Friday, October 28, 2011

The Christian and the Vote

“every true, born-again follower of Christ ought to embrace a Christian over a non-Christian.” ~ Robert Jeffress, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Dallas
On the off chance this particular deceased equine hasn't been sufficiently flogged, let me ask the question: Is that true? Should a Christian always prefer the Christian candidate in any particular political race? What if the candidate in question is a fool, or his/her theology is off more than half a bubble out of plumb? How much theological heterodoxy is permitted before a person can be safely declared "not a Christian" and thus no longer require me, a "true, born-again follower of Christ" to vote for him or her?

These are not idle questions, but cut to the heart of the matter: How should a Christian vote?

In my mind, it comes down to the following criteria:
  1. Proven character. A good leader should be a good man or woman first. If he or she has not proven faithful in smaller matters, like being able to police his/her passions, why should he/she be trusted with a position of leadership? Personally, I was never comfortable with the idea that a person can be privately immoral, but publicly lead well. A person who has integrity in private will exercise it also in the conduct of his/her official duties, and who lacks it privately sooner or later won't be able to demonstrate it publicly either.
  2. Effective leadership. Can the person inspire people and get important tasks accomplished. Is there a record of such accomplishments? Any politician will have to lead not just people of his/her own party, but also those of the opposition. Can he/she make even enemies be at peace with good decisions, well executed?
  3. Enforcing justice fairly. This is one of the areas of our society which is always under challenge. Biblically, we must not grant special favors to the rich or connected because of their riches or connections. Cronyism or class-based favoritism is prohibited. But similarly, we must not put a thumb on the scale for the poor against the wealthy. We in the church are called to help the poor, but government's role is to enforce the law fairly for all. Does the candidate understand that, or does he/she stand on one side or the other?
  4. Policy proposals that focus on results rather than intentions. Nothing is easier than endorsing policies which sound good and make their promoters feel good about themselves. But as the old proverb says, "The road to hell..." Good intentions matter less than good results where people are concerned, and politicians do well to remember that Murphy was an optimist, and most policies have unforseen consequences. [Consider for example the push for so-called "electric cars." What they really are in most parts of the country is "coal powered cars," since the electricity they run on is provided by coal, a less-efficient and dirtier form of energy than gasoline. If everybody buys a taxpayer subsidized electric car, that will effectively result in a need to construct a whole lot more coal-fired electrical plants and much dirtier air].
  5. Minimization of the role of the state. If we believe what the Bible says that man is sinful and that man given power is prone to not just mischief, but destruction, then we should seek politicians who want to minimize rather than maximize their own role and their own scope of power over others' lives. This applies whether the pol in question seeks war or just do goodery "for the children." The power of the state seems to operate on a one-way ratchet, so look for pols who are either seeking to undo the ratchet a few clicks or at the very least, advance it no further.
  6. No political messiahs. This is related to last one. It seems that every election brings out the messianic in every pol. This is natural, as it seems you have be an above-average narcissist just to run for office. Thus, they promise "heaven" to those who vote for them and that "hell" will result if they are not elected. They scare the voters, hoping that the glories they promise for support and the hell of their own loss will result in their elevation. But knowing that this is the nature of politics, we as Christians ought not be bamboozled. There is one Messiah, Jesus, and all others are mere pretenders. Don't vote for a man or woman who is there to save the world; they can't. Vote for the fellow who takes the tragic view that our best efforts can only improve things a bit, if at all. It's downbeat as a philosophy, but realistic in it's expectations of fallen people.

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