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Five Tips on Voting Like a Nonbeliever

By Sam Keyes

Many Christians these days seem to spend a lot of energy figuring out how to properly separate or combine their faith from their politics. Which presidential candidate is more messianic? Which candidate is more likely to usher in the Kingdom of God? Which vote will guarantee that I go to heaven or hell? Perhaps we could make things a little easier by removing ourselves from Christian identity altogether. Here are some ideas on how to do that. (Sarcasm ahead!)

  1. Assume that our political opponents want to usher in the apocalypse and enjoy killing the innocent.

You know the deal: if you don’t vote for one candidate, you’re probably pro-police violence. If you don’t vote for another candidate, you’re probably pro-killing babies. And in both cases, it could be a slippery slope leading to mass chaos and murder and the end of civilization as we know it. So, you know, lean into that instinct, because there’s no hope in the world apart from American politics, so everything that matters depends on this one decision that you will make.

  1. Remember that every action (like voting) is either 100% good or 100% evil.

The fantastic reality show The Good Place provides a great example of how morality works: there’s a kind of cosmic point system, ultimately governed by the divine Maya Rudolph, in which every action either counts for you or against you.

Most things probably count against you, because if you vote for someone you’re obviously responsible for everything that they’ve ever done or might ever do. (So, you know, Mother Teresa sounds like a great candidate, but that whole “dark night of the soul” business probably brings down her points considerably.)

It’s kind of like that apple you bought in the grocery store. It may say it’s organic, but did you know that it was harvested by poorly paid migrants in New Hampshire who nonetheless use their meager profits to fund pro-pedophilia organizations who also happen to power their operations with nothing but the least efficient coal-based energy sources? Negative five million points. So, that “pro-life” candidate who also happens to be a misogynistic liar? Minus 200. The “social justice” candidate who also happens to believe intrinsic evils are probably fine as long as most people agree with them? Minus 350.

Good luck! Remember, you’ll be judged, not just by social media, but by karma! Anti-anxiety meds might be a good idea, but you’d better do your research about how they were made and which celebrities have endorsed them (the fact that you don’t use Twitter is no excuse for ignorance).

  1. Remember that the purpose of government is to save souls

There are religious fanatics out there who think that the world has already been saved and that the job of the Church is to provide some kind of weird witness to this reality. Put that aside. If the Church has any real job it is to manage the world to make sure that everything goes right; it’s not like there’s some big guy in the sky governing things or ordering history towards rational ends.

The world is only meaningful, after all, if we make it so. Elections are the best way to make life meaningful, to make sure that the world is good and not evil, to make sure that our lives actually have dignity and aren’t just a waste of time.

I mean, how sad would it be to live in a world where we have some kind of intrinsic dignity independent of civic government that cannot be determined by a combination of media or political activity?

  1. Act like policies can be completely separated from people

Some ancient fellow once said that there can never be a just society without just people. This guy clearly never got the thrill of denouncing his opponents on Facebook and casting that sacramental ballot for the Right Person. In real life, it doesn’t matter whether people are good or evil, holy or profane, consistent or consistently unpredictable. We don’t think that a subway is good or evil, right? We just have to pick the one that gets us somewhere closer to where we eventually need to go. It’s a practical question.

So as long as you pick the candidate who’s pointed in generally the right direction, you don’t have to ask those pesky questions about integrity or morality. Of course, you can talk about how immoral your opponent is whenever you want. That’s not inconsistent, it’s just the way life works.

  1. Be grateful that casting the right vote exempts you from rationality and joy in other parts of life

It really does all come down to who can nominate Supreme Court justices, appellate court justices, cabinet officers, etc. That is the heart of what it means to be human.

Learning to have real conversations with people who live near us, or have a different background, isn’t really as important as putting the right people in power who can maintain those differences most efficiently and with the least amount of logical consistency. Things like “culture” and “civilization” are only ever long-term trickle-down effects of presidential elections, so if we’re concerned about our culture, we shouldn’t waste time doing things like art and music and learning.

What good could possibly come from being friends with someone who disagrees about something important? How could we even consider liking an opera or a movie or a meme if it is also liked by someone who intends to vote the wrong way? It’s not like we have any duty in this world to be witnesses to some kind of transcendental values. It’s not like there are historical examples of people “making a difference” through their behavior towards other people. Being kind and charitable to others is basically the same as murder if it means you’re not supporting the candidate who’s clearly on the right side of history.

The Rev. Samuel Keyes is a transitional deacon in the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter and teaches theology at John Paul the Great Catholic University in Escondido, California.


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