambassadors for the Kingdom of God that was established by King Jesus. We cannot participate in other kingdoms’ governments for the same reason that a U.S. Ambassador living in China can’t vote in Chinese elections. We do recognize our need to be obedient to the laws of the country we are living in as long as they don’t conflict with the country or kingdom of our citizenship. In times of conflict, our ultimate allegiance needs to be to our true King, Jesus.

If America truly were a Christian nation, things would be different. However, America never was a Christian nation, just like no other earthly country ever was a Christian nation. There are two Kingdoms. The Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. America falls in with the rest of the worldly powers as “of this world.”

God does not bless everything He allows. Just because He allowed America to be founded and exist until now doesn’t mean He is or has ever blessed it as a country. However, there are biblical principles that God has appointed to govern this earth. When these biblical principles are followed, individuals will reap the benefits even if they are ungodly people. For example, a would-be thief who chooses to refrain from stealing because a police officer is watching will escape arrest due to his following the Biblical principle Thou shalt not steal. This does not make him a Christian or even a good person. Life generally goes better for people that follow these Biblical principles. In much the same way, America has experienced the illusion of receiving a national blessing because many people followed many Biblical principles. As fewer and fewer people follow these principles, the blessing appears to be leaving.

The answer to regaining these biblical principles in our society is not earthly politics. There is a clear conflict between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. True Christianity and politics have never mixed and never will mix. God has appointed the rulers of this world to keep peace among the citizens of this world. The world’s powers have to figure out how to control its citizens because its citizens are not a part of God’s Kingdom. As part of God’s Kingdom, we don’t need to worry about the world’s kingdoms. They need to take care of their own problems. If we as Christians try to impose our worldview on the kingdoms of this world through political power, we are forcing our agenda onto people with no interest in it. At that point, we are no better than anyone else pushing an agenda, whether it be LGBTQ+, Abortion, Gun Control, etc.

We are called to be ambassadors. We are excited about God’s kingdom and its agenda. We try to live out and explain its laws and its benefits. However, we cannot force anyone into this kingdom, which is its beauty. Though it is our cry and prayer that everyone around the world would accept Jesus and become a part of this kingdom, at the end of the day, His kingdom is made up of only those who want to be a part of it.

My heart breaks for “Christian America” that has hung their hat on fixing us from the top down. I know they mean well because I have been there. Their intentions are sincere, like mine were. I have gone down that road, but it always leads to frustration and disappointment because we are trying to fix big issues without God. Understanding the two-kingdom concept is essential for understanding true Christian living. The invitation is open to all. The battle lines are clearly drawn. Let us say with Joshua, Choose today whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!

My prayer is that we, as Anabaptist people, would find our faith strengthened during this election season and that our choice not to vote would be a witness to our neighbors of faith in God — not faith in voting. It is easy to become disillusioned by all those trying to make Biblical arguments about why you should vote or become politically active. I encourage you to study and know why you do what you do. Why do you live the way you do? What do you truly believe? Your feet are bound to slip unless you are confident in what you believe. Remember the words of 1 John 4:1, where he warns us to not believe every spirit because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Jesus also warns us of people who think they do God a service or think they know God but are deceiving themselves. According to Jesus’ warnings, it is possible for people who think they are doing good to be the false prophets that John speaks about. So, stand strong, brothers and sisters, and let’s continue to fight the good fight of faith, knowing the joy that is set before us!

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