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The Obligations of Citizenship What are our responsibilities as citizens in a democratic society?

All citizens have three basic obligations to the state. First, they owe respect for the law. This means that the law applies equally to all people, that individuals have no right to exempt themselves for its requirements, and that obedience is based not on fear of being caught for violations but on respect. This is the idea that Paul expressed when he said, Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath, but also because of conscience (Romans 13:5). The only valid basis for disobedience is an allegiance to a higher law, what Peter meant when he said to the Sanhedrin, We must obey God rather than any human authority (Acts:5:29). Second, all citizens owe intelligent, informed participation in the political process. Because democratic government is by nature participatory, it can succeed only to the extent that the citizens actually choose their representative, help in the determination of policies, and accept the responsibility of running for office. The disfranchisement of any group, either through its own inertia or through exclusion from the system by a more powerful group, makes the process less than democratic. The greatest scandal of our government is not the misbehavior of any official but the failure of large numbers of people to participate. Third, all citizens are responsible for conscientious criticism of person and policies. We can never give absolute devotion to any system, since such devotion can be given only to God. We can never give absolute loyalty to any political leader, because all human beings are fallible. At all times, therefore, we need to measure actual practices by the stated ideals of our nation, by the concepts of honesty and justice, by the effects on all the people. This means that we must examine all proposals to understand their implications, constantly reevaluate what is already being done, and always be prepared to approve or disapprove. None of these three responsibilities is uniquely Christian. Indeed, we cannot cite any responsibility that is exclusively the province of Christian citizens. What is distinctive about Christian citizenship is not any specific action that we take which others do not but the rooting of our obligation in God. For Christians, the exercise of our citizenship is one of the ways in which we relate to God. Paul said that in him [Christ] we live and move and have our being. Christ, by this affirmation, is our environment, the world in which we live, the source from which we come. As our nature is shaped by Christ, our citizenship is an expression of that nature. As citizens we do the same things that other people do, but our action is an affirmation of our relationship to Christ. SOURCE: Crook, Roger H., An Introduction to Christian Ethics, Prentice Hall, 2002, p. 216 Some potential questions to consider as you watch the debate: Are there areas, in which the party of the nominee you will vote against, has something good to offer in resolving an issue(s) in our nation? Choosing our nation's president is very important, but are there other things we as Christians must do between each major election to advance justice and peace in our nation? This election is being framed as a "clear choice" between two competing visions of America. What are these choices and how do they match up against what we as Christians believe? Do the candidates hold true to their respective visions? Where do they not hold true to their vision? Are there national problems which either or both candidates ignore? Does our call to see the face of God in all human beings have implications when dealing with those who support the party/candidate which we do not? Is this also true in the political arena?