On February 5, 2008 the Reverend Paul McCain of the LCMS Concordia Publishing House wrote the following in his blog. “Did you vote today? I almost did not. Then I realized that not voting is a sin. Why do I say that? Because our vote is our way of being good citizens. It is a sin against the fourth commandment if we fail to vote, when this is our right under the government God has given us….Do you agree? Is it a sin not to vote?”
McCain correctly says that voting is a right the Constitution gives us, but he doesn’t see that if you are given a right you are totally free not to use it. You have the right to bear arms, but you do not sin if you don’t own a gun. You have a right to turn right on a red light, but you don’t sin if choose not to. (Except if you’re just not turning to fry the person behind you.) St. Paul didn’t use his right to have physical support from his congregations or to have a wife. He didn’t sin by not using these rights.
It is a sin to treat sin as an opinion. If McCain really believes, as he says, that it is a sin not to vote, if you think differently that has to be sinful in his eyes. I don’t ask people if they agree fornication, abortion, or theft is a sin, do you?
If you believe that it is a sin not to vote, than is it a sin to vote wrongly? Who on what basis determines if a vote is wrong or not? Or is any vote okay as long as we do? No matter how little we know about a candidate as long as we go to the polls is our conscience clear?
It is certainly a sin not to believe what Holy Scripture says. It is a sin to read Daniel 4:17 as if there was an asterisk after it exempting your political system: “Know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will and sets over it the lowliest of men.” It is a sin to say this true except in the case of the United States or other democracies.
McCain is right when he says in his blog “[T]here are countless people around the world who literally die for the right to vote, or never have that right, and that there have been hundred of thousands of your fellow Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice to keep you free and to preserve your right to vote.” You could insert “right to free speech” and “right to bear arms” for “right to vote.” But again, you’re free not to make use of a right given to you by your government or anyone else. How can not making use of a right make you a bad citizen when it certainly didn’t make Paul a bad pastor?
Vote or not vote come November. Whether you do or don’t the four living beings around the throne of God aren’t going to stop or even stammer. They will continue their worship saying, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” and if they can do it heaven the Christian can do so on earth. God remains our refuge, our strength, our very present help in time of trouble even if the very mountains are carried into the heart of the sea let alone if we vote or don’t.