In the previous post of this series I suggested that every four years when the presidential election rolls around, some people end up sacrificing their deepest and most cherished beliefs and convictions on the altar of American politics. This leads me to my next point in this series.
Point #6: Voting has the potential to become idolatrous.
Now, I realize that some will read that and immediately snub their noses at such a comment but please, hear me out for a moment. What I am not saying here is that voting is idolatrous. I am also not saying that if you vote you are, by default, committing idolatry. I'm not saying either of those things. What I am suggesting is that there is a very real "potential" (because it has happened many times and to many people!) for voting to become idolatrous. Indeed, I believe that even now, for some folks, voting really does take on a form of idolatry.
Typically, idolatry is described as "the physical worship of an object as if it were God." The Bible bears this claim out. There is, however, much more that constitutes idolatry. For example, in 1 Cor 8.1-11.1, Paul speaks of eating idol meat as a form of idolatry. In Hosea idolatry is portrayed as marital infidelity. In Exodus and Deuteronomy idolatry is conceived of as misrepresenting God visually. Just as well, the wrong or improper kind of worship of God can be viewed as idolatry. Breaching the notion of monotheism also can constitute idolatry. For Christians, anything less than a Trinitarian view is idolatry. In other words, the Bible itself gives us a multifaceted definition of idolatry.
In some ways, when it comes voting, each of the above ideas of idolatry can come into play. For example, some people do treat presidential candidates as if they were God or the messiah. We hear jokes about this all the time but to be sure, there are some Christians out there who believe that if the wrong person is elected they will bring on the apocalypse and the end of the world. On the flip side, they think that if the right person is elected, they will be God's harbinger who brings a "word from the Lord" and they will deliver us from tyranny. Not only is this an eschatology problem, it can also bleed into idolatry. Exalting a human on such a high pedestal that they can be thought of in these terms is idolatrous.
Just as well, while most of us do not eat meat sacrificed to idols here in America (a practice still common in many parts of the world), one of Paul's underlying points here is that mixing God with the profane (a point that will be further elaborated on in the next entry in this series) can constitute idolatry. Now, don't misunderstand me. I'm not suggesting that God or our theology should be absent from informing our politics; they should not! Yet, having our theology inform our politics is different than mixing God with our political system in such a way that the two seem blended together so that they become indistinguishable, or as in some instances, the "body politic" or the "political system" takes precedent over God. This, of course, is not unrelated to the point I made in the previous entry: Voting can cause you to compromise your deepest held beliefs.
Further, the whole notion of misrepresenting God is an important one. While doing this visually was terrible in the eyes of the Israelites, doing it via word or action was also looked down upon. If you can step into a poll booth and misrepresent God by casting a ballot, perhaps you have lapsed into a form of idolatry consonant with this description of it. In short, if you are voting things that are contrary to the nature, character and person of God, you are misrepresenting him. This is not too far from the whole notion of failing to properly "worship" God with our heart, mind, soul and strength in all we do.
In this election the whole notion of breaching monotheism and Trinitarianism is a big one, especially with Mitt Romney being a Mormon candidate. Mormons do NOT believe that Jesus is part of the Trinity. Mormons directly reject this idea. I would suggest that all Christians who want to place their support behind a guy who is the leader of a cult are doing an incredibly dangerous thing and need to really reconsider. No, I'm not suggesting to vote the other way, rather, as the title of this post suggests: I'm suggesting NOT voting at all because it might be likened to you being viewed as a harlot who has prostituted yourself out to politics.
As I have stated, there are varied definitions and understandings of idolatry across the biblical canon. I think many of those notions can come into play with people who choose to vote in this election. To be clear once again, I am NOT saying that if you vote that automatically makes you an idolater. Just as well, I'm not saying that if you cast a ballot idolatry has been committed. What I am saying is that the potential is there and it may be time really consider that. After all, sometimes the maxim "better safe than sorry" really is true.