By Diana Chandler
NASHVILLE (BP) — In advance of the nonpartisan National Voter Registration Day on Sept. 22, Southern Baptist leaders are urging Christians to vote responsibly in 2020 nationwide elections.
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear used an analogy of the apostle Paul in pointing out the importance of voter participation.
“In Paul’s day, ultimate authority resided in the emperor, so Paul could only pray for government leaders to act justly (1 Timothy 2:1-4) and encourage those leaders, whenever he had the opportunity, to think biblically about their roles,” Greear told Baptist Press, citing examples in Acts 25:10-11 and Romans 13:1-4. “In the United States, however, ‘we the people’ sit in the ruler’s chair, and bear ultimate responsibility for how authority is used.
“… In our system of government, if we fail to be informed, and to vote, we are every bit as negligent as would have been a governor in Paul’s day who spent all his time in leisure and never attended to the matters of state,” said Greear, pastor of multisite The Summit Church in the Raleigh-Durham, N.C. area.
National Voter Registration Day, in its ninth year, describes itself as a “day of civic unity” and “an opportunity to set aside differences, enjoy the rights and opportunities we all share as Americans, and celebrate our democracy.” About 20,000 volunteers in all 50 states lead voter registration events, educating Americans on how to register, sign up for election reminders, request mail-in ballots, and learn about early voting options.
SBC Executive Committee Chairman Rolland Slade, SBC Executive Committee President Ronnie Floyd, and Marshal Ausberry, SBC first vice president and president of the National African American Fellowship of the SBC (NAAF), also encourage voter participation.
Slade, pastor of Meridian Baptist Church in El Cajon, Calif., told Baptist Press that Christians should vote with biblical values in mind.
“Rushing into the ballot booth at the last minute is not being a responsible voter. We need to take time to read and study the issues, statements, and compare them to what the Word of God says,” he said. “We know in doing so, that there will be areas that will fall far from alignment and [other areas] that will be closer. Voting is a precious privilege that we must take seriously.”
Floyd said Christians’ involvement in the electoral process is crucial.
“Since the founding of our republic, Christians have been active in American government, shaping our Constitution and federal institutions, and opposing moral wrong,” Floyd said. “Our worldview shapes everything we do, including how we approach our citizenship. It is important that we take seriously our right to vote and stay informed about the issues that our country faces today.”
The 2020 election season is marred with social unrest spurred by a global COVID-19 pandemic that has killed about 197,000 Americans, and racial unrest spurred by police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other Black Americans.
Ausberry exhorted Christians to “not get discouraged with all the vitriol,” but to “stay focused and vote.”
“It is a wonderful opportunity to live in a nation where your vote is not a rubber stamp,” Ausberry said. “Our votes really mean something. Why else would politicians spend an exorbitant amount of money to capture our attentions in an attempt to sway us to vote for them?
“Voting is a way to influence the direction of the nation,” Ausberry said. “Even if your candidate does not win, your vote makes a statement that lets the winner know that there are a significant number who think differently and their views must be considered.”
Ausberry leads NAAF, a fellowship of about 4,000 African American congregations, and pastors Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va.
In the most recent national elections in 2018, 61.3 percent of adults 18 and over were registered to vote, but just 49 percent of the age group voted, according to the U.S. Census. National Voter Registration Day works to reach adults who may not register otherwise. In 2019, the civic outreach garnered more than 473,700 voter registrations, and has tallied more than 3 million since its 2012 founding, according to the event’s website.
The day is celebrated annually on the fourth Tuesday of September.
Diana Chandler is Baptist Press’ senior writer.