This election, like others, is chock full of hazards. Maybe this one is particularly significant given its uniqueness (black man, white woman, young man, old guy, etc…) however, the way that we should approach this election is unchanged.
I’ve been thinking about voting and listening to friends of mine who tell me that they know people of conviction and intellect who may vote like dolts. What do I mean? Thoughtlessly. A Christian brother and pastor-friend of mine has written a paper outlining what I think is a very reasonable methodology for voting. Voting matters as does how we vote. What follows is his paper with permission – I would encourage you to read it.
Q. If God is sovereign, why does it matter how I vote or who I vote for?
A. Throughout the Bible, God made it plain that it is His will for those who govern to be people who desire the good of those who live under their authority (Romans 13:1-7). One of His blessings to us in the United States is our opportunity to be a part of the selection of our leaders, from our town councils to our President. That blessing comes with the responsibility to study the issues and learn about the candidates, then compare both the issues and the candidates to what Scripture teaches.
Q. How should I vote as a Christian?
A. We believe it is both our privilege and our duty to vote – as Americans, and specifically as American Christians. The Bible gives us clear instruction about the Christian’s duty to the State in Romans 13:1-7, 1 Timothy 2:1-5 and 1 Peter 2:13-17. In order to be “salt and light” for God in this world (Matthew 5:13-16), Christians should fully engage in the political process, as both those who vote and those who run for office.
We advise [church] members to vote for the candidate(s) they believe best meet the following qualifications:
1. A person of virtue:
• classical virtues (courage, prudence, temperance, justice)
• theological virtues (faith, hope, charity; 1 Cor. 13:13)
2. A person of vision, who possesses…
• A vision that informs policy (party platform)
• A cogent and coherent ideology (system of beliefs)
• The power of lofty ideas (ability to inspire)
• A moral philosophy (a worldview that is good)
3. A person of validity, characterized by…
• Substance over style
• Character over personality
• Proven record over image
• Willingness to tackle the tough issues
4. A person of values, according to how they stand on key moral issues…
• The sanctity of life
• The nature of marriage
• Racism, poverty, justice, morality
• Energy, ecology and economics, etc.
• Their personal, theological, religious convictions
We believe that Christians should measure the candidates against the aforementioned “checklist.” The Scriptures should guide us in principle in our voting, which will lead to the person for whom we vote. Christians should not elect a candidate for merely personal or selfish reasons: e.g., social security issues, tax breaks, or “pork barrel” legislation that benefits them. We should vote on Biblical principles of what is best for the most people.
These Scriptures should govern, guard and guide how we vote:
“He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the LORD require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8)
“But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience.” (Romans 13:1-5)
“What is desired in a man is steadfast love,
and a poor man is better than a liar.” (Proverbs 19:22)
And Psalm 72
Q. How do I choose a presidential candidate? Does [our church] endorse a specific candidate for the presidency?
A. By American law, [we are] not permitted to endorse a specific candidate for any political office. For us to do so as a church would be to jeopardize our tax-exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). [Our church] complies with this legal stricture. However, as a church our clergymen are allowed to preach and teach general guidelines for voting, consistent with our theology and our interpretation of Scripture. In that way, we are allowed to Biblically shape the way our members vote without endorsing candidates by party or by name.
When considering who we might vote for as President we should consider these three things:
1. The platform of the party the candidates represent. Which platform is more in line with Biblical principles such as the structure of families, the value of human life, our responsibility to the poor, global ecology, racism and civil rights, and religious liberty?
2. What we know about the man or woman’s character. While we certainly won’t know everything and we should expect to find human failings, it is proper to look at what we do know about candidates in the areas of family life and marriage, honesty and integrity, voting record on moral issues, and the associations with which the candidate is affiliated, including his church membership and religious affiliation. A person’s moral character is most shaped by his or her church and its theology. How a candidate worships does shape how he/she will govern.
3. Judicial appointment criteria. Because of the significant and long-lasting impact of their appointments, we need to know what each candidate will consider most important in selecting judges for appointments to the federal judiciary, especially the Supreme Court.
No matter who we choose to vote for, or who wins, we must be faithful in our prayers for our leaders, asking God to give them His wisdom and His protection.