Monday, November 15, 2010

Is it a sin to vote?

David Brewer, a justice of the US Supreme Court delivered a lecture to students at Yale University in 1902 which included this explanation of the sanctity of democracy in America:

"[The voting booth] is the temple of American institutions. No single tribe or family is chosen to watch the sacred fires... Each of us is a priest. To each is given the care of the ark of the covenant. Each one ministers at its altars."

(Cited by Michael Walzer in Exodus and Revolution, 113)

And if this religious fervor has done anything in the last century, it has only grown. Which means of course that conscientious Christians must be asking themselves, 'Which deity is being served at this temple?' And then very quickly after that, we ought to wonder if it is a sin to vote and if not yet, when?

What would it take to make casting a ballot in the general election on par with tossing a pinch of incense onto the altar before the emperor? At what point should Christians politely refuse to say the Pledge or sing the National Anthem or God Bless America at the ballgames?


brendan said...

I long ago decided against reciting the Pledge; it would have me devoting myself to a symbol of a comforting and all-but-meaningless abstraction. As for voting, I'm cynical about it now, but not so cynical that I don't participate. It remains to be seen if that cynicism will have to molt into a more principled stance against participating at all.

Toby said...

Yeah, my questions here are just questions at this point, but I do wonder about the genealogy of idolatry. Do people notice when things become idols? And at what point does something cross the line from ambiguous/could be idolatry to definitely being idolatry...?