Well, here we are on the eve of election day 2012, and from most reports the presidential race will be a close one. Not surprisingly then, there are a whole bunch of voices out there who are having their say as to which candidates you should support. What is somewhat surprising is how many of these voices are those of ministers.
For example, last Friday I watched an online sermon from Dr. David Jeremiah, the prominent pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church, a well known mega-church in San Diego. Jeremiah’s words were thoughtful and tactful, but the message in them was loud and clear: If you are a Christian, you should vote for Mitt Romney. He did openly acknowledge that Romney’s Mormon religion is not traditional Christianity, but he also left little doubt that he considers President Obama’s professed Christianity to be a sham. He did so by quoting Christ’s words, “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16) and then citing some examples of how Obama’s actions as President could easily be taken to show that he isn’t a true Christian. In particular, Jeremiah pointed out that Obama didn’t support the National Day of Prayer.
But before you condemn Dr. Jeremiah please understand that all he did in his church was the reverse of what thousands of black pastors are doing in their churches for Barack Obama. Unfortunately, in many ways, race and politics now walk hand in hand in America. The hard, cold truth is that the majority of so-called “white churches” and their pastors favor the Republican party while the majority of so-called “black churches” favor the Democratic party. Certainly there are exceptions on both sides of this rule, but the general rule still holds. Of course, this isn’t exactly a great revelation to people who study political demographics.
As for me, I am a registered Republican who usually votes for Republicans even though I never vote straight-ticket. However, in every church where I’ve served as pastor I’ve had Democrats in my congregation. Furthermore, I haven’t shied away from talking politics with these people outside the pulpit. I place great value on these conversations because they’ve made me more well rounded in my thinking and helped me mature as a Christian. Show me a person who only bothers to hear one side of a debate and I’ll show you a person who is limited in his/her discernment.
Now, it is with all of this in mind that I want to share with you five basic truths that I’ve formulated over the years concerning Christians and voting. This list certainly won’t be the last word on this whole subject, but hopefully it will help you, the Christian, to think a little more clearly before casting your ballot, not just in tomorrow’s election but in the ones to come. I’m not trying to get you to vote for or against anybody. I’m simply trying to get you to approach the political arena the way an honest, informed, mature, discerning Christian should.
Truth #1: It is undeniable that the Democratic party platform goes against the Bible in being pro-abortion and pro-homosexuality. We might as well get this one out of the way early because it is beyond obvious. I’ve written posts about what the Bible teaches about abortion and homosexuality, and I won’t take the time to revisit all of that information. If you’re interested, those posts can be found by clicking on those categories in my archives. Just know that every Christian should take the written word of God seriously, and the written word of God is very much anti-abortion and anti-homosexuality. (As a side note, I’ve grown very tired of professing Christians who try to explain away the Bible’s plain teaching on these two controversial subjects. Please, just stop it.)
Truth #2: Even though the issues of abortion and homosexuality are major issues, there are other issues that should be considered. I realize that there were approximately 1 million babies aborted last year. I also realize that in April of 2012 a demographer with the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy estimated that there are some 4 million adults who are predominantly gay or lesbian. Concerning that estimate, many people would argue that the number of gays and lesbians is actually much higher. So let’s be generous and go as high as 15 million. That brings the totals to 1 million abortions performed last year and 15 million gays or lesbians.
Okay, now consider that the current unemployment rate in America is 7.9%. That translates to over 12 million Americans being unemployed, and it doesn’t even factor in the number of Americans who are woefully underemployed or who haven’t even bothered to formally look for work in the past several weeks. When you figure those two sectors into the equation, the number rises to more like 20 million Americans who are struggling mightily in the workplace. And let’s keep in mind that many of these people have families they are trying to support. So what am I saying? I’m saying that when God looks down from heaven He doesn’t just see all the aborted babies and all the gays and lesbians; He also sees all of America’s unemployed and underemployed.
I’ll tell you someone else He sees: the multiplied thousands of soldiers who are currently serving America on foreign fields. That makes the issue of war another one that every Christian should consider in regards to voting. Does God ever condone war? He certainly did in the Old Testament every time that He sent the people of Israel into battle. For that matter, He’ll also condone it at the battle of Armageddon when Jesus returns to slay all the soldiers of the armies of the world at the end of the tribulation period (Revelation 19:11-21). But, then again, God never once wanted either Israel or the early church to rise up and go to war against the Roman empire. To the contrary, Jesus taught His followers to love their enemies, turn the other cheek toward them, go the second mile for them, and give them their cloaks (Matthew 5:38-48). Frankly, I’ve met some staunch Republican Christians who need to revisit that entire passage.
And here’s another issue that every Christian should consider at election time: How would Jesus have us deal with the millions of illegal aliens who are already in this country? To be honest, I haven’t figured out the answer to that one myself. Would I illegally cross the border into Mexico, enroll my kids in a Mexican school, and attempt to build a live for myself without becoming an official citizen of Mexico? Probably not. But now that such people make their homes in America, how should we Christians respond to them? To answer that we need to ask, how would Jesus respond to them? Again, I don’t claim to have the answer to this one yet. I’m merely pointing out that the sincere Christian should somehow take the issue of illegal aliens into account when it comes to voting.
Truth #3: Every Presidential election can’t be the “tipping point” for America in regards to God’s judgment. Franklin Graham recently wrote an article in which he said, “This could be America’s last call to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ…” In that David Jeremiah sermon that I mentioned earlier, Dr. Jeremiah described this election as a possible “tipping point” in regards to God judging America. Now, personally, I think that Franklin Graham and David Jeremiah are solid men of God who have done wonderful things for the Lord. I have several of Jeremiah’s commentaries on my shelves and my church is currently organizing its shoe boxes for Graham’s annual Samaritan’s Purse Christmas ministry. So don’t think that I don’t respect these two men. With that said, though, I seem to recall hearing words to the effect that the last Presidential election, in 2008, was a tipping point for America. I heard the same kind of thing for the 2004 election as well as the 2000 election and the 1996 one. You get the idea. Trust me, every Presidential election can’t be the tipping point. Is every election important? Obviously. But is America hanging in the balance of each one? I don’t think so. As noted Christian blogger Todd Rhoades wrote in response to Graham’s statement, “Is America MORE ripe for judgment in 2012 than during the civil rights turmoil, or when our country condoned slavery, or during the “free sex” sixties?”
For the record, in my opinion, God has already turned America over to herself in regards to judgment (Romans 1:18-32). People keep waiting for Him to pour out His wrath upon this nation by way of the ten plagues of Egypt or something like that, but the Bible teaches that His most ultimately devastating version of wrath is to take a hands-off approach to a group of people and let them do whatever they want without interference from Him. Surely this has been going on in America for a long time now.
Truth #4: Electing a President is not the same thing as electing a pastor. We Christians would be well advised to stop trying to make the office of President a “spiritual” position. 1 Timothy 3:1-7 and Titus 6-9 list the qualifications for a pastor (elder, bishop, overseer), not a politician, and if you will only vote for a politician who meets those qualifications, you’ll sit out every Presidential election. The Bible’s better passages concerning solid, effective political leaders are found in the book of Proverbs, passages such as: 8:12-16; 16:12-13; 25:2; and 31:1-9.
Now, does character count? Absolutely, and those passages from Proverbs expressly teach that. But does a candidate have to be 100% correct on every minute point of Christian doctrine or Christian conduct in order to rule a nation well? No. Certainly the best leaders will have a reverential fear of God, be in awe of the role that He has allowed them to play, and see themselves as His servants to the citizens. No argument there. But you shouldn’t refuse to vote for a man simply because he doesn’t fit your ideal of a spiritual leader. Leading the country is not the same as leading a church.
Truth #5: The Christian should vote as a means of being the “salt” and “light” of which Jesus spoke. The passage is Matthew 5:13-16. There Jesus explains that His followers are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Please note that He didn’t say that we are merely the salt and light of the church. You see, Christians should use their influence to make a positive difference in every corner of life, and that certainly includes the corner known as the political arena. While it’s true that sincere Christians might disagree as to just how to go about being that salt and light, it’s hard to believe that not voting at all in an election is one of the options.
Now, as I begin to head for home with this post, let me reiterate that I didn’t write this to get you to specifically vote for or against anybody. As always with this blog, I’m trying to get you to think a little deeper than you are used to thinking! Listen, God isn’t a Republican or a Democrat. He keeps Himself above the realm of both parties so that He can continually call both into account for their sins. That’s why I’m not dead set against a Christian voting for a candidate from either party provided that Christian can take the Bible and give me scripture to back up his/her reasoning.
So, if you vote for a candidate because he is pro-life, then take me to Psalm 139:13-16, where David describes how God knew him intimately even while David was in his mother’s womb. If you vote for a candidate who wants to end a war and bring our troops home, then take me to Matthew 5:9, where Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” If you vote for a candidate because he says he will fight against the homosexual agenda, then take me to Romans 1:18-32, where the Bible talks about God giving up sinful rebels to their vile passions so that they can pursue their unnatural sexual deviancy. If you vote for a candidate who promises to bolster governmental programs for the poor and needy, then take me to Proverbs 14:31, which says, “He who oppresses the poor reproaches his Maker, but he who honors Him has mercy on the needy.” If you vote for a candidate who will work to help illegal aliens be granted full citizenship, then take me to Leviticus 19:33, where God instructs the ancient Israelites to treat the foreigners in their land well and remember that they themselves were once foreigners living in the land of Egypt. Do you see what I’m saying? Don’t just vote; vote based upon principles that come straight out of the Bible.
And if you do this do you know what you will find? You will find that no one candidate and no one party addresses all of the scriptural issues that matter to God. One of the worst things that Christians do in regards to politics is attempt to oversimplify a very wide assortment of complex issues. I don’t want you to get so confused or so overwhelmed that you can’t even pick a candidate, but I do think you’d do well to guard against being a one-issue or two-issue voter, whatever those one or two issues may be with you. The fact is that this country is a royal mess, and there’s no one man or one party who will ever get it truly fixed. So the best we can do as Christian voters is take the mind of God (knowing it from having studied scores of Bible passages) into the voting booth and let the Holy Spirit lead us as we make our choices. Here’s hoping that you will do that tomorrow if you haven’t voted already in early voting.