Today, America goes to the polls. Will the Amish and Mennonites cast a vote for one or the other, or do they refuse to exercise their right? You won’t be surprised to hear that it is more complicated than that.
In the past, around 10% of Amish have voted in elections. These are mostly when the election has an element about which the Amish have a particular concern. So, back in 1954, they voted, because one of the issues related to allowing children to leave school at 14.Mennonites, on the other hand, do not vote. Well, conservative Mennonites don’t vote anyway. It is in their church standards (a written document of church ‘rules’). They have little if anything to do with state government, believing it is not the province of the Christian to dabble in politics.
So what is the biblical basis for not voting? And why do 90% of Amish not vote?The first answer is that they believe in what can be described as ‘two kingdom’ theology. There is the state government; then there is the kingdom of God. These two are separate and should not come together. The state should have no control over the church, and the church should not try to impose Christian values on the state. While the Amish do respect governments, accepting that all the powers and authorities in place are put there by God, they consider that their first allegiance is to God’s laws and His kingdom – and God tells Christians to be separate (2 Corinthians 6v17). The Amish and Mennonites believe that this refers to all matters in life, which includes voting.
There are good policies and bad policies put forward by any given candidate in an election campaign. This year, for example, Obama is inclined to instigate a redefining of ‘marriage’ to allow same sex couples to marry. The Amish are opposed to that policy. They are also unhappy with the state of the national debt in America. While Obama may have some positive policies too, for an Amishman to vote for him would make him (in his own eyes) ‘partaker of (Obama’s) evil deeds’ (2 John v11); the Amishman would feel he was also supporting the policies he objects to by casting a vote for Obama.That is not to say that the Amish have their heads in the sand. They are well aware of the issues facing the country and are well informed, despite their lack of television and radio. They are also well aware of the difference between the two candidates for today’s election. They know that Obama, while calling himself a Christian, supports gay marriage (something the Amish see as a contradiction); they know that Romney is a Mormon. Those who do vote today, however, are most likely to vote for the Mormon than the professed Christian, because he supports traditional values, freedom of religion, and the family. But I doubt there will be a huge turnout. Partly, that is because the government has made it more difficult for a person to vote if they do not have photo ID – the Amish object to having photographs, because they believe it violates the 2nd commandment about graven images. But mainly, it will be because the Amish hold the state and government at arms length, preferring to live quietly and peaceably in the land.
I am not resident in the US and therefore I will not be going to the polls today. Do I vote in my own country? The answer is no, I don’t. Too many of our politicians fail to live up to their promises; or they cannot pursue those policies once they are in office. They too have good policies and bad policies mixed together. In all conscience, I cannot vote for someone who supports, for example, more freedom in abortion, even if they also support more freedom for religion or home education. I too consider it to be ‘partaking of their evil deeds’ to vote for a person who supports something I cannot in all conscience support. The government is put in place by God. If God wants Romney instead of Obama, that is the leader America will get. If God wants Conservatives rather than Labour, then that is the government the UK will get. Government is for the punishment of evil doers and the regulation of life so that all may live in peace and quiet; they are entitled to use force to achieve that aim. As a Christian, I want to have no part in that; and neither do the Amish.