Vote or Pray: How to bring back sincerity
and God, too, into the voting process
The idea is to bring meaning back into the electoral process, to make it ok for people to do and express how they feel in national elections in a way that respects their deepest convictions. The first step in respecting one’s convictions is, of course, to have them.
People form three groups:
- the believers in the power of prayer to effect things,
- the believers in the vote, and
- people who are genuinely confused and don’t know what to believe.
There is a place for everyone in this scheme, a position each can sincerely take. And that is the point: to allow people to know that being whatever they are and doing whatever they do is valued in the scheme of things.
These are people who believe in the power of prayer. They sincerely believe in a great force for good beyond anything we know as limited beings. You can call it God or whatever, but these people know this force is immanent and real and can be entreated to intervene in human affairs and be trusted to effect the best for us all. The believers believe that momentous decisions are best left in the hands of this force. They do not believe it is right for them to try to force the hand of God, though entreaties are ok. They do not believe that human institutions such as the vote alone are adequate to the task of great decisions. These decisions should be left to the hand of God, so to speak. On election night the believers will fill stadiums across the country in massive prayer vigils where at the appointed time and together in a great moment of silence they will all pray together to the force or God for the best persons to be elected as their leaders. Only God can really know who these might be. The most we can know about candidates is their past (and, God knows, that hasn’t been of much use to us in the past), but God knows their future. The believers may or may not have ideas about who these good leaders would be and they may offer their thoughts to God, but God will decide. God will decide by steering the hands of…
The voters are the not-quite-or-at-all-believers in the power of prayer. These believe that great human institutions can affect human lives. Voting is one such. They will actually go to the polls and pull the levers or fill in the circles or push the buttons or click the mice or what have you. They will vote. And though the voters may not have great faith in the power of prayer, the believers believe their hands—the hands of the voters—will be steered by the hand of God in a direction that is best for all, thanks in part to the prayers of the believers. There is no need for believers to vote when they can affect the outcome by enlisting the vastly greater wisdom of God to filter their decision and act through the hands of the voters. Far from a need, it is sacrilege for a believer in prayer to vote, it would show a lack of faith.
A politician may ask a believer for their vote. A believer will say he or she does not believe in the vote but does believe in God. Surely the politician believes in God?
“Certainly,” the politician will say.
“And God is infinitely wise—wiser than any of us or even all of us put together?”
“Of course,” the politician will nod, “but can I have your vote?”
“You may ask for and you may receive our prayers,” the believer will say. “Convince enough of us to mention your name to God and you will surely win. You will have our prayers and we are a multitude.”
“But can I have your vote, too?”
“No, you may not, because we believe in the power of prayer, not in the power of the vote. Our vote would mean nothing, but our prayers do have meaning. Voting is not like praying. God listens. We vote through God. We may suggest, but God decides. We are believers in the power of prayer, not in the power of the vote.”
“How does that work?” asks the politician.
“God will steer the hands of the non-believing voters in the right direction. In the infinite wisdom of God, there is a role for them, too.”
The voters, of course, are free to believe in God as well if they please. But what characterizes a voter, what distinguishes them, is that they, at least, hedge their bets. They may think God helps those who help themselves. Or they may just help themselves and bypass the God thing. In any case, they think they do the electing. They are ok with that. The believers are ok with that also because they know what is really happening. What is really happening depends on their prayers, filtered through the will of God, directing the hands of the voters. And that is how it should be.
Then you have people who are genuinely confused about what to believe. These people have a place, too. Their place is to do what genuinely confused people do: act in a confused manner. They may sometimes vote, sometimes pray, sometimes both, mistake one for the other, or just stay home and watch TV. These people are just not needed by God in his or her infinite wisdom at this time for purposes of human governance. They might someday experience a revelation and know suddenly their place. But God already knows where they fit in. They would be assured of that, too, if they were believers. And if they were voters, they would also know. But, again, their place is to be confused. In the meantime, that’s what they should be. It is ok to be confused.
In this scheme, there is a place for everybody. No one needs to believe something they don’t or pretend to be something they are not. Vote, pray, or watch TV, there is meaning enough for everyone.