I was born in Portland, Oregon, while my Australian father was finishing his studies at Western Seminary. Because Australian law recognizes the children of Australian citizens as Australians also, I have dual citizenship. I’m an American by birth, but an Australian by parentage. I spent many of my growing up years in Australia, and my college years and onward in California. My Australian accent has faded, but my love for Australian beaches and cricket and snack foods never has, not to mention the many friends I have there. America is the country of my birth, and Australia is the country of my heart.
Dual citizenship has afforded a number of unique privileges I hadn’t thought much about until recently. Having been educated outside America as a child, I’ve been able to study and ponder the remarkable ups and tragic downs of America’s history as adult outsider. Learning that George Washington owned slaves, and that the White House was partially built by them, is an easier, albeit tragic, fact to face when you didn’t do the grade school project where you built the White House out of sugar cubes. Dual citizenship also offers a kind of circumstantial life raft that, until recently, was little more than a snippet of trivia to offer up as small talk at parties. Because Australia recognizes me as a citizen, I can legally apply for permanent residency, with my husband and children, any time I like. No matter how spectacularly the apocalypse descends after November 4th, my family and I have an automatic “Get Out of Dodge” card any time we’d like to use it.
Most importantly, the divided loyalty of dual citizenship has helped me to remember that both of those earthly citizenships are subordinated to my heavenly citizenship as a child of the King of kings and Lord of lords. Until recently that truth has meant little more that a calming reassurance every two years as I vote for pro-all of life candidates in one of the most liberal states in the Union. While America is not an inherently Christian country, the principles of freedom and equal rights under the law that have shaped it, and the democratic processes that govern it, have blessed American Christians like me with the freedom to live, speak and vote in a manner that runs parallel to that heavenly citizenship for decades.
In every previous election in my adult lifetime that I can remember, there was at least one candidate running for President who gave indications that he was attempting to be trustworthy, in the sense that many politicians strive to be trustworthy. (Please note my attempt cram as many qualifiers into that last sentence as I reasonably could.) In every previous election in my adult lifetime, at least one candidate made it through the gauntlet of Politifact checks and opposing party smear campaigns with his or her personal character and reputation intact (up to Election Day, at least).
No such candidate exists this time.
The two presidential candidates for the Presidency are candidates of Proverbs 19:1 and Proverbs 28:16. They are both, in degree, albeit differing in kind, utterly disqualified, both personally and politically, to lead a nation, a state, or a PTA meeting.
Many will argue that voting is a treasured freedom for which America’s ancestors died, and I would agree. And yet, part of the privilege of voting in America is that it is entirely free. Unlike the country of my other citizenship, there is no legal requirement to vote. We are free to not be coerced into casting a ballot for the election of a candidate against whom we conscientiously object. This is a profound freedom all its own.
For many of my friends, the desire to see one of these candidates defeated is bound up in real and legitimate fears. For some, the greatest fear of a Clinton presidency is the certain loading of the Supreme Court with progressive judges who will continue the trajectory set by President Obama and continue to restrict our religious freedoms. For others, the greatest fear of a Trump presidency is the wholesale deportation and expulsion of entire classes of people – families and friends- at will. And thus many see voting this year as a primarily defensive act – a concession to accepting lesser evil so that greater ones do not prevail. But as Matthew Franck points out, that perspective on voting is, at best, incomplete. To vote to accomplish the defeat of one candidate requires the will to victory of the other. To will the victory of either of these candidates, this year, is to make an alliance with wicked rulers, something God never does, and that we, as His children, must never do either.
Some Christians see the act of not voting as an act of citizenship betrayal– a collective throwing of our hands into the air and falling willingly over the cliff into whichever flaming abyss America chooses for herself on November 4. But I would argue that it is in fact an act of supreme loyalty, not to our earthly citizenship, but to our heavenly one. It is a firm and joyful declaration that our destiny is not circumscribed by the machinations of the citizens of our earthly home. Our destiny is sealed with the blood of a slain Lamb and a risen King, who promised that the very gates of Hell would not prevail against His church.
The confidence of that hope does not mean that we just drop the proverbial mic and exit the rhetorical stage, nor the civic square. Our heavenly citizenship gives us the freedom, and even the responsibility, to exercise our earthly one in any number of ways. From supporting and voting for political candidates who will be leaders of character and virtue, to advocating for policies and legislation which protect the vulnerable, to even peacefully protesting laws that are unjust violations of the stewardship given by God to civil authorities, American Christians are blessed with many ways to seek the welfare of their earthly cities, and our welfare with them.
But even in doing so, we must never lose sight of the fact that here we have no lasting city. And when those who aspire to lead our earthly city do so by standing on a foundation of unrighteousness, then we, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, must decline to be the ones to place them on it. And we wait, and work, and pray, with greater longing than ever, for the city that is to come.