1. Refusing to Participate in Evil: When we vote, we are choosing to support choices an individual and/or platform says they're going to make. If a candidate says "I will do X" and you vote for their platform, then you knowingly signed your name to X policy. Even if you disagree with this policy, when you knowingly voted for a candidate who said they would push forward or perform action X, you still decided to support them and their intention to further evil.
But what if all parties, especially the major parties of Democrats and Republicans, propose immoral choices? I'm not talking about basic differences in economic thought or general policies. I mean moral issues - issues centered around race, mercy, justice and equality, human value, family values, etc. If you vote for a party or candidate who tells you through actions or words that they will support something evil, then we as Christians should keep our name, and through us, Christ's name, from participating in evil through our affirmation of it in our vote.
This isn't just hypothetical. We can see how a call to abstain from certain aspects and levels of the government played out in the early church. The early church called for converts to Christianity to give up certain positions in government (magistrates, proconsuls, and those in the army) if it conflicted with Christian morals. There were three main reasons the church took issue with particular government roles: 1) many offices required idol worship and sacrifices to idols, 2) certain positions in the army and government involved killing or violence (done directly with the sword or indirectly through command and edict), and the church even abhorred the thought of Christians participating in "just" capital punishment, and 3) the taking of oaths, as forbidden by Christ, was also forbidden by the early church.
Beyond the example of the early church, we have also seen conservative Evangelicals agree with the point I'm trying to make here. For decades many conservative Evangelicals have argued that you can't vote Democrat with a clear conscience, because to do so adds the moral weight of abortion to your ledger. I wholeheartedly agree with that. However, abortion is not the only weighty moral issue for which voting makes you culpable. Different platforms and different candidates have all sorts of evils you sign on to if you vote for them. What evils are you willing to be culpable for? What evils would Christ get behind? I don't believe that Christ would endorse our participation in evil, but would rather have us remain holy, living sacrifices who are examples to the world that our hope is not in their systems of power. We don't need to embrace an evil in order to win and in order to live dedicated, generous, loving, productive lives which can change the world. We don't ultimately and meaningfully change the world through voting, but through our dedicated and distinct obedience to God. When voting puts integrity, obedience, service, and love on the line, it seems the Christian thing to do is choose the latter over the former.
Christians, then, should consider both Christ's commands and the early church example when engaging in government. If the only option available to you is to vote for an individual, office, or party which is compromised by evil, you should consider abstaining from your vote rather than endorsing evil.
2. Refusing Personal Idolatry: Politics has undoubtedly become the seat of power in this world in the minds of most. Politics is where we make a difference in the world, isn't it? If we don't engage in politics, what hope do we have? We give lip service to personal integrity and the body of Christ, but who believes that those are really the things which make a difference in this world? How could a love for one another and an exemplification of loving, diverse communities possibly change a country as big as the United States? We don't think we need unity. Instead, we need someone who can create and impose legislation on the other half of the country - the half which is morally off-the-rails. With this mindset, we are willing to sacrifice much of our time, money, and attention to politics - and above all (as Yoder says) we are willing to sacrifice our enemies to this system.
If you recognize that politics are an idol to you, for the sake of your own heart and soul, you should consider abstaining from the next vote. While a glutton may benefit from food when eaten at appropriate times, with appropriate motivations, and in appropriate measures - his idolatrous participation in eating is a danger to his soul. Food may nourish, at times. But it can also corrupt (or more accurately, be the tool a corrupt heart uses for ill). For the glutton, abstention from food may sometimes be of benefit.The same may be true of voting. Jesus said if you call someone a fool, you're in danger of hellfire. I think that includes calling those from the other party fools as well. If you place your hope and salvation in the political sphere, if engaging in politics causes you to be judgmental and hateful towards others (even your enemies), then it may be better for your soul to abstain from voting. It may soothe your soul to give up a vote and therefore give up your need for feeling in control, for feeling powerful, and for feeling self-righteous. Withdrawing a little may help you develop love for others, empathy for your enemies, or a renewed focus on prayer and God's sovereignty.
3. Refusing to Prop Up a Disunifying System: Stanley Hauerwas has a fantastic video where he explains what voting is. Simply put, voting is coercive. 50.1% of people get to tell the other 49.9% how to live and this decision is enforced through the government. The real value of a system where voting exists doesn't lie in the imposition of our wills on others, but on the conversation which tend to surround voting season. If our system fractures to a point where we stop having good conversations, where lines are sharply divided, where civility disappears, and where a vote is stripped of that which makes it truly valuable (the conversation), it leaves us only with the coercive feature of voting. This is devastating. First, our votes become misinformed, as views developed without conversation are simply views resounded in an echo chamber. Second, our votes become more centered around our personal needs and consumerism rather than the needs of others (since we don't listen to anyone else). In this system we vote for the best commercial and what we think will feed our materialism, or we vote straight down party lines without conversation. Voting in such a system (or at least voting for the major parties) may not only encourage a hateful heart in you, it may also encourage the continuation of this broken system as we keep feeding it votes.
Conclusion: I'm sure most people won't read this and decide to abstain from voting. That's fine. At this point, I think the issue falls within the wide realm of Christian liberty. However, I hope it helps you to have respect for those who may abstain for good reasons, and I hope it causes you to be more introspective about your idols, your hopes, and your saviors as you seek to expand the Kingdom of Christ in this world.
Resources: There are a number of good resources which give you some perspectives on why some Christians sometimes or always refuse to vote. Hopefully this conversation helps you to show grace to these brothers and sisters in Christ, and hopefully it helps you to reflect on your own walk with God.
-Thoughts on Christian Civic Engagement (Article): A good, brief summary of why voting takes too much prominence in many of our lives. This is a particularly good resource because it highlights how voting is actually a minor part of our civic duty. Many who vote abstain from taking on real, meaningful civic duties, while some who abstain from voting are extremely involved in deep, civic responsibilities.
- Voting as Coercion and the Roman Circus (Video): Stanley Hauerwas does a short talk on the nature of voting.
-Electing not to Vote (book): A number of testimonial essays from individuals who were convicted not to vote.
-Voting: An Abdication of Responsibility (Video): An interesting perspective on why this individual thinks voting and participation in the system is always the wrong choice for Christians. He also has a debate you can find here to see some push-back on him.
- I would also recommend researching John Howard Yoder and Stanley Hauerwas. They have wonderful material that isn't usually directly opposed to voting (both men voted), but they downplay the importance of it and do a good job undercutting the notion of its patriotic ethos and sanctification of it as a divine duty.