How I’m Voting


How I’m Voting
Brian Zahnd

Election season. The worst of times. The bane of my pastoral existence. A forced march through Desolation Row.

Praise be to Nero’s Neptune, the Titanic sails at dawn
Everybody’s shouting, “Which side are you on?!”

I’ve become so exasperated with America’s quadrennial descent into politicized madness that four years ago Peri and I made plans to take a seven week sabbatical and walk the Camino de Santiago during September and October of 2016. At this point that decision seems to be among the best I’ve ever made. Peri and I can’t wait to begin our five hundred mile pilgrim walk an ocean away from a million political ads and the hysteria they induce.

You see, having pledged all my allegiance to the Lamb I have none left for elephants or donkeys. I’ve placed all of my hope in the kingdom of Christ. My short form politics is, “Jesus is Lord.” My long form politics is the Sermon on the Mount. And I know good and well that neither the elephant party nor the donkey party have the inclination or ability to seriously embrace the cruciform politics of Lamb. That’s the gist of my political theology.

In the 2008 presidential election I voted for Bob Dylan.

In the 2012 presidential election I voted for Wendell Berry.

(I did cast legitimate votes in local races and issues.)

My reason for casting a write-in ballot for these two non-candidates is that as a follower of Jesus I was uncomfortable with casting a vote that could be construed as authorizing a president to wage war on my behalf.

But I also realize that my non-voting position can be problematic. Could it be that I am so privileged as a white middle-class male that I can afford to disengage from the political process without much consequence? Perhaps.

So a few weeks ago I decided to do something different with my ballot this time around. I’m giving it away. I’m giving it to Igor. Igor is an undocumented (read “illegal” if you are of a more legalistic and merciless bent) immigrant from Russia. Igor and his wife have two sons, one born in Russia and one born in the United States. Thus their younger son is a U.S. Citizen, while they and their older son are “undocumented.”

I’ve known Igor for about ten years. I know him well. He and his family are members of Word of Life Church. Igor is a wonderful Christian man, husband, and father. He came to America legally following the collapse of the Soviet Union. He came looking for an opportunity for a better life. The same reason the Zahnds came to America from Switzerland a century ago. Igor was trained as an engineer and is an intelligent, well-read man. A few years ago Igor gave me a Christmas present of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita — a brilliant novel that I worked into the first chapter of A Farewell To Mars.

When Igor immigrated to America, Russia’s loss was America’s gain. Though Igor came to the U.S. legally, a series of innocent and unforeseen events led to overstaying his visa and no ability to renew it. Thus his seemingly permanent status as an undocumented immigrant. Igor and his wife are good people. They work hard. They work long hours just to make ends meet. I wish life wasn’t so hard for them.

I’ve tried to help Igor. I’ve given him money for immigration attorneys. I’ve written to my Congressman on his behalf. I’ve gone with him to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Kansas City where he was treated so disrespectfully I probably came close to getting arrested for the protest I raised on his behalf. I’ve done my best for Igor and his family, but to no avail. And it frustrates me. A country that treats people like Igor the way America has, should, for the sake of honesty, give the Statue of Liberty back to France. Presently we are unworthy of it.

So two weeks ago after church I told Igor I needed to talk with him. This is what I said:

“Igor, as you know, America has an election coming up this fall. And, as you know, you cannot vote in it. And that’s an injustice as far as I’m concerned. So here’s what I would like to do: I want to give you my vote. A few weeks before the election I’ll give you a ballot. You can study the candidates and issues and fill it out. Then on election day I will go to the polls and cast your vote. It’s not my vote, it’s your vote. I’m just your errand boy. I won’t tell anyone how you vote. It will be a secret ballot. And I won’t tell you how to vote, other than to offer this bit of advise: I think you should vote for the candidates and propositions that you think would best benefit people like you.”

Igor gave me a big smile.

I feel good about my decision.

Voting for candidates and issues based on who and what you think would best serve those whom Jesus called “the least of these” seems to be a Christ-like thing to do and a good way to vote. I would call it pro life. Think about it.

You may disagree with my decision to use my vote in this manner. But, hey, this is a democracy and it’s my vote. And I choose to give it to Igor.