Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller. He is the author of Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus, and Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith.

I’m A Privileged White Guy, So I’m Giving Away My Vote This Election

It’s the height of election season in Americaland. While many of us probably already feel over-saturated from an election cycle that lasts waaaaaay too long, the intensity of the election is about to hit its final stretch as both the Republicans and Democrats kick off their conventions this month.

While I enjoy staying up-t0-date on the election, and the various issues that are being debated, I have felt somewhat liberated to approach this election differently, as I do not vote. My abstinence from voting is a religious one– I am an Anabaptist, and while we do not all agree on this issue, I am part of the Anabaptist wing who holds the theological conviction that we should not participate in this act.

We have various biblical and ethical reasons for this. Speaking for myself, I feel called to abstain for several reasons.

First, as one committed to nonviolent enemy love as a foundational aspect of my faith, I could not in good conscience vote for a candidate who would annihilate our enemies. Since this is America, and we love our wars and violence, this position I hold automatically rules out everyone.

Second, I believe that the Bible calls us (Christians) to live as immigrants and exiles (1 Peter 2:11) in a nation that is not our native home. I believe this is an invitation to detach from some of the secular political debates of our host country, since this is not our home. Instead, one would simply seek the peace of the place they find themselves in (Jeremiah 29:7), with a mindset not of a loyal citizen, but as a missionary who has been sent far from home to influence that culture in other ways.

This is my religious conviction, and it sits deep within my conscience– and for that, I make no apologies about being faithful and true to my sincere convictions.

Over the course of time however, people have pointed out that for me (and those who share this belief), our privilege in society is a factor in being able to abstain from voting. Essentially, for us to abstain is far less of a sacrifice than it would be for a member of a marginalized group– undocumented immigrants, the poor, LGBTQ, people of color, etc.

And on this point, those voices are entirely correct. While I don’t believe I should abandon my religious beliefs because I am a person who was born with privilege, I do recognize that my privilege certainly makes abstaining from voting something that is unlikely to come back to haunt me. While I am not rich or even middle-class, I have a host of other privileges that will follow me regardless of who is, or who is not president.

I am white, and I am a cis male, so that right there has given me a massive leg up over just about everyone. I have a modest, predictable stream of income. I have healthcare insurance I earned from my pre-Anabaptist days when I was in the military– insurance that is sound, inexpensive, and that I will have for life. I also have access to many, many resources that so many others do not have– a critical factor to consider when considering issues of privilege.

Bottom line? My life probably would not change that much under a President Trump or a President Clinton. Life will probably just go on as normal– and the privilege I enjoy is the precise reason for that.

While I did not ask to be born into privilege, and will not engage in self-loathing for that fact, I do believe that how I use my privilege matters. I can use it for myself, or I can use it for others who do not have it– that part I am entirely responsible for.

So here’s how I have decided to be faithful to my deeply held religious beliefs while also recognizing how easy my privilege has made that for me:

I’m giving away my vote this year. In fact, I’ll probably be giving away my vote from here on out, because it strikes me as the right thing to do.

What does that mean?

It means I’ll be sitting down with someone from the refugee community I have worked with here in my home state of Maine– someone who is a non-citizen, unable to vote, and whose life will surely be impacted greatly by the policies and decisions of the next president. It will likely be a refugee from Somalia, since we have a large population here in Maine, and because even the Christian refugees in our community have a larger portion of privilege than our new Muslim friends.

Surely, a Muslim refugee from Somalia, people of color who are poor, non-citizens, and who belong to the religion we most fear, will be impacted by this election infinitely more than I ever would.

To give away my privilege, I’ll be sitting down with this individual and together we’ll talk through the candidates, the issues, and the referendums on the ballot. When we’re finished, I’ll be making a list of their choices on each of the various federal and local candidates, and each of the referendums being decided. When I walk into that voting booth on election day, I will not be walking in to vote myself– I will be taking their list, and voting their personal choices faithfully.

I’m giving away my vote this year.

No, I didn’t ask for all this privilege that makes abstaining from voting so easy, but I believe that I am responsible for how I choose to respond to this privilege– and how I choose to respond to it this election cycle, is to give away my vote to someone who needs it far more than I do.

What about you? How can you use your privilege for good this election season? I’d invite you to join with me, in giving away your vote this year to someone who does not share the same privileges in society that you or I do.

It strikes me as the right thing to do.

Benjamin L. Corey

Benjamin L. Corey

BLC is an author, speaker, scholar, and global traveler, who holds graduate degrees in Theology & Intercultural Studies from Gordon-Conwell, and earned his doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller.

He is the author of Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, and Undiluted: Rediscovering the Radical Message of Jesus.

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27 Responses

  1. each time i used to read smaller posts which as well clear theirmotive, and that is also happening with this article which I amreading at this time.What’s up, yeah this paragraph is genuinelynice and I have learned lot of things from it concerning blogging.thanks.

  2. just because you are privileged your opinion is worth no less than anyone else’s. no matter who they are. are no matter how much guilt you have about being born, you cant change it.if you believe you shouldn’t vote because of how you were born, (race, sex, etc) then you shouldn’t blog either.

  3. Voting is, by and large, nothing more than a symbolic act and has no real purpose. Heck, let’s take the POTUS election for example. I’ll use 2012 numbers for this:

    Population (approx.): 320 million
    Eligible voters (approx): 220 million

    So, starting off, roughly 100 million people in America have zero say in who the elected leaders are. Yes, many of these are children, but children are also governed by the laws that are passed.

    So, in 2012, voter turnout was approx. 55%. That means of the 220 million eligible voters, only approx 125 million actually voted. Of those that voted, only approx. 50% voted for the winner.

    In the end, we have a system where approximately 20% of the population chooses the person the POTUS for the remaining 80%. It’s a sham of a system, and only gives the illusion that the people actually have a say.

    On election day, I’d urge doing something far more productive and Kingdom-focused. Go buy food and share a meal w/ the homeless. Get to know them. Hear their stories. Build community with them. That is going to have a much more profound impact on others than will the useless act of voting. Stop rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

  4. I’m Bernie or Bust. If he doesn’t get the nomination, I’m either voting for Jill Stein or staying home on election day. Trump and Clinton might as well be Satan and Lucifer.

  5. I totally agree with Ben on this. I have not voted since 1996 and never will again for the following reasons:

    1. I can vote to give away my freedoms but I cannot vote to take away yours. Voting is an act of aggression. If our rights are God given and unalienable (non transferable) then they cannot be usurped by a voter and yet that is the crux of all voting.
    2. Voting is anonymous. Voters are never held accountable for their actions. They can vote to harm others with no consequence to themselves.
    3. Voting is an act of cowardice. It allows people to do by way of proxy to others what they otherwise cannot or would not do such as steal, kill, agress, etc.
    4. Voting does not make a difference. There has never been a single election I’ve participated in that my vote or lack thereof was the decider.
    5. Those elected are never held accountable for the debt they accrue on behalf of those they represent and the resulting economic harm. The worst thing that happens is that they are voted out of office with a full lifetime pension.
    6. Voting is an act of consent. I don’t choose to offer my consent. When you vote you agree to abide by the rules of the game and accept the outcome. By voting, it is clear that each voter endorses the governmental system under which he or she lives. By the act of voting, each voter is saying: It is right and proper for some people, acting in the name of the State, to pass laws and to use violence to compel obedience to those laws if they are not obeyed regardless of the morality of those laws.
    7. Voting is an act of presumptive violence because each voter assumes the right to appoint a political guardian over other human beings. No individual voter or even a majority of voters have such a right (see #1). If they claim to possess such a right, let them clearly explain where that right comes from and how it squares with the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence “that all men are created equal, [and] that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable “Rights” of “Life, Liberty,” and Property.
    8. Is there an obligation to vote to preserve my freedoms and rights? If so, then my rights aren’t in fact unalienable but rather conditional, a privilege bestowed by the state. This is totally contrary to what the founders wrote and spoke about.
    9. To participate in electoral politics by voting is to be part of the “divide and conquer” process that government thrives on. It’s us versus them. Just turn on the TV tonight and watch the republican rhetoric. Or next week when the democrats have their little party.
    10. Voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil. If we vote for a bad candidate, we will be held partly responsible for the harm done by that candidate. This is true even if our sole intent was to defeat a worse candidate. One evil does not justify another. It would have been better not to vote at all.

  6. I will not give away my vote. I also am a privileged, white male, but as an American citizen, I believe I must vote as best I can, taking into account what is best for my nation, my community, and myself, and further my understanding of the candidates, their policies, their character and the current situation as a whole. This is my duty, my responsibility, and my right.

  7. I find it interesting what you say about the ‘spirit of an immigrant’. As a lifelong perpetual and rather nomadic real immigrant, I would say that not being one is also a privilege. I didn’t vote until my mid-40s which is how long it took me to find a community where my always fragile sense of ownership and belonging became strong enough that I felt like a potential participant. I got lucky then: in the last vote I participated in, less than half the adults in my circle were eligible. Our interest group was brutally disenfranchised, consequently our interests were disregarded and my home, my savings and the ability of my family to stay together were all thrown into question. The world is dominated by settled people, just as much as it is dominated by cis- straight white men. Settled people do indeed very often hate people like me and want us not to exist. When they can, they act against us, in their voting and elsewhere. I now believe that the more we feel disenfranchised, the more we should vote, but here I am again, fighting that battle that says ‘you’re not a participant, just a guest and you’d better see to it that you stay welcome. Your job is to shut up and take what you’re given’.

    Anyhow, I applaud you for engaging as seems right to you. It would be interesting to learn how your political discussions with refugees go.

  8. That you would choose this group of people to “give away” your vote is your own vote, and still a worldly action I feel is contrary to your conscience. The result is the same: 1. ” a candidate who would annihilate our enemies. Since this is America,
    and we love our wars and violence, this position I hold automatically
    rules out everyone”; and violates 2. “Instead, one would simply seek the peace of the place they find
    themselves in (Jeremiah 29:7), with a mindset not of a loyal citizen,
    but as a missionary who has been sent far from home to influence that
    culture in other ways.”

  9. This just seems like the latest over-reaction to a culture war issue. It is not really helpful, but plays well to the sensitivity crowd that must find ways to address an issue. It certainly is not in the spirit of reserving voting privileges to citizens and treats the responsibility to vote rather trivially and is more about making a point than really contributing to a solution.
    I can best help in this election cycle by using my vote to support candidates who are making an effort to bring unity and justice to our society. That way the refugee may be a citizen by the next election cycle and can vote for themselves.

  10. Benjamin, I can respect your right, to let someone else have your vote; but just personally, I couldn’t see doing the same myself. Why not? Well, some background. I didn’t grow up being taught this by my parents; but by some other family and local church members. Taught what? That the Republican Party was the party of God and when I voted for such in a primary, I knew I was supposed to vote for the most conservative Republican candidate. And I did that, for years on end. Then I quit voting, 12 to 16 years ago. Why? Because I came to see, that on the Republican side, they really weren’t what they claimed to be. And or, when they were in power, they really didn’t do much of anything, to protect unborn children. And it was because of the issue of abortion, that I most disagreed with the Democratic side and would not vote for them. And then there was the issue of my growing up, being gay and becoming a Christian, by the mercy and grace of God. And with my being gay, I was taught to believe from 12 years old up, that such make me the scum of the earth. I believed that for a long, long time, until God showed and taught me better. 🙂 Then I realized I could no longer vote Republican, because of how anti-gay, so many of them were. So, on a personal level, these are my main reasons, why I can’t personally see voting, for either a Democrat or Republican candidate.

  11. An interesting idea, but have a sneaking suspicion that you’ll hardly be “fair” when presenting both sides to your voter-of-choice. Even though you don’t personally vote for yourself, you seem to loathe (or at least greatly dislike) conservatives.

  12. I think it’s a good idea.. just be sure that you get several people to check when you discuss ‘issues and what will happen if either candidate wins”… so there is no bias (intentional or otherwise) is the ‘choices’ you give to a newly arrived immigrant. Of course, in my humble opinion, all you need to say is “If it’s Trump, you’re outta here”… and see what they say.

  13. So Ben, you dont believe it is right for you to vote in a political election which chooses the person whose policies will dictate the running of your country for a few years, but instead you vote ‘on behalf of’ another less fortunate person than yourself, presumably because you still think their vote counts? In effect you are still voting for those things you think are important, like immigration policy. I find your position illogical.

  14. I’m sorry, I usually love your posts, but this one bordered on the insane. Your insistence on the perfect or you will not vote is a vote for evil, not abstinence.

  15. Fascinating, thank you! I appreciate your lucidity and honesty, so refreshing. I do have one question: would your anabaptist position have meant a withdrawal from political engagement in apartheid-era South Africa? I was a white, privileged conservative evangelical back in the late eighties, and feel a great deal of disquiet over the disengaged stance of many Christians during that time: it was the WCC – World Council of Churches – which in the main (though not exclusively) took the fight as it were to the Pretoria regime. I lean toward quietism, yet paradoxically resist it. I would be interested in your thoughts if you care to respond! Blessings, Scott, Johannesburg

  16. Wow, thank you so much for this perspective. I love hearing ideas from people who put a lot of thought in their decisions. My wife and I have recently become involved with a refugee family from Syria who just arrived in America two weeks ago. If I can help my new friend learn enough English to discuss politics by November I would love to join you.

  17. This is very interesting. I’ve been involved in a church that also discouraged voting, but were never really clear about the reasons. I think I might give my vote to a felon who cannot vote. It is one of the more peculiar voting restrictions to me. Are you no longer a citizen if you commit a felony? Of course not.

  18. Why not just vote your conscience? Interesting but I don’t quite get this “giving away my vote” thing. Vote for the Party which will be more empathetic to refugees, the poor, and the oppressed.

  19. How did you come to be in Maine/U.S.? Did you choose to travel there from a far country? Or, was that choice to live in the U.S. made for you by your forebears? Your position truly defies logic. Cute, but convoluted and provocative. Is that what you intended? But that’s OK. Anything one claims to believe in the name of a religion is just that, and who is to judge?
    YOU, as a registered voter, will be voting, or not, just like everyone else. Pretend what you will.
    You call Maine/U.S. your home (“here in my home state of Maine”, yet deny it in another statement: “:….since this is not our home……”) Which is it? Does anyone have a “home” in your sense of the word?
    Every Christian, every human being,, not just Anabaptists, is a sojourner here on this Earth until we are returned to our true home in the Cosmic God upon the event of our Earthen death.
    We are born and we live and we make choices; but some choices are made for us, of course. You are pretending that you are allowing another to do this for you.
    We are all sojourners for a blink of time……..but an action taken today may have significance for others and into the future. Enjoy the trip!

  20. If you are not going to vote yourself this is a sensible thing to do, but I am puzzled by the logic by which you consider it wrong to vote yet OK to enable someone else to do so. If voting is wrong, are you not encouraging another to sin?
    If it is only wrong specifically for anabaptists to vote, and OK for the rest of us mere mortals, are you not in refusing to dirty your own hands with voting participating in the same holy elite vs unsaved masses dichotomy that yoi rightly denounce us utterly contrary to the message of Jesus?

  21. While I applaud your intent, if the person decides that you should vote for a right-wing ideologist who stands for everything you are against, you will cast that vote? Do you not, as does everyone, have a responsibility to stand and support what is ‘right’ (though I know people have different definitions of what is right). A lack of action to stop evil basically supports evil.

    While I expect that a person you chose would be unlikely to support Trump, by chosing that person you are essentially chosing who you would like to have in power. That said, I think it is better to cast on behalf of someone who has no say then to not cast a vote at all…especially in this election.

  22. I agree with you on most things, but I have to say, I find this peculiar and somewhat ridiculous.

  23. Very commendable. My proxy vote is based on conversations I’ve had with others, both those who are conservatively inclined and progressively inclined.

  24. I love this! I think it’s a brilliant way to both maintain your convictions (which I whole-heartedly share) and also empower someone who does not have the privilege to abstain from voting. This strikes me as an incredibly Christ-like thing to do. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m not yet registered to vote in my state, but if I do, this is what I will do as well.

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