Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 2012 Election

We don’t need to settle for the lesser of two evils. Not only is that to in fact settle for evil but also to subvert the very idea of a righteous public square. Oh, I know we can’t expect unbelievers to act like Christians. But can we no longer expect Christians to act like Christians and to live for something beyond this election? Can we no longer as Christians hold out hope for a more thorough-going righteousness in our leaders? I do. I’m tired of playing the game that elects a man with the expectation that he’ll break his word within days or weeks of taking office then accept that there’s nothing we can do about it except vote differently next time. That rat wheel is old.

I’m told that settling for the lesser evil and working inside the party system is the sure way to get incremental change. I’m told that people outside the system, refusing to vote, can not effect change. I laugh. The largest sea changes in American political history–and even in our present times – have come not from presidents and party loyalists but from footsoldiers outside the system. King wasn’t a party insider and the Lord used him to change not only the laws but also the heart of the country. Advocates of gay marriage aren’t party insiders, and they’re effectively using public opinion and courts to advance their agenda. About the only way to change the country is outside the party machinery.

We wonder why there are no Kings in our day. It’s because there are too few men willing to embrace an ideal as deeply and passionately as King did and have that ideal animate his every thought and action. But we can be Kings. Each of us. And that’s why holding out isn’t hopelessness.

To vote? Or not to vote? That is, indeed, the question. I’ve read arguments on both sides. There are men I greatly respect who have come to radically different conclusions on this issue. Thabiti’s article, however, is one of the best I’ve encountered – articulate, reasoned, and above all, principled. You can read the whole of it here. (While you’re at it, this one is worth a look, too.)

I’m not going to tell you how to use your vote (that’s ultimately between you and God); nor am I wishing to spark a political debate in the comment section below. But I would ask you to prayerfully consider what Thabiti has to say, regardless of your thoughts on Romney or third-party candidates.

And one more thing: “Beloved, let us love one another.” Christian bloggers from every corner of the web have weighed in on the 2012 election. Some of these posts are good, even great; others are fairly dripping with acid. The logic (or rather, illogic) seems to run this way:

_____ does not agree with me. Which means _____ must be an idiot or a villain. Which means I am justified in pouring all manner of wrath and scorn upon _____’s head.

Pathetic. Pointless. Godless. Vitriolic language will get us nowhere, friends, and it is completely unbecoming of those to bear the name of Christ.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have aprophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:1-3)

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6 thoughts on “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the 2012 Election”

  1. For the first time, I find myself disagreeing with you, Ink Slinger, and disagreeing strenuously. You say you have read extensively from both sides of this argument, so I will not reiterate all the flaws with Thabiti’s reasoning. I would like to discuss a few things about it, though.

    My first quibble would be directly with you, though. You say that, above all, Thabiti’s article is principled, and you say it as though you are contrasting that with those writing from the other side. For clarification, are you truly saying that you have read none from the other side that you would consider principled? What makes Thabiti’s principled,? And can you give me an example of why someone else’s is not, please, so I understand what you are saying.

    Thabiti says that the greatest sea changes in American political history have not come about through Presidents and party loyalists, but I disagree. MLK’s efforts would have died long ago if not for a President (LBJ) and Democrat party loyalists willing to support his cause for their own selfish interests. Dr. King was a principled man standing firm for human rights, but if not for his posthumous success in moving the political machine, his loyalists would be in the same position today that principled pro-lifers are: standing firm, by God’s grace making a difference in a few lives, and making a statement–but not making much of a difference in the political landscape.

    Dr. King was NOT a politician, as Thabiti acknowledges. What we are arguing about is the election of politicians, so let me turn my comments to that.

    1.) I am voting my conscience in this election. I will be casting a vote for the Romney/Ryan ticket. I am NOT voting for “the lesser of two evils” any more than I would be if I voted for Saint Peter himself, or any of the outliers in this election, like Ron Paul, Virgil Goode, Gary Johnson, or whoever else people wrongly believe is above any potential for evil. Just because Romney was not my first choice in the primaries does not mean I am unprincipled in casting my ballot for him in the general election.

    2.) We are not given the responsibility of electing a Spiritual Advisor in Chief. God had priests to oversee the spiritual realm even when He set up kings to govern the civil realm. What Christians need is a government that will leave them unmolested with regard to their religious lives. Romney will do that.

    3.) Men who show up for the general election without having been willing or able to show up for the primaries shortchange the voters. They have not put their message out there for us to see and hear and study and debate. We know too little about them. The press, though I often loathe them, do not vet them for us. They are like football teams who bypassed the regular season and the playoffs, but still show up for the championship game because they believe they deserve a chance to play anyway. Their team did not have as many players, or as much money, and that little detail should not stop them from playing in the Super Bowl. After all, they are undefeated.

    Ink Slinger, you and Thabiti scorn the concept of a two-party system, and of working within it for incremental changes. I understand your frustration, as I am considerably older than at least you are. You are not old enough yet to be honestly jaded on that approach. :) How hard have you worked at it? The truth is, I do not think you or Thabiti have really tried that approach. Have you become a member of one of the two parties, and put in your time and work to rise to a position of leadership and influence at any level? School board? County commission? State legislature? US Congressman or Senator? Or simply party leadership roles? It is a long, hard process. I know a handful of people who have done it, and are making a difference in their states. Those become the people of tomorrow who help determine the next nominees. You may not like it, but that is how you will effect a change in the type person supported by one of the two major parties.

    Assuming you do not wish to work within either of those two parties, you would need to establish a new organization, or work within a third party already established, and build up your base by educating and impassioning people. It should be easier than ever to do that in this generation, with the internet. In a few more election cycles, you could possibly have enough of a voter base to truly be a contender. At this point, no one has yet done that. And I believe that if anyone ever started to make headway in that direction, it would not be long before that group splintered again, because they disagreed over an issue, and uncompromising idealists that they are they could not in good conscience continue to work together. Did you ever wonder why there are so many “third” parties? :)

    What we have now is so many splinter groups forming their own special interest third parties that none of them have any influence. None of them have the personnel or infrastructure or money or organization or strategy or message or platform to grow themselves into a serious contender in the general election. They are like just so many children who don’t like the outcome of the game, so they play by their own alternate rules, but demand the same playing field, same audience, same respect, same prize, as the teams who persevered by the rules, onerous though they might have been. They are the spoilers. They just show up at the end without having toiled for the months that the two major party candidates have, and enjoy spoiling things for one of them, most often the more conservative of the two.

    This could be simply because these parties and candidates have not fully considered the effect of what they are doing, or it could be because of selfish interest on the part of someone. They want to make a difference. They are not making a difference; they are making a statement to a small handful of people. They are making themselves feel good about themselves. They are spitting in the wind. People have been doing what those people are doing for decades, even centuries. Can you tell me what kind of positive difference any of them have made? Can you tell me anything about any of them? They are often headed up by people who wanted to be the captain of the ship, and were willing to abandon their post on the naval destroyer to captain a rowboat if it meant they could be in charge.

    I say those people would make a much more significant and meaningful difference if, instead of running for President of the United States, they put their efforts toward an action group of some sort, whatever their compelling interests are, that could be about the business of educating people to cultivate leaders who will run for office who believe as they believe, and who share their fundamental values.

    4.) Pragmatism is not necessarily opposed to principle. Pragmatism should play a role in a Christian’s decision-making process. Some would say, “Vote your conscience and leave the results to God,” which sounds more holy than voting for any other reason. But is it?

    Let us compare that to trusting God for His provision. Do you believe a man should labor at work in order to provide for his family, trusting God for sufficient wages and other provision to meet his family’s needs? Or should he simply trust God while he does no work and makes no other efforts to see his family’s needs met?

    Now: should a Christian use his ballot–bought with the blood of patriots who believed so fiercely in its importance that they were more willing to die than to forfeit liberty–for a wonderful God-fearing man (at least as far as we know, with our limited means of vetting him) who has no realistic hope of winning, but rather threatens to assist in a win for the most evil of all candidates? And trust God for the results?

    Or should a Christian study and pray, sincerely seeking God’s direction, and be willing to obey if God directs him to vote for someone in a major party, even if he is not perfect, while trusting God for the results? Our consciences should be directed by the Holy Spirit and God’s unchanging Word, not by our own ideas of who would make the best President.

    That is all for now. I was surprised that no one had posted any response when I started this. Maybe by now someone else has.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to leave such a *cough* in-depth argument. :) As I said in the post, though, I’m really not interested in getting into a political debate right now. That’s not a cop-out – it’s the truth. Other men have addressed the arguments you raised with far greater eloquence than I could, so for now, I’ll leave it to them.

  2. Ink, I find your logic confusing when it comes to whether or not someone’s an idiot, I mean, it’s quite clear: I’m brilliant and always right, you disagree with me, that makes you wrong, and being wrong is the equivalent of being an idiot. Also, you’re probably heretical. (And now that I’ve thrown that out there I have both effectively created a red herring that will distract people from the errors in my arguments as well scare people from supporting you.) What’s not to like about that??? :)

    In all seriousness, while I love your comments on logic, I disagree on voting, but since neither you nor I can vote, and since neither of us wants to get into a political debate, we’ll leave it at that.

    Though, just so we’re clear, I would destroy you if did debate it. :D

    Okay fine, I kid, but really, how could I resist that last line???

    1. “While I love your comments on logic, I disagree on voting…”

      Fair enough. In all honesty, I didn’t expect most of my readers would agree with me, and that’s fine. At least you were civil about it… apart from calling me idiotic and heretical. ;)

      “… but since neither you nor I can vote, and since neither of us wants to get into a political debate, we’ll leave it at that.”

      Sounds like a plan. :)

  3. Dear Inkslinger,

    Just curious, whose assesment (from a biblical perspective) in your opinion was most compelling for the “to vote” crowd?

    Blessings, charisse

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