As the election draws closer (5 days from now) I am getting more and more emails and phone calls asking who I am voting for. Along with those there are the emails and YouTube pieces attacking Obama/Biden or McCain/Palin. There is the current squabble over who is more irresponsible with campaign funds Barack Obama for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to take the 767 campaign plane to visit his ailing grandmother or the McCain campaign for spending $150,000 on a campaign wardrobe for Sarah Palin. On the other side are interviews of Obama discussing his views on redistributing wealth. The first example seems to me to be a bit like one party arguing that the opposing candidate is ugly and the response coming back “Well your candidate is fat.” Whether the accusations are true or not doesn’t really bear on the questions directly related to who would be the best Commander and Chief. It seems to me the question of whether or not a campaign spends funds on a flight for personal business or wardrobe is more of an issue between the respective campaigns and their donor base.
The question of redistributing the wealth seems more of an issue for voters to consider. Elections are by their very nature emotionally wrenching and each side demands to be viewed as holding the moral high ground. Although I won’t tell you who I will be voting for, and there are more candidates than just those from the Democrat and Republican parties, I can probably lay out a few guidelines that I will be using.
First, I should note that there is no perfect candidate. Even as I write this I am reminded of a young woman who came to me some years ago with a 4 page, typed, single space list of the qualities she would be looking for in her future husband. She had been to many Christian seminars where she culled the format for spousal selection. She asked it I would look it over and let her know my thoughts. As I looked at it briefly I explained that she would very likely be an old maid as this man doesn’t exist. Being quite beside herself she asked what I would suggest. I explained the differences in how men and women think about the world which then explains what is often their opposite approach to problem solving and relationships. I then suggested a very different kind of list, one that would be much shorter and easier to manage. It would consist of the things she absolutely cannot stand in someone and don’t marry them. It was indeed a much shorter list and she was engaged about 2 months later. That was probably 15 years ago and they are still happily married. The criteria I will use to decide who I will vote for will follow these two areas fairly closely.
One’s view of the world, how it works and their place in it will to a large degree guide their decision making process and actions. In the world of politics there are two basic views, liberal and conservative. There are of course, variations of those such as libertarian which takes elements of these views but for the moment I will keep this basic.
Liberals view humans as basically good and society as basically bad. “They” and “them,” the nameless, faceless society, are cast as trying to harm individuals. Legislation then is created to protect the individual from society. Conservatives on the other hand, see the individual as basically not good and crafts legislation to protect society from the individual. There are those who will certainly object here and insist that conservatives also see humans as basically good. However, the standard for conservatives is not measuring ourselves against one another (2 Corinthians 10:12) but rather against the good exhibited in Jesus Christ and anything not meeting that standard is by definition not good. We are simply various gradations of evil. Most would not meet the quotient of evil of Adolph Hitler and so are less evil but as the Apostle Paul points out in Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, not even one.” Jesus was clear on this as well when He said to His disciples:
If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:11)
As a result, although very often liberals and conservatives see the same problems their worldviews are essentially polar opposites and therefore their solutions to those problems are also often polar opposites.
The Short List
We probably will never have a candidate that reflects all of our personal values and this includes the candidates in this election as well. So, I have a short list of positions I could not accept and would preclude me from voting for a candidate.
And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” (Luke 6:9)
The choice Jesus lays out is not evil vs. good but good vs. better. The religious leaders had read into the fourth commandment a number of things which it did not directly state in order to clarify what constitutes work on the Sabbath and protect people from violating the Sabbath. The good was to not work on the Sabbath vs. healing someone on the Sabbath. To Jesus not doing the best good (healing) was equivalent to doing harm. Not saving a life was equal to destroying one. One good, “to save a life” is of a higher priority and trumps another good, not working on the Sabbath. This theme emerges again in Luke 14:1-6 as He is talking with the lawyers (how fitting in this discussion since most politicians are lawyers) and Pharisees about healing on the Sabbath. In verse 5 He poses the question:
Which one of you will have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day?”
When it comes to the moral and ethical question of being “pro-choice” vs. “pro-life,” protecting an innocent human life trumps a woman’s choice, particularly since the choice in this case is to inflict capital punishment on an innocent human that has not committed a crime much less one deserving of death. Protecting and preserving an innocent human life is of a higher priority than freedom of choice. So, I could not vote for a candidate that supports abortion.
The second question on my list is, like the first, a moral one:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
In a secular or perhaps more accurately a pagan culture, which happens to be what we live in today, should we expect unbelievers to live any differently than unbelievers live? The answer is no, we shouldn’t. They have every right to attempt to influence the law and legislation to legalize immoral behavior and “lifestyles” in which they are involved. However, sexual immorality, whether fornication, adultery or homosexuality, is still sexual immorality. I could not vote for a candidate that supports the legalization and recognition of a particular sexually immoral behavior, such as homosexual marriage, as a right.
But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.A widow is to be put on the list only if she is not less than sixty years old, having been the wife of one man, having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work. (1 Timothy 5:8-10)
The third issue is also, as you might have guessed, a moral and ethical one as well. It is the issue of theft from one class of citizens to give it to another class of citizens. We should as Christians and as a culture be concerned about the plight of the poor and destitute but the Apostle Paul lays out the criteria by which this should be handled in the church and there is great wisdom in handling in culture in a similar fashion. Notably absent is a criteria which gives leadership the right or mandate to apply an arbitrary number as enough and take as much over that amount and give it to others. What we do find is that leadership is to do their due diligence to insure that the ones looking for assistance meet certain criteria.
First, they must be willing to work. That is not to say they cannot be helped during temporary setbacks. We see, for example, the Corinthian church taking up offerings to assist the poor saints in Jerusalem. But the individuals should be working if at all possible so as to not overly burden the system. Their family and friends should be the first line of help which would also bring a greater degree of accountability to the one looking for assistance. Their friends, family neighbors and church would have a better handle on their situation and how best to help.
Second, the criteria should be such that it eliminates all but the most needy and least able to provide for themselves. There is a reason for this:
If any woman who is a believer has dependent widows, she must assist them and the church must not be burdened, so that it may assist those who are widows indeed. (1 Timothy 5:16)
The reason is that we can use the limited resources we possess and help those who are in genuine need. I can’t really tell anyone else how to vote or who to vote for. My personal list of views that a candidate might hold that would not allow me to vote for them is short. Some may disagree with it and that is their right but it is after all my list. You may consider making a similar list of 3, 4 or 5 things which you cannot consider in a candidate and don’t for the one who holds them.