Politics in Texas grew to a fever pitch in recent months in the wake of the ongoing saga over Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s subpoena of pastors’ sermons and mid-term elections that produced a new governor, new lieutenant governor and new attorney general for the Lone Star State.
The political involvement of Christians ranges across the intensity spectrum from fanatic to oblivious. Regardless of which political party you align with, the right to vote is a privilege and a responsibility that every Christian should take seriously.
I’ll admit, I considered skipping long lines at the polls on Election Day. However, something I heard regarding last year’s Houston mayoral election prompted me to reconsider.
As more than 6,000 gathered Nov. 2 for the I Stand Sunday rally in support of the five Houston-area pastors subpoenaed for their sermons, one of the participants mentioned that only around 10 percent of registered voters in Houston turned out for the 2013 election, where Parker was re-elected.
Even if this number was approximate, it’s still telling. Imagine what might have happened if conservative Christians in Houston had exercised their right to vote last November. The outcome of the mayoral election likely would have been different, and the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance likely would have never been on the docket in May.
Yet, now, Christians are up in arms over the city’s infringement on religious liberty, and rightfully so. However, there’s no doubt that many of them are at least partially to blame because they abstained from the ballot box last November.
Certainly as Christians we realize that our hope is not found in government, and the state of Texas—as glorious as it may be—is not our true home. However, in the United States we have the freedom and obligation to let our voices be heard, which is best done proactively at the polls rather than reactively after elected officials pass legislation we dislike. We should do both, but the latter without the former seems disingenuous.
This article is not meant to make you feel guilty if you didn’t vote. Hopefully, it will encourage you to make sure you exercise your right to vote in future elections and to consider how you can be both a good citizen of the state as well as a good citizen of the kingdom of God.
It’s growing increasingly apparent what happens when Christians remove themselves from the public square. We must not cower in fear nor should we be obnoxious revelers. There are ways you can be a responsible citizen, maintain your Christian convictions and make a difference. Here are a few suggestions to consider:
- Look for ways to be involved in the public sector. This could include running for a position on your local school board, city council or other civil office.
- Volunteer in your community. City officials are always looking for individuals to help organize or serve at community events. I know of many church planters who have found serving their city in these ways gives them credibility in the community and opens doors for ministry.
- Get to know and pray for elected officials, even if you disagree with their positions. What might it look like if your local city council received consistent notes of encouragement letting them know that you care about them and are praying for them? Who knows, those prayers may go a long way in turning their hearts toward God.
- Vote in all elections, not just the “big” ones. You never know what ordinance or decision may have a significant impact down the road.
- As much as possible, without violating the Word of God, submit yourself to those in authority over you. Peter’s words to fellow sojourners is helpful here:
“Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17)
Imagine the impact convictional kindness and community involvement can have in your city, in Texas and in the United States. In this way, Christians can be “in the world but not of the world.”
This article first appeared in the TEXAN Digital Magazine.