While a number of Christian leaders have openly debated whether abstaining from voting in the upcoming presidential election is a valid option, for 1.3 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in America, choosing not to vote is what they believe Jesus would do.
“We don’t pledge allegiance to a national icon,” Robert Hendriks, U.S. spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, told The San Diego Union-Tribune in a recent interview. “We pledge allegiance to God’s kingdom.”
While “the act of voting is not a problem,” for members of the Christian sect that boast adherents such as tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, “the act of voting for a particular political candidate or issue would be a problem,” Hendriks explained.
“That would be a violation of our neutrality and that would clearly not put us in line with the way Jesus would have acted,” said the 55-year-old Hendriks who was raised in the faith. “Once we take a stand for a political party or leader, we stand against our brothers and sisters.”
While some Christians have argued that voting could be covered by Jesus’ “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” in Matthew 22:21, Jehovah’s Witnesses argue on their website that the Bible provides “solid reasons” for why they should “not lobby, vote for political parties or candidates, run for government office, or participate in any action to change governments.”
In John 6:15, they argue, Jesus taught His disciples to be “no part of the world” and made it clear that they should not take sides in political issues.
They further argue that by staying out of political races, they prevent division along political lines among their members.
“Since we avoid political divisions, we are united as an international brotherhood. (Colossians 3:14; 1 Peter 2:17) In contrast, religions that meddle in politics divide their members.—1 Corinthians 1:10,” they said.
Jehovah's Witnesses make up 0.8% of U.S. adults, according to the Pew Research Center. Though they consider themselves Christians, they do not hold to what many consider core Christian beliefs such as the Trinity and that Jesus is God.
Hendriks' comments come after California megachurch pastor Fred Price Jr. recently argued that Christians could make a conscientious decision to abstain from voting because voting “for the lesser of two evils is still evil.”
“Some of you have decided I’m going to vote for the lesser of two evils. Hey, if that helps you sleep at night, I get it. Do you know that you’re still voting for evil? The lesser of two evils is still evil. It’s just less evil than the other evil,” said Price, who leads Crenshaw Christian Center, in a response to a question from his social media followers on “How should Christians vote?”
Price said he would still vote in the upcoming presidential election.
Influential Christian leader and theologian John Piper sparked debate after sharing his personal choice to not vote for either of the candidates of the two major political parties this election cycle.
“When I consider the remote possibility that I might do any good by endorsing the devastation already evident in the two choices before me, I am loath to undermine my calling (and the church’s mission) to stand for Christ-exalting faith and hope and love,” Piper wrote.
“I will be asked to give an account of my devotion to this life-giving calling. The world will ask. And the Lord of heaven will ask. And my conscience will ask. What will I say?” he continued. “With a cheerful smile, I will explain to my unbelieving neighbor why my allegiance to Jesus set me at odds with death — death by abortion and death by arrogance.”
David C. Pack, pastor general of The Restored Church of God, has also made the case on his website for Christians to not vote, noting that, “Christ would not vote, because He understands the origin of the governments of this world and who is behind them. Satan holds sway over all governments and nations.
“Three times in the gospel of John, Christ Himself refers to Satan the devil as ‘the prince of this world.’ John 12:31, 16:11 and 14:30 make plain that in the future the ‘prince of this world’ will be judged because, as Christ says in 14:30, the devil ‘has nothing in Me.’ Take time to read these verses. John 12:31 parallels the judgment of this world with Satan’s coming judgment. This is because this is his world!” Pack said.
“God never works either through men like this or a system that promotes them. He knows that political elections corrupt people, and He cannot work in a process where men must corrupt themselves in order to rise. God does not need men’s votes to elevate His choice to higher office. Democracy, in either a civil or religious setting, is a human invention not of God!”
Many Christians, meanwhile, have been encouraging fellow believers to go to the polls through efforts like Souls to the Polls and Faith & Freedom Coalition's knocking on doors campaign, among others.