The 12th Commandment
The Eleventh Commandment was a phrase used by President Ronald Reagan during his 1966 campaign for Governor of California. The Commandment reads:
While popularized by Reagan, “The Eleventh Commandment” was created by California Republican Party Chairman Gaylord Parkinson. In his 1990 autobiography An American Life, Reagan attributed the rule to Parkinson, explained its origin, and claimed to have followed it.
However, there is yet another “commandment” that has been somehow adopted by most Americans.
The 12th commandment is simply this:
“Thou must vote (or has to vote) because it’s the moral obligation of every American, and/or Biblical obligation of every Christian.”
I don’t think anyone really knows from where this commandment originated, but I can certainly assure you, unfortunately, that the evangelical community has helped to popularize it.
As you know, voting is a right that many countries do not have, but it’s an option for every American citizen. Each American actually has the right to state their opinion about who should be the leader of all the united states. I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that before the 2009 presidential election, voting didn’t seem to be a problem for anyone. It appears that most people just went to their respective voting venues and voted for whom they wanted as a leader. Sure, talk radio and news was still abuzz with conversations and predictions, etc., but the last eight years changed the normalcy for Americans, especially many Christians. There’s no doubt about that. 2009 was the first time that most Christians struggled with the decision of how to vote. Back then, many Christians cringed at the thought of having to choose between a Mormon (Mitt Romney) and a socialist (Barak Obama). This time around, it seems as though most Americans, not just Christians, are struggling once again about voting.
Are you anxious every day questioning the honesty of Donald Trump? Or Hilary Clinton? Who’s really got your back? Can we know for sure? Maybe you’ve just thrown your arms up in total frustration, because, we have to vote……right?
Now someone may ask, “Well, if we don’t have to vote, then we at least should vote, right?” And in response, I would simply ask “why?” Why do some folks think that everyone should vote? Well, maybe, they say, “It’s just the right thing to do.”
Now, before you start throwing tomatoes at me, listen to the thoughts I have to offer you. Perhaps a different perspective that you haven’t yet heard.
But before we go any further, I want to give a shout-out. I am very grateful to those who have fought for the freedoms with which we are blessed in America. I can’t imagine the horrors of war with which our soldiers have met to give us the ability to move around freely and speak aloud about what’s on our minds without fear of being killed. I am grateful to God for giving those soldiers the ability to fight for freedom, and more importantly for His mercy of spiritual freedom to undeserving sinners like myself.
I have heard many people say that Americans should vote because it’s our right, and if we don’t vote, then our soldiers have died in vain. However, let me remind you that voting isn’t the only freedom for which our soldiers died. Yes, we absolutely have the right to vote, but we also have the right to attend church and worship, and that we can do openly, to boot. That’s our right to freedom of religion. We have the right to say anything we want. That’s our right to freedom of speech. Also, we have the right to simply walk down the sidewalk of our neighborhood instead of being confined by law to our homes. That’s just plain freedom. These are just a few of the rights that Americans have, and even those rights are God-ordained and granted to us by His mercy. If it were not for His mercy and grace, we would have none of these rights, right?
It has occurred to me that many Americans live by some kind of unspoken tradition that if someone does not vote at all, then they are being a bad American. Some even say that not voting makes one a bad Christian. Whoa!
After a bit of research, and dialogue with other people who are much wiser than myself, I have come to a few conclusions. Since the Bible is the final authority on all matters, there are only a few things the Bible commands regarding citizens’ role in society towards government. And…well…voting isn’t among those things.
Put down those tomatoes!
So, if you consider yourself a “conservative” person regarding politics, or even Christianity, check this out:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. – Romans 13
Paul says two things here about Christian obligation to government:
1) be subject to governing authorities (obey the written laws: don’t steal, don’t cheat on your taxes, etc.)
2) pay your taxes (I know, I don’t like it either, but God says to do it)
This is the only place in the entire Bible that directly talks about our relationship to government and government affairs.
The only other thing we must consider is to never violate our conscience.
For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. – 2 Corinthians 1
If your conscience, based on what Scripture says, will not allow you to vote, then it’s ok if you don’t! In fact, in this case, you shouldn’t. If your conscience will allow you to vote, and you desire to do so, then by all means, vote.
Is your heart rate higher right now because of reading this? Is there smoke coming out of your ears? I know that this is a big issue, especially in evangelical circles. I’m simply showing you what Scripture says, telling you what the Constitution does not say, and asking you to listen and consider.
There is no constitutional law that mandates voting. Some people may not realize that there is no law instituted by government that requires any particular American to vote. In other words, no one can be, or will be, arrested for not voting.
There’s no Biblical mandate that says Christians should vote, or that we have to vote, and there’s no law in force by the American government that requires any American to vote. So, whether or not you decide to vote, you are no less an American than anyone else, nor does it make you any less a Christian than any other Christian.
If you are a Christian, you proclaim the truth of God’s Word. Christians are not part of this world’s system, and we’re definitely not a political party (again, put down those tomatoes!), despite what most Southern Baptists will tell you. Christians are the Church of Jesus Christ. Elections will come and go, but the Kingdom of God is eternal. Christians should be concerned about God’s elect, who do not yet know Him.
If you are an American who is struggling about for whom to vote, just remember what the Constitution doesn’t say about voting. Vote if you believe in voting, or don’t if you do not feel the need.
If you are a Christian struggling about for whom to vote, just remember what Scripture doesn’t say about voting, seek first His kingdom, pursue your conscience, and be vocal as much as possible about Jesus Christ and Him crucified to those in your circles. Those whom He has elected will live forever.
1 ) Williams, Brian (17 October 2007). “the 11th commandment”. NBC Nightly News. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
2) Wilcox, David C. (8 April 2002). “The “Eleventh Commandment””. Enter Stage Right. Retrieved 15 September 2010.
3) Reagan, Ronald Wilson. An American Life, Simon and Schuster, 1990, p. 150.