“So, who are you voting for?” It’s the question that, if I were prone to them, might make me break out in hives. Which is unfortunate, because today is Election Day in Canada, and I’m feeling super-awkward right now because I still don’t know how I’m going to cast my ballot tonight.
A land of compromise over conviction
Canada is a strange country, both socially and politically. We’re this weird in-between zone, not quite as far on the socially liberal trajectory as Europe (at least in some areas—they actually have laws regulating abortion in Europe), but further down the path than America. We are, as author (and fellow Canadian) Will Ferguson describes us, a nation that prefers compromise over conviction.1 That way, everyone is equally unhappy with whatever solution is brought forward—but we’re unhappy together, and that’s what really matters, isn’t it?
Today’s choices are a perfect example of this: we have three major parties, all vying to form the next government. After reading their platforms, it’s safe to say two are overtly opposed to Christian values (and those of socially conservative Canadians in general), while the third is the epitome of the Canadian dilemma: a party held together by compromise, rather than conviction. This presents some… challenges for me as a Christian, so much so that I don’t really know what to do.
Convictions will clash
Now, I don’t expect any of the parties to perfectly line up with my values, which I hope doesn’t surprise anyone. After all, Christianity is centered around certain convictions, specifically the conviction that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, and died for the sins of the world. But we also live under the conviction that,
- as image-bearers of God, all human beings inherently have dignity and value, from the moment life begins until it ends;
- God created gender, and that there are indeed only two—male and female; and
- God intended marriage as a picture of the gospel, and this picture is only displayed in the context of male-female unions.
On and on I could go, but you get the point: Christian conviction is inevitably going to be at odds with the social-political climate. It’s been happening for 2000 years, even (especially?) when we’ve dominated politics (read some church history if you’re in doubt).
Playing by the world’s rules
So inevitably, a Christian is going to have to live with some degree of tension when deciding for whom to vote. Casting our ballots is always going to involve compromise in some way. But I’m concerned by what I see from far too many Christians on blogs, in articles and in status updates.
Setting aside those who choose to disengage entirely, more often than not, I see little difference between how Christians are talking about politics from how the rest of society does, and usually it’s the “yeah-buts”:
- Yeah, I know they’re open to legalizing the sex trade, but they’re not entirely pro-abortion.
- Yeah, I know they’re going to drive our economy into the toilet, but they want to help refugees.
- Yeah, I know they’re fascists, but they care about the poor and/or the environment.
But the yeah-buts aren’t helpful because they oversimplify serious issues, and elevate one party while demonizing the others. It is worldly— it is playing politics by the world’s standards—and Christians should have no part of it. Yet, too many Christians don’t know how to think otherwise—they’ve been left undiscipled in this critical area, and so don’t know how to think Christianly about politics. (Rather than restating them, here are three points I wrote to help with that.)
But that still leaves us with a problem: what do we do when the tension becomes unbearable. If we’re not willing to play by the world’s rules, when does voting for the “least bad” option become unsustainable?
What do you do when there’s no good option?
This the tension I feel right now. I’ve been wrestling with how to vote for weeks, and I’ve not come to any resolution. (Though, in all honesty, if I could refuse my ballot, I would.2) Perhaps you’re in the same boat as me—with so many unappealing options, you have no idea what to do.
Some of us might choose how to vote based on our local representative. Although they’re still going to promote their party’s values and platform (which in some cases will or should disqualify them from being a viable option for Christians), their personal values might more closely aligns with our own. Others may choose, despite it not being counted as a refusal or protest, to spoil our ballots because the compromise is simply too great.
In any case, my hope is that, whether we spoil our ballot or however we cast our vote, whether we find ourselves represented by someone who doesn’t represent us or someone who kind of does, we won’t stop praying for the government we have as a result of the election. That we’ll remember that God rules over them, too. He is our hope, not politicians. And his purposes in the world will not be thwarted because of human authorities.
- See his excellent book, How to Be Canadian, co-authored by his brother, Ian, for a number of hilarious examples.
- Refusing your ballot formally registers a vote of non-confidence in the options presented, rather than simply spoiling your ballot, which are counted but not differentiated from ballots that are accidentally spoiled. However, this option is only available during provincial elections in Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. It is not an option in a federal election. Which stinks.