Don’t Vote Like a Dolt

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.

Coronations and Considerations

I wonder how many have been watching the Democratic National Convention in Denver.  It started on the 25th and tonight will likely draw the most watchers yet (Obama is going to do his thing).  During these conventions and campaigns people start to raise expectations that bad things are about to start stopping and good things will start starting.  With new candidacies / regimes comes good things (that’s the theory).  Of course, a little digging will reveal that’s more a biennial hope than a present reality (Pew Research 1st 100 Days of Democratic Congress).

But, still, the impulse is not bad: no one likes days of affliction.  And we’re all looking for the ways to make things better.  I’ve been considering my own “affliction” and the search for change and lately been resting in how one helps me to see through to that change.

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. (12)

Return O Lord!  How long?  Have pity on your servants! (13)

Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. (14)

Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. (15)

Let your work be shown to your servants and your glorious power to their children. (16)

Psalm 90:12-16

Look here.  Anyone who’s lived through a regime change or two knows that things don’t change with the banging of gavels in hallowed white power halls.  It doesn’t stop us from hoping things would change, but ultimately they only slight shift.  In these Bible verses, we see a different picture.

What the folks who are so attentive to political campaigns, conventions and coronations need is to see those things through a grid informed by those verses.  It is not as if we should no longer care about the political process – now, by all means, care.  It is just that caring means thinking rightly about them…

First, start with verse 15.  Our days are difficult and full of affliction.  The verse is honest even if we’re not.  Admit it: anger, frustrations, disappointment, pain, suffering, fear, and uncertainty are what we’re swimming in.  Ignoring it only makes us look stupid.  And, in that stupidity we tend to attribute those to things we cannot understand (which is untrue).  In fact, our difficulty the writer attributes to God.  Look again.  The Bible never impugns God for this (a story for another post) but simply here attributes these things to God and His plan.  But, God doesn’t act without a reason.

So, secondly, why all of this affliction and difficulty?  Look at verse 12: we’re proud.  In that verse, the author asks God to “teach us to number our days” which is another way of saying, “teach us to think rightly and humbly about our lives.”  Without it, we are fools.  With it, we get a “heart of wisdom.”  We are afflicted because we are proud not because a Republican is President, Democrats control the Congress or Roe vs. Wade is the law.  Here is where convention watchers go astray.

You – eyes glued to MSNBC – are proud and BH Obama can’t do a thing about that.

You and I need perspective on our lives.  We are, in fact, significant yet small.  It gets tough for us when we think we’re just significant.  That was the problem the Psalm was written to address because we ARE significant but we are ALSO small.

What’s the pathway out of affliction?  It is the one to humility.  That road is paved with the work and power of God and it doesn’t go through Denver or Minneapolis.  So, thirdly, verse 16 asks God to imprint His work in our minds and His power in the minds of our children.  The author believes if we are cozy with the work of God in the Bible (and our lives), we are likely to be more prone to consider ourselves rightly.  In so doing, God will figure prominently and we will not.  That will please Him and He will restrain affliction upon us.

One thing more, though.  Verse 14 shows us that even as God is pleased with our self-awareness of smallness, He is just as pleased to satisfy us with His steadfast love which leads to great joy.  Smallness like this and joy go together.

Watch the conventions, but once they end, turn the channel to consider the majestic work of God and there is where you’ll find answers to your questions.

What’s the deal with polls, anyway?

A new poll is out today – found it on Drudge: Obama – 45%, McCain – 44%. (Check it out: Gallup daily poll.) This is part of an inane daily presidential tracking poll. There is a cultural fascination with things like this. I’ve actually been interviewed by Gallup but not for this poll. If you read the Gallup poll you’ll see that this is considered a “statistical tie” and that means who’s reportedly on top doesn’t actually matter – it’s too close to tell. But the graphic on that site indicates its been like this for a while. The “so-what” factor has kicked in for me.

Is the fascination with polls driven by us – the “poll-ee’s” or by the pollers? Do we love to see whether our beliefs are out of whack with everyone else? Or do the pollers just like to feel on top? There’s probably a dozen reasons in either direction.

What if my beliefs were out of whack with everyone else’s? On a national election, I think it may not be so significant; I really don’t have to tell anybody anything. But, surely what you believe differs from your neighbor or co-worker, friend or even spouse on some issue. Then what? Do you act as the “neighborhood George Gallup” and poll your buddies and then change what you believe? Why would you do that?

There’s a fear of conviction in our culture. People are afraid to believe in something and you can tell whether you’re afraid by how many (or how few) people actually know what you believe. There’s a fear of people in our culture.

Well, that’s not really accurate. If I steal $50 from you, you will have no issues with conviction then. If I build a fence in your back yard, your words will come. If I t-bone you on the highway and then drive away screaming obscenities at you, then, well, that’s easy.

What about if I suggested that you should give money to a church instead of buy a new car? Or, write an editorial about rampant inner city crime? Or picket an abortion clinic? Then what? You may just waffle. You may cave to peer pressure.

Are we only willing to hold to principles when they’re “safe” according to our culture? Popularity is a big deal in your life. The problem is that many times what is right is not popular. If our commitment is to be mainstream (whatever that means) then we will waste our lives.