Welcome to our Wednesday “Ask Beau” post. The purpose of this weekly feature is to provide you, our readers, with biblical responses to questions you have about practical issues that you face.
As always, you may submit questions for future “Ask Beau” posts by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by leaving a comment on this post.
Living in a battleground state has its pros and cons. On the positive side, we Ohioans get to hear a lot from both candidates during a presidential campaign. On the negative side, we Ohioans get to hear a lot from both candidates during a presidential campaign. No, that is not a typo. Times such as these remind us of the blessings and frustrations that accrue to those experiencing, as the Columbus Dispatch cleverly put it, attention-surplus disorder.
One of the frustrations of being shelled with political ammunition is that we recognize political ads are quite one-sided, and often aimed to manipulate. Debates are somewhat more illustrative, I suppose, but even here we see that the discourse is often little more than posturing and pugnacious name calling. Candidates present contradictory accounts of the same data, and frankly all of this can be a little difficult to wade through even for those who are patient enough to think critically. So how should a Christian vote?
No, I’m not going to endorse any candidates. Instead, I’d like to suggest that we use the notion of worldview as a helpful means of political assessment.
The American political system is unlike the primary political systems depicted in the Bible. The predominant governmental model in the Old Testament was theocratic, and in the New Testament it was imperial. In either case, Joe the plumber didn’t really have a say in who would be calling the shots, so it stands to reason that we don’t have any explicit biblical commentary on voting.
Joe now does have a say, though, and if he is a Christian, he obviously should seek to vote in way that is pleasing to God. But here (as always) freedom introduces some ambiguity. Which candidate should get his vote? It’s not as simple as voting for people who claim the name of Christ. What if both candidates claim to be Christians and have completely opposite viewpoints on specific policies and on how the government should conduct itself generally? What if neither candidate claims to be a Christian? And is the point here to create a “Christian” government, anyway?
Especially for higher-level offices, assessing political candidates according to their worldviews may be more helpful than assessing them according to their specific policies or religious affiliations. Policies are symptomatic and relatively fleeting. Religious tags only tell part of the story, and they are less relevant in a democracy than in a theocracy. Generally, though, if we are paying attention we can get a very good sense of a politician’s worldview—his perspective on the most fundamental topics: the nature of God and man and the relationship between the two, the role of government, the nature of life, the balance between mercy and personal responsibility, and so on. Our duty and privilege as Christians is to assess where candidates stand on these foundational concepts and compare their stances to the biblical worldview. The candidates that are closest should get our vote.
This is not always an easy process, and the fact that sincere, thoughtful Christians can have intense disagreement on political issues and candidates should provoke us to an attitude of humility. And regardless of our vote, or of the outcome of a political process, may we always remember that God is in control and that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1 ESV).
Now let’s get out and vote!