The 2020 Presidential campaign season is coming to an end and soon it will be election day. A day that habitually causes angst for many Christians who are often left to grapple with their own moral imperatives versus the ethical facts and realities of the time.
I say that because often times, people tend to vote for the window dressing and not the substance of the product. It’s like judging a book by its cover or in my case, buying a bottle of wine based on whether or not I like the label.
For example, someone may not want to vote for Candidate A because he doesn’t believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman, but will vote Candidate B who does believe marriage should only be between a man and woman…so much so that he has divorced two wives and is now working on a third divorce and 4th marriage.
Or, someone may not want to vote for Candidate C because of their opposition to make abortion illegal, but will vote for Candidate D who favors making abortion illegal, but has pushed for his pregnant mistress to have one because if she didn’t, it would destroy his political career.
On top of all that, many people cast their votes from a “what if” mindset. It’s as though people vote based on the fear of the unknown rather than the dismay of current events: “If he is elected he might do things we never thought he’d do so let’s vote for the other guy because at least we know what messed-up things he’s done in front of our faces.”
Then there are some (a lot actually) that seem to instinctually equate the act of voting to as nothing more than a decision of malevolence vs. maliciousness. A “vote for the lesser of two evils” or “vote for the devil you know, not the devil you don’t.” This is like playing a gallows version of would you rather: Would you rather be shot through the head or stabbed in the heart? Does it really matter which one is the lesser evil of the two? Either way, you’re bound to end up dead so, what’s the point?
With all the negative connotation associated with voting is it any wonder why the mere thought of voting has become a sad, gloomy, and miserable proposition? Why not, instead, take the approach of voting based on the Cardinal Virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance? But not from the perspective of which candidate is prudent or just or temperate. Rather, from our own prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance. After all, voting should be based on our own attitudes, feelings and beliefs. Not about the attitudes, feelings and beliefs of the person for whom we may or may not vote. But before we can vote from a place a virtue, we must first know what those virtues are and then how to apply them to voting.
To have prudence is to have the quality of being wise, so when we vote with prudence, we vote from a place of wisdom or intellect. It gives us the ability to judge correctly what is right and what is wrong in any given situation. What’s important is not to think that people choose to vote for wrong, rather, they vote for what they think is right. The problem is what many people think is right, isn’t. It seems a little farfetched to ever think that anyone purposefully or willfully votes for wrong. Instead it’s more a matter of voting for what they believe to be right because of a lack of prudence.
Justice seems a little easier to understand, however, that’s not always the case. Voting with justice doesn’t mean voting with a sense of tit-for-tat or giving the other side a taste of their own medicine or what’s good for the goose is good for the gander mindset. Justice is the equal sharing of rights between one and all. It is injustice when one person or a group of people are purposely withheld from their liberties; or those liberties are purposely withheld from a group of people or even one person. When we vote with a sense of justice, we vote for that which will attempt to give all people equal footing and not for one side or another to be given a leg up.
Fortitude, often referred to as courage, is the third virtue that should be considered when voting. However, when we say courage, we don’t really mean facing down danger as in an act of bravery. Voting with fortitude means holding true to your own principles of prudence and justice and not compromising those beliefs. The person you may end up voting for may not hold to the same opinions or beliefs, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up your own if you vote for them. It means you must work that much harder to not faulter in our own values. Now granted, it can be argued that those fighting for voting rights during this county’s history faced great threats of physical danger and were indeed courageous and brave. But they were also courageous in standing up for their convictions of what was right and fair just as much as they stood up to the physical risks of fire hoses, billy-clubs and attack dogs. Their beliefs were equal rights and they never backed down from those beliefs even when they were not being treated equally. Which is a true test of fortitude.
The final virtue for which to vote is temperance. Temperance is not simply limitations or the giving up on bad habits or acts. It is having the knowledge to know when one thing has gone too far one way or the other. In this case, it is perfectly acceptable to for vote for the right and the fair and the just. But when right goes too far one way and not the other, it is no long fair. And when fair goes too far one way, it is no longer just. And when just goes too far one way, it is no longer right. And when that happens, it may be necessary to next time, vote counter to how one voted before in order to temper what has become wrong.
Yes, it’s easy to simply vote one’s ideology. Easier yet for one’s political affiliation. Easier still to vote out of misguided or misunderstood hate or spite. It is said the election this year is for the soul of the nation. Well, I’m sorry but if anyone is looking for some mortal to the restore the soul of anything, you’re always going to back the wrong horse in the wrong race. However, if, for whatever reason, it is necessary for you to use this election to restore your own soul; then you must vote virtuously, as anything less is a more damning indictment of one’s own unvirtuousness.