To Vote Or Not To Vote, That is the Question: When Abstaining to Vote is Morally Necessary

The Christian Obligation

I have often argued that voting is a Christian obligation. I have even contended that in voting cycles, when the choices are less than ideal, we still have an obligation to exercise our right to vote. My premise has always been that voting is a requirement of being a good steward of God given liberty, it is an expression of gratefulness to God for the gift of liberty, and it is an easy way to exercise gospel influence in a society. All of these things remain true. However, the 2016 Presidential election cycle has caused me to provide nuance to my position. What if my vote actually harms liberty? What if my gratitude for liberty compels me to not vote? What if my vote ultimately hurts gospel influence?

The reality is that there has never been a perfect Presidential candidate. In fact, there has never been a perfect civil leader anywhere at anytime in the history of the world. Even the leaders that were directly anointed by a prophet of God given by direct revelation were far from perfect. King Saul was a rebellious idolator. King David was a murdering adulterer who concealed the rape of his own daughter. King Solomon was not exactly committed to the principle of marriage being “one man, one woman, for life.” These were the leaders that God directly picked! Surely we as fallen sinners can’t do any better. In fact, these examples only serve to remind us that all men are fallen and every leader - even the best ones - leave us unsatisfied and longing for the reign of the Prince of Peace. So, we should just hold our nose and vote knowing that there is no such thing as an ideal leader outside of Jesus Christ himself. Right?!

2016 is Different

I believe this year may be different. Why is that? What makes it different? Here are a couple reasons.

First, I believe this election presents Christians with an unusual dilemma. The two primary choices we have in front of us are two fundamentally immoral people. I have no desire to list the evidence of arguably disqualifying immoral behavior except to say that even supporters of the two primary candidates for President of the United States do not trumpet integrity as a primary “selling point” to voters.

Second, some have pointed to problems in years past, like the Republican candidate in 2012, who was a Mormon. They suggest that many evangelical Christians voted for him four years ago and there is no ultimate difference now. I would simply suggest that when we elect a President who is a secular person to the office, it is not the same thing as electing an immoral person to the office. I would not demand that a President must be a Christian, although I certainly prefer it, however I would always demand that a President be moral.

Here in lies the difference. The Republican Presidential nominee in 2012 was at least presumably a moral man. And so when voting, a person could choose someone who they felt was honorable, respectable, and who would not disgrace the office or the country, even if they could not vote for a Christian. I am not confident there is a person who would not bring dishonor to the office or our country as a nominee of a major party in this election cycle.

What are our options?

So what does someone like me do? I feel compelled to vote “for the lesser of two evils” like I usually do and yet I am convinced that neither candidate has earned my vote and both candidates are evil. Furthermore, I am bothered by the reality that voting for someone makes me responsible on some level for the consequences of that vote.

I know the argument: “But if you don’t vote for that candidate, you are voting for the other candidate!” I reject this notion. That’s like saying to me when I am on a diet and wanting to avoid ice cream, “You have to choose to eat vanilla because if you don’t that’s eating chocolate!” NO! I CAN REFUSE TO EAT ICE CREAM ALTOGETHER! I don’t have to eat it just because the rest of the world is. You eat all the ice cream of whatever flavor you want but as for me and my house we will eat rice cakes while the rest of the world slides into a diabetic coma! I’m sorry, I got a little carried away with that analogy there…

So here is the bottom line. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 tells Christians to “abstain from every form of evil.” If you feel convinced that by voting you are participating in evil - even if it is a “lesser evil” - you do not have to choose it simply because you should vote.

There are other options. First, you can find a third party, like the Constitution party, to support. Second, you could be instrumental in starting a new major third party, which is long overdue in our nation. Third you could simply refuse to participate as a statement of radical separation from society, which is a view not foreign to Baptists in our heritage.

It is at least possible, that while this election may be “lost” the greater long term direction of our nation may be saved because Bible-believing, Spirit-wrought, Christ-following Christians start taking living out the faith seriously. We should always remember that the Christian’s primary influence has never been nor ever will be the ballot box. Our influence comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ. And the choices that we have before us now are a testimony to how poorly we have done in exercising that influence in the society because Christians have largely been more concerned about voting for their President in Washington D.C. than sharing the gospel with their lost neighbor.

I am not attempting to tell you that you should not vote in 2016 for President of the United States. I am simply telling you to follow your prayer-saturated, Bible-informed, Holy Spirit led conscience. Don’t let me or anyone else for that matter guilt you into violating your conscience. You have to live with your vote or lack thereof. In fact, so will your children and grand children. Just make sure that you have thoroughly walked through these ideas and you are making your decision on what to do in this coming election based upon a world-view shaped by the gospel and not by a secular political ideology.

I know. I hear you. “What about the Supreme Court? We could lose our country for generations!” My concern is much deeper than that. I fear our country is already lost. If our hopes of “saving our nation for future generations” hangs on either of these two primary candidates, we are in far deeper trouble than anybody wants to actually admit.

Patriotism in a Pagan Nation

Rowland BlogAmerica has joyfully and officially abandoned God. There is no substantial desire to follow His wisdom or commands. Our society has declared its independence from God and his influence. This did not begin with the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding homosexual marriage. This has been a generational slide that began with the sexual revolution in the 60’s. The first official shot was fired when abortion was legalized in the 70’s. Our nation’s refusal to repent from that abominable approval of mass murder has only led us closer to this day.

Read more: Patriotism in a Pagan Nation

Why the Color of the Dress Matters

thedress3Recently, the entire internet was blindsided by a worldwide debate over whether a dress was white and gold or black and blue. This question was posted and spread all over social media and it got an unusual amount of attention in a relatively short time period. The main reason why the attention was so intense was because of the surprising frustration and emotion that seemed to crop up over people's drastically different perceptions of the dress.

Read more: Why the Color of the Dress Matters

Society Wants it Both Ways

Rowland BlogI want to be very careful with this post. I debated whether or not to say anything just because the issue is so heated and delicate in our society on so many different levels. But I think it warrants some analysis from a Christian perspective.

I am referencing the latest controversy concerning ESPN host, Stephen A. Smith, and his comments addressing the Ray Rice domestic violence case
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To review: Ray Rice, an NFL football player with the Baltimore Ravens was seen on a casino camera dragging his girlfriend (now wife) out of a elevator after having hit her and knocked her unconscious.

Read more: Society Wants it Both Ways

Are you ready for the trip?

Rowland BlogMay is a month of anticipation. We are anticipating the end of the school year and the beginning of summer. Many of you have scheduled vacations and trips. Maybe you have a favorite hotel or you are going someplace new. You can hear the beach or mountains calling your name! Summer is a fun time of outdoors and relaxation. It is a time of travel and vacation. It is a time for family and togetherness… and many of us can’t wait!

Imagine if we all lived in this kind of constant anticipation of the return of Jesus. 2 Peter 3:12 talks about believers, “waiting for and hastening the coming day of the Lord.” The attitude of the church is to be one that lives with an anticipation of His return. We should live with an excitement that builds with every passing day. We are one day closer to his return!

What does anticipating his return do? Well, like anticipating a vacation makes us packed and ready for the vacation when it comes, anticipating the return of Christ makes us ready for his return. When he returns we want to be found packed and ready to go and not caught off guard.

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We are so Blessed

Rowland BlogWe are so blessed to be able to call Bovina Baptist Church our faith family! There are so many wonderful things going on in our midst. I want to highlight some of the many things I am praising God for in our church. (There are many other things that I do not have time to list - these are just a few.)
  1. I am praising God for our kids! We are seeing such wonderful ministry going on in our children's ministry. God has blessed us with so many children and we are going to focus on children's ministry in the upcoming year to make sure we are good stewards of those children as we train them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

    Read more: We are so Blessed

NEVER Rest From Worship

Rowland BlogYou have worked hard all year. Now summer is here! It is time for VACATION!!! Vacation is a word much discussed throughout the summer months. One of our biggest events of the year at our church has just ended and it even has vacation in the name, Vacation Bible School! Many of us look forward all year to summer vacation! July, in particular, is a time when many people have either just gotten back from vacation or are about to go on a vacation. Maybe you have a favorite vacation spot: the beach, the mountains, the lake, or even your front porch?

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Kid's Sermon Notes

Rowland BlogIn January I began encouraging our church kids to take notes during the sermon. Many started but now (May), only 7 (mostly 2nd-3rd graders) have continued to take the notes during these months. Every Sunday these kids bring the notes they took up to me and give them to me. Usually, I thank them, give them a high five, put them in my pocket and go on. They have been piling up over the last few months. This morning I got them out and read through them all.

Read more: Kid's Sermon Notes

Reasons Why I Am Praising God Today

Dr. Chas RowlandI woke up this morning from a dream. It was a very odd dream. I was sitting in my study, reading my Bible. I can't remember all of the verses that I was reading in my dream, but, many of them I do remember. Some I have posted on Facebook today. One verse in particular I remember because it bothered me in my dream when I read it. It bothered me so much that I have not been able to shake it all morning. The verses are, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 "Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you." When do we rejoice? ALWAYS! When do we pray? ALWAYS! When do we give thanks? ALWAYS!

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Do you spend time every day in the Bible?

Dr. Chas RowlandDo you spend time every day in the Bible? Are you devoted to a daily time of devotion unto God? Spiritual disciplines are critical to our spiritual health and maturity. If you are not giving that daily time to God, let me encourage you to do it. But how can we protect the quality of our time alone with God? Let me offer a few suggestions.

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Doing Church Right Is Doing Church Well

Dr. Chas RowlandHow should we "do church"? Do we have to sacrifice effectiveness for being Biblical? The longer I pastor, the more I see fads come and go, the more convinced I am that being Biblical is the only way to be truly effective in the long run. To do church well, we must do church right!

In the Pastoral Epistles, God outlines what His church should look like and how it should act. He defines what a church's leadership should do. He stresses what a church should believe. The Pastoral Epistles are our best tool with which to build a church. It is in the Pastoral Epistles that God lays out His ecclesiology. Paul wants to make it clear that ecclesiology matters!

Read more: Doing Church Right Is Doing Church Well

Blood Sweat and Tears

Dr. Chas RowlandCritical self-evaluation is important. It is necessary for success. There are times when a pastor or church planter has to take a time-out and honestly re-evaluate things. What is my church really like? Is my church doing what I want it to do? Does my church look like I want it to look? Asking these questions are critical to keep your church from becoming dry, dead, ineffective, and stagnant.

Read more: Blood Sweat and Tears