Beliefs Politics

Neither Obama nor Romney? Some Christians vote for ‘None of the Above’

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(RNS) Is it a sin not to vote? Or perhaps a virtue?

The question may seem surprising, especially in a nail-biter of an election in which every vote will count and both sides argue that the future of the nation is at stake.

Is it a sin not to vote? Or a virtue? Some disappointed Christians on both sides of aisle - especially evangelicals and Catholics - are advocating the merits of boycotting the ballot box on Nov. 6.

Is it a sin not to vote? Or a virtue? Some disappointed Christians on both sides of aisle – especially evangelicals and Catholics – are advocating the merits of boycotting the ballot box on Nov. 6.

But in columns and blog posts in recent months, a number of mainstream Christians on both sides of the aisle – particularly evangelicals and Catholics – have been advocating and agonizing over the merits of boycotting the ballot box on Nov. 6.

Many are disappointed with their usual candidate but can’t bring themselves to vote for the opposition, while others are just fed up with the entire system and feel they have no choice but to abstain.

“Although political disengagement may not be a ‘moral option,’ I have decided I won’t vote next month,” Jen Pollack Michel wrote Monday (Oct. 22) in a blog post at Christianity Today, the leading evangelical magazine.

Politically speaking, Michel said she had always been a classic evangelical: white, middle class, reliably Republican. But she traced her growing disillusionment with the GOP to a range of issues, especially the party’s health care policies. And yet she said she can’t pull the lever for President Barack Obama, either.

Other evangelicals say they will also opt out, though they have cited varying religious justifications.

Dwight McKissic Sr., a prominent black Southern Baptist who leads the Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, shocked many followers by declaring that he couldn’t vote for Obama because of the president’s stance on gay marriage and abortion. But he said he also couldn’t vote for Gov. Mitt Romney because of what he contends are “racist teachings” in Mormon scriptures.

“When faced with the choice of two evils, my philosophy is to choose neither,” McKissic wrote in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in September. McKissic said he is considering a write-in vote for Jesus Christ instead.

At Catholic websites with a progressive bent, on the other hand, theologians and writers who in the past supported the president have been wondering for months whether to vote or not.

Julia Smucker, a contributor to the Vox Nova blog who identifies as a “Mennonite Catholic,” wrote in July that Obama had disappointed her so much she may not vote for anyone. Meanwhile her colleague Kyle Cupp said he found both campaigns so vacuous that he has “almost reached the point of not caring.”

Similarly, Jana Bennett, a professor of theological ethics at the University of Dayton in battleground Ohio, wrote a column at the Catholic Moral Theology blog saying she is considering voting for a third-party candidate or not at all because neither party adequately represents her beliefs.

“Something has tipped for me this election and it’s the way I think I’m being asked to rip myself in half, figuratively speaking, by one party or the other, or both,” Bennett wrote in early October, lamenting “the stupidity of the apparent choice with which I am faced in the election.”

“The stark disparity between the two party’s platforms indicates to me that regardless of who ‘wins’ in November, the net result will be that nothing will continue to get done,” she said. “In a two party system, we seem to have only one choice, even if that choice splits us down the middle.”

Bennett’s colleague at the University of Dayton, Kelly Johnson, also advocated not voting, though she framed the decision as a fast in which believers should “abstain from some good for the sake of orienting our desires toward a higher good.”

“Abstaining from voting for now would recognize that in this setting and for us, elections can be an occasion of sin and a site for scandal,” Johnson wrote last spring. “Paul abstained from meat sacrificed to idols for the sake of other Christians; Catholics could abstain from U.S. party politics, for the sake of all of us, Catholics and non-Catholics, who are misled by such efforts.”

Historically, only the pacifist Anabaptist movements, like the Mennonites, have been known for rejecting any involvement in politics or the machinery of state. Their suspicion of church-state alliances stems, in part, from their persecution at the hands of both Protestants and Catholics in 16th-century Europe.

Yet even as the Anabaptist community in the U.S. has tilted toward deeper political engagement in recent years, in 2004, Goshen College history professor John D. Roth stirred controversy with a passionate five-point exhortation about why he would not vote in the presidential election – and why his coreligionists shouldn’t either.

But if not voting is a somewhat familiar stance for Anabaptists, evangelicals and Catholics have traditionally viewed political activity as almost a sacred duty.

“Voting is a civic sacrament,” the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, former president of Notre Dame, once put it. The official Catholic catechism echoes that view, saying it is “morally obligatory to … exercise the right to vote,” citing scriptural injunctions to obey the proper authorities to make its case.

For U.S. Catholics, political participation was also important for an immigrant community that was trying to be seen as fully American. Evangelicals emerging from their Bible Belt isolation in the 1970s saw politics as crucial to stanching what they saw as the moral deterioration of American society. Both groups also hold to mainstream Christian theology that allows for a “moral realism” when it comes to waging a just war, for example, or taking other steps that might not be exactly what Jesus would do.

In recent years, however, some influential voices have called for a radically different approach that focuses not just on separating oneself from politics as much as on protesting – and perhaps changing – the entire political culture by abstaining.

In 2004, philosopher and ethicist Alasdair MacIntyre – a convert to Catholicism – wrote a widely circulated essay in Notre Dame magazine in which he argued that neither party presented an acceptable alternative for a believing Christian. “The only vote worth casting in November,” he said, “is a vote that no one will be able to cast, a vote against a system.” As a result, he said the only option was to not vote at all.

MacIntyre’s essay struck a chord then, and versions of his proposal seem to be proliferating in this election cycle.

Which is not to say that sitting out the election is going to sit well with most Christian leaders, liberal or conservative.

“Christians who boycott voting are opting out of civic responsibility and neighbor love,” said Russell D. Moore, dean of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Moore said abstaining on Election Day is “more akin to Pontius Pilate washing his hands rather than John the Baptist taking on the powers-that-be” – a form of utopianism, he said, “in which Christians find no candidate pure enough to be trusted.”

“In any election, we are not voting for a Mayor of the heavenly New Jerusalem; that office is occupied. We are entrusting a group of fallen sinners – as we all are – to lead us in navigating the common good.”

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About the author

David Gibson

David Gibson is a national reporter for RNS and an award-winning religion journalist, author and filmmaker. He has written several books on Catholic topics. His latest book is on biblical artifacts: "Finding Jesus: Faith. Fact. Forgery," which was also the basis of a popular CNN series.

25 Comments

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  • Interesting. I know friends of mine have considered not voting this round as well. We Are split in half for sure.

  • For heaven’s sake, such apathy!! Only in America will you find such indifference when it comes to voting! We’ve all forgotten what a privilege it is to vote! People—America stands on the edge of a cliff. This election will determine whether or not we are saved from the brink of disaster or pushed over the edge! Your vote is crucial! I’m voting for Romney. I am a devout Roman Catholic, Romney is not–but he is a man of faith who is devoted to his family and his Church! He is a good businessman and will help us with the financial disaster Obama has created! He is pro-life and I believe with prayer he could be persuaded to overturn roe v. wade in the near future! For heaven’s sake, if you can’t agree on anything else at least let THIS be a reason to cast a vote! Obama is the most pro-choice president that’s ever occupied the White House! For the sake of our country and future, he must not be re-elected!

  • Please, folks. Obama the Muslim plant is trying to take our country down. Look at history, socialism has never ended well.

    Agreed, Romney isn’t perfect, but a vote for Romney is a vote against Obama.

  • Is it a sin not to vote? No. But, I practice a religion with a very different concept of sin, so the question has little meaning to me. In fact, I might go so far as, to me, there is no such thing as a sin when you define it as an act prohibited by the gods. Regardless, even if you define it simply as an act prohibited by society and reduce it to the level of a crime, it’s still not a sin (nor a crime) to avoid voting.

    That said, I do think that we should consider the moral imperative to vote. To do so is a righteous act, perhaps one of the most righteous acts, that we can take as citizens. It is the method by which we influence our own direction and the direction of our country. To avoid voting is to relinquish your voice to others and I don’t think any of us should be comfortable doing so.

    If you’re not happy with the Democratic and the Republican nominee, remember there are third parties. Are they going to win? Certainly not, but if more and more and more of us support an alternative to the zero-sum game between the left and right, eventually that game is upset.

  • different puppets / same puppet master.

    the lesser of 2 evils is STILL evil.
    I will not stand before God explaining such a vote.
    VOTE serious PRO LIFE!!,
    someone w/a consistent pro life record, not changing according to the polls.

    make a stand for the Lord!!
    write in a candidate.

    obamny is change that is meaningless.
    IT MATTERS THIS TIME.
    GOD IS WATCHING.

  • Seriously, those who are planning not to vote and to vote third party, aren’t you guys just being used by the devil ?

    You don’t want to vote the lesser of two evils? Well, BAD NEWS, when you don’t vote for the lesser of two evils, you have already voted for OBAMA, the greatest evil now. THese are the consequences:

    1. We won’t have enough of supreme court judges that would overturn ROE vs WADE.

    2. Muslim Brotherhood is in cohorts with OBAMA and we all know that he is very sympathetic with MUSLIMS (as probably he is a secret Muslim).

    3. The push for genocide through abortion to third world countries will continue as it is now.

    DON”T YOU GUYS SEE? YOu all claim you want to stand before God saying you voted with a good conscience. You are NOT!. We will not wait for the “perfect” candidate but we chose somebody who has the likely chance of being converted. BE INNOCENT AS DOVES and WISE AS SERPENTS. THis is total FOOLISHNESS and SINFUL to abstain from voting and voting third party to make Obama win. Yep, that is what the consequence is.

    Jesus even praised the unjust servants for being wise.

    Don’t sabotage this election for the sake of the unborn children.We can’t have the perfect pie yet but it is better to be able to save 10 unborn babies than none at all. We all wish we could save them all but that is not how things are working now. We have to convert the culture if we have to stop abortion. And we have a long way to go to do that. And putting OBAMA for 4 more years will push us off the cliffs and I pray not an irreversible moral decline.

    Those abstaining and third party voters just gets me mad for they are complicit to evil in the end analysis.

  • I think that this election is special in that the writing is on the wall regarding following gospel values or not. If you don’t vote and the radical left ideals win, then you have participated in anti-values being written in stone.

  • This is a tough one indeed. Ryan let me down in the debate…..made the Catholic Church look stupid….Why did he not tell the truth….POLITICIANs all of them.
    He did a Peter act so I guess he is forgiven by Christ.
    Nonetheless, what is really Romney’s agenda? Mormons are not Christians,,,they are polytheistic and have a strange understanding of taking over the land …..I am not happy about this plus the end of the racism in their church being forced on them when they were threatened to lose their tax exemption in the 70’s. Maybe Ryan was taken on to mask the uglies and get the roving and unobserving Catholic vote. Romney lied his way to win the Republican primaries.
    Hence we have a chance to write in someone whom we can research and say is THE PROLIFE candidate and make a statement.
    God have mercy on us!

  • I was listening to relevant radio awhile back and a priest on there was talking about the upcoming elections and he said that something that we as Catholics should go out there and vote and he also said that we should vote for the lesser of the two evils.

  • I’m pretty surprised by how far “out there” some of these comments are. Obama a Muslim? This election is going to determine our salvation or damnation? Really?

  • Your vote matters. To vote for Obama is to vote for abortion, euthanasia, loss of religious freedom (HHS Mandate), and creeping socialism, which is known to be a stepping stone to full blown communism. He has already said America is not a Christian country. When he speaks, he refers to “freedom to worship” not “freedom of religion.” Even in Communist Russia, they had freedom to worship if they did it individually and privately in their own homes. But no public expression of worship was allowed. If you vote against him, even if Obama wins, your vote will be tallied as a voice in opposition to these policies. If there are many counted as opposition, it is harder for Obama to pretend everyone agrees with him. Do not allow evil to win by default. Is it a sin not to vote? No. Will it be a tragedy? YES. Please vote!

  • I completely agree with the comment above. Please please please reconsider. To vote for “Jesus Christ” in this situation is to cast a vote for the most “anti Christian” President ever. I really think the choice is clear if you look at the vast difference in their life and religious freedom policies. So much depends on this election, and we need Christians to understand the issues and VOTE according to our Judeo Christian morals.

  • “Not to decide, IS to decide.” Please vote against the infringement of our God given rights of life, liberty, and happiness by the Obama regime, and cast a vote for Romney. If a good Catholic like Paul Ryan can stand beside him, other good Catholics should too. The future of this country is at stake…PLEASE VOTE!

  • The online survey question should have been more properly styled; “Is it a sin to vote?” The answer to this hypothetical question is; “YES!” The only exceptions would be for referendums where voters are able to directly vote against immoral political concerns, such as same sex marriage, abortion, school budgets, etc.

    The reason it is immoral to vote, otherwise, is because all major political parties, including the Constitutional Party (which immorally supports the abortion of unborn babies if they supposedly infringe upon the life of the mother), support some form of murder of unborn babies. Further, most of the major political parties, including the Democratic and Republican parties, support homosexuality. While the Republican Party has said it is 100 percent pro-life in its platform, this is is a ruse to gain the support of conservative voters. In fact, to this day, Mitt Romney unabashedly still supports the murder of unborn babies in the cases of incest, rape and the life of the mother; and the vast majority of Republicans in Congress, including Paul Ryan, have consistently voted for annual Omnibus Budget Acts that has given billions of dollars (over the years) in funding for population control/planned parenthood programs at home and abroad. If you vote for Romney, you become an obvious collaborator in the murder of unborn babies in these cases. In the case of Obama, you become a collaborator in the murder of unborn babies in all cases. It would be wise to remember the famous phrase, “NEVER TRUST A POLITICIAN.”

    There is one way you can cast your vote for Jesus Christ on election day without voting and that is by praying and fasting with the intent of asking God to prevent the most offensive political leaders from coming to power and to limit the evil of the mostly immoral politicians that do come to power. For Christians to say that to not vote on election day is a vote for Obama belies Christians who lack FAITH in the WORD OF GOD and the many promises given in that WORD, by Jesus, to those who truly follow Him. Remember, Jesus said that if His followers have the faith of a mustard seed they can move a mountain (in this case, that mountain is Obama!). Jesus, through his Word, also said; “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16).” However, how can a Christian be righteous if he or she votes for any politician who supports and promotes the murder of unborn babies and/or homosexuality! Jesus also warned that if a person is lukewarm, he will be spit out.

    Lukewarm Christians are those who feel they have to compromise on the moral issues to bring about a greater good. This belief is morally bankrupt because the ante can always be raised to the point where the “lesser of two evils” situation could end up in an election where voters have to decide between a Hitler-like politician and Stalin-like politician. This “lesser of two evils” antichrist theology is really a slippery slop, or a broad open road, to hell. The claimed moral ends can never justify the immoral means needed to obtain those ends. SIMPLY PUT, THOSE WHO VOTE FOR THE LESSOR OF TWO EVILS — ARE STILL SUPPORTING EVIL!

    Be honest with yourselves, Jesus ABSOLUTELY WOULD NEVER vote for any politicians who support any form of grave sin (e.g., all birth control methods except continence/abstinence; heterosexual promiscuity; homosexuality; immoral sexual education programs; racism; the occult; murder; etc.). Since the servant can not be greater than the master, we as Christians can also not vote for these immoral politicians. INSTEAD, PRAY AND FAST!

  • Notice how the choices get progressively worse each election cycle. A vote for the “lesser of two evils” is indeed still a vote for evil. It seems that when the dust clears, all these faithful, pro-life, pro-marriage Catholics can say for Mitt Romney is that he is not Barack Obama.

    Well, sorry folks, that’s just not good enough for me. In 2008, for the first time, I voted for a candidate for President that was not from one of the two major political parties. In 2012, I will vote on November 6, but in the presidential race I will either write in a name or I will leave it blank — I call it voting “present.”

    I will not vote for Obama, so I reject the notion that my vote is tantamount to a vote for Obama. I cannot in good conscience stand before God having knowingly voted for either Obama or Romney, so I also reject the notion that I and others like me are complicit in evil. In fact, it is just the opposite. I recognize that both major parties have put evil men, ready to do the bidding of the international bankers in controlling the population, on the ballot. The fact that they along with their shills in the corporate news media have marginalized viable candidates like Ron Paul to the point of being non-factors does not mean I have to settle for it. Sorry, bankers, globalists who are intent in destroying America as we have known it, I’m sending your menu back. I’ll even go so far as to say at this point that, for a Christian, a vote for Romney just because he is not Obama is a vote to further an evil system.

    I hear the cries, “But we just can’t have four more years of Obama!” But four years (or more) of Romney will give you what? A return to criminalizing the murder of unborn babies? Not hardly. A stronger defense of marriage between one man and one woman? Think again. An end to the unconstitutional, illegal, immoral use of the military to murder people in other countries who have never had a qualm against us? No way; Romney and Paul Ryan are bloodthirsty warmongers of the worst kind.

    So here’s a challenge for those you who insist on voting for Romney while acknowledging him as the “lesser” of two evils: What will YOU do, starting the day after the election, to attempt to improve the choices for the American people in the next election cycle? What will YOU be doing over the next four years to begin to change the political culture in this country, so that the environment is conducive for good men and women to truly have a chance to make difference for life, marriage, and family by gaining elective office in this country?

  • I am so sorry to hear there are people who will stand back and watch the destruction of this great nation without putting up a fight. At least if we get Romney into the White House this country has a chance. Then we need to really be vigilant and let the politicians know we will not stand for “business as usual”. We can make a difference if we VOTE. If we don’t vote, we are part of the problem and we can’t just smugly stand by and say “I don’t like either candidate” so I will just sit back and watch the results of allowing President Obama to turn this country into a place we don’t even recognize. There WILL BE persecution of Christians if he is re-elected and well meaning Christians like yourselves will be partially responsible for this. We can’t just stand back and do nothing! It makes me crazy to think that people would just say “if I can’t have the candidate I want, then I won’t participate in the process”. As a Catholic, the catechism clearly states it is our duty and responsibility to vote and the courageous Bishops this year have made it abundantly clear how we need to look at the issues. God knows Mitt Romney is not perfect… there IS NO PERFECT CANDIDATE other than Jesus Christ. Please prayerfully reconsider this foolish position of not voting at all. We will all pay the price for your failure to vote. God help us. We are really living in troubled times.

  • Even if you despise both presidential candidates, one of them is going to make the next Supreme Court appointments, keeping it conservative, or turning it liberal. So: if you want to preserve what’s left of the Constitution, don’t vote for Obama.
    If on the other hand you want a more socialistic, pro-New World order United States, –by all means vote for Obama.

  • Several have mentioned Supreme Court appointments. Wasn’t it Bush 43 who appointed Chief Justice Roberts, the man who upheld Obamacare? Reagan appointed Sandra Day O’Connor and Anthony Kennedy. Bush 41 gave us David Souter.

    Do not think that Romney’s justices will be better.

    By the by, Famijoly, I could not agree more with you.

  • I to won’t vote for either candidate, in stead of not voting I took my sample ballot and read up on all the others on the ballot running for President. With prayer and much research I came upon a man running named Thomas Hoefling .His bio stated a lot of the same biblical values I believe in.I will be able to vote for him and have no compromising any of the biblical values,no guilt of voting for the best of 2 evils 🙂 Check him out !

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