A JESUS VOTER GUIDE

Does Jesus really care about what happens in the U.S. elections?  Do his person and work offer much help to his followers who will or will not vote later this year?  What does Jesus know and what might Jesus contribute to this sharpening and exhausting environment of debates, ad campaigns, and mudslinging contests? 

One group of people supposes that Jesus is pretty much clueless on all these matters.  Or, if not clueless he is care-less, since he has more important, other worldly matters to pursue.

Another group looks to Jesus for a kind of tipping point support.  The arguments are quite compelling as they are, but just to clinch matters, here’s a saying from the Bible, attributed to Jesus.  For them, Jesus spreads on a little frosting to make things sweeter.

A third group comprised of some of the most active on the political scene these days believe in absolute truth.  They also believe they have found absolute truth on most matters that are before an unsuspecting or deceived public.  For these activists Jesus steps up as the Ultimate Sponsor of their views.  He who is the way, the truth and the life obviously would vote this way or for this person.

For earnest Christ Followers, I would suggest, the first two groups have it all wrong.  The Lord and Master of all has much to say about just about everything.  If he is who we claim then we must not treat him as though he has only “religious” or “spiritual” advice for any who might be interested.  No, he is the smartest person we know.  As such, we who follow him should do just that—follow him and embrace his wisdom as he gives it and as it applies to whatever the issues might be.  We can count on him for more than an endorsement of our already good ideas.

For Christ Followers the third group is undoubtedly correct in that truth is, well, real or true—in some solid and objective way.  They are also right to insist that it is possible to know the truth, and they no doubt affirm that Jesus embodies truth and wants to lead all who will follow to the truth.  But we must take care that we actually follow him and must guard against remaking him to suit some party-line.   

I’ve thinking about what sort of Voter’s Guide Jesus might write for us and offer to us as we approach next November.  Before I give you an outline of what I think might be on such a guide, let me acknowledge that many will be disappointed by it.  They will be disappointed because the candidates and issues at center stage do not claim the attention and importance for Jesus that they may for us.  In reading a guide of his making, we will no doubt sense that he offers it with other priorities and concerns in mind than we often have when we think (or fail to think) about political, electoral matters.  You are warned.  So, here goes.

First, two general observations about what would guide the specific items Jesus would recommend to us as part of the more general electorate.  To begin, I would not expect very many, if any, detailed action plans.  This is so for two reasons: first, the most important issues are complex and addressing them is often not reducible to one simple “action plan” (see below for examples).  Second, all the time Jesus is more interested in moving his followers to full maturity, to help us to grow up in him, to realize our full potential as children, servants and co-laborers with him.  Growing up and reaching maturity requires the ability to think, to choose courses of action, to develop/express faith, and to act on conviction–all of which works best when we do not see everything as clearly as we might hope and yet must act with courage and resolve.  Maturity and fullness comes only in such ways. 

 Second, I would expect a thoroughly Kingdom Perspective since the Kingdom is the gospel summary of Jesus’ message and ministry.  A Kingdom Perspective embraces the whole world, and seeks his will done everywhere, not just here.  Further, his Kingdom is founded on righteousness, or justice, and love so that no one will go without, and no one will be deprived.  What this means, among other things, is that a partisan or parochial policy (addressing only a part to the neglect of the whole focus) will nearly always be incomplete and inadequate when assessed in light of Jesus’ Kingdom.  Consequently, policies that aim only or exclusively at one nation’s well being will also fall beneath a Kingdom Perspective.    You can see by this Kingdom Criteria how complex matters really are.  For example, we must protect our borders—not only or primarily to defend our sovereign territory but also to defend people and families, but not in ways that make it impossible or unlikely to care for strangers and the oppressed, and not in ways that place our exclusive or primary trust in police or military protection apart from confidence in God’s word that in welcoming strangers we welcome him.  Another example that comes to mind would be war in general, and the ongoing war on terror in particular.  Kingdom people cannot be lovers of war and cannot commit to hawkish ways—period!  I am not saying that all who commit to the Kingdom of Jesus will be pacifists and will disavow the use of force categorically.  I am saying that the use of force must not compromise other clear Kingdom priorities and values.  Force that is simply retaliatory or preemptive is on principle questionable for people committed to a Kingdom perspective.  Military action as a first response would be similarly questionable.  The disavowal of, or impatience with, diplomacy is likewise found wanting.  OK, so what more specifically might be on Jesus’ Voter’s Guide?

  • What (candidate, position or policy) best values and makes possible loving God with our all and loving others as we do ourselves?  (Seriously, now, consider this prayerfully and in community with other Christ-followers!)

 

  • What (candidate, position or policy) offers Christ-followers the best opportunities to assist multitudes of others in following Christ as we do?

 

  • What (candidate, position or policy) offers the most hope for the poor of the world and why do you think so?

 

  • What (candidate, position or policy) would seek the good as God defines it for people everywhere, such as justice, redress from oppression, freedom for captives of every sort?

 

  • What (candidate, position or policy) shows the most deference for the most vulnerable?

 

  • What (candidate, position or policy) reflects purity of heart and life, not only negatively in terms of avoidance of things that defile, demean and damage but also positively in terms of passionate pursuit of human well-being and wholeness wherever the humans happen to live?

 

  • What (candidate, position or policy) advocates for and acts in the interest of biblical peace—shalom, not only conflict resolution and the overcoming of tribal/racial/ethnic divides but also the pursuit of conditions that encourage and resource human flourishing everywhere (think here of disparities of rich and poor, the many who are “have-nots” who go without adequate food, water, shelter, and care)?

 

  • What (candidate, position or policy) would applaud and collaborate with those with special concern and abilities to facilitate grace and kindness between parties who are estranged?

 

  • What (candidate, position or policy) reflects a spirit or tone in their advocacy that offers the best chance of finding the good and the wisdom in alternate or even contrary candidates and views?

 

  • What (candidate, position or policy) demonstrates an ability to stand on principle without demonizing those who disagree?

 

  • What (candidate, position or policy) shows a willingness to sacrifice self or group agenda for the sake of higher common good?

 

  • What (candidate, position or policy) best reflects the wisdom that human worth cannot be calculated at the cash register and viable human communities require ongoing self-restraint?

Obviously the list could go on, but this is enough to indicate the tone and tenor of the guide.  Now, please note that in all likelihood no viable candidate or party corresponds very well.  The electoral situation is indeed complex and murky.  As such, there is plenty of room for Christ followers to disagree and draw conclusions that are contrary to each other.  So what should we do? Withdraw and not participate?  Discern what corresponds most nearly?  Determine what items are most critical now and see where closest alignment is?  Collaborate with others in infiltrating all parties to work toward bringing all parties more into alignment with the Voter’s Guide in any way possible, so that no matter what party or candidate wins there is greater possibility that policy and decisions will be shaped more nearly in conformity to Jesus’ Kingdom? 

Well, yes, exactly!  You see the challenge and the possibility.  With eyes of faith and hearts set on the things that inflame the heart of Jesus you will see the possibilities.  And you will do something.

 

Comments 19

    1. Well said. Our work is to engage and not disengage with the world that surrounds us. We are to be light and salt.

      Will we all share the same opinion at the voting booth?

      I hope not! Life and our walk with Jesus just isn’t that simple. Anyone who claims it is, is trying to sell us something.

  1. Good word! Here’s further good words (IMO) from Jaques Ellul: Christians are more united among themselves by their faith than they are with their political associates. Their political position comes second and their confession of Christ comes first. They are closer to their brothers in Christ in the opposing party than they are to non-Christians who share the same political view. Others will look with astonishment at these odd people who instead of doing like others, i.e., hating one another for political reasons, are full of love for one another beyond these secondary barriers. Christian freedom means that political adversaries can be fully united in Christ. If Christians, belonging to different parties, are basically and totally united among themselves, then they build a bridge between the different groups and opposing factions. They promote better understanding, they serve as interpreters, they lessen the hostility. As reconcilers, are they not witnesses to the covenant? Loyalty to fellowship in Christ is not compatible with unconditional party loyalty. This is the same choice as the choice between God and Mammon.

  2. Thank you for the encouragement to hang in there. I often want to look the other way and pretend it does not matter what I say. It seems so overwhelming with the deceits and name calling and hatefulness. I appreciate your words of encouragement to stay involved in the process and trust in Jesus.

  3. Thanks for a very thought provoking blog entry! As I’ve stated before, I don’t believe Jesus woould vote, but I believe He expects us to. He expects us to vote according to our conscience. I’ve forwarded your email with the link to my Prohibition Party friends. The Free Methodist Church gave the Prohibition Party some of its finest leaders and candidates for president and vice-president. This should probably be passed on to some of my friends in the Conservative Holiness Movement. I fear that many of us conservative holiness people just think we have to vote Republican because our parents, etc did or do.

    1. Your citation of the Prohibition Party, presumably because this party stands for imposing a moral value through the legal system, is interesting. This nation tried prohibition for approximately 20 years. This experiment in legislating morality resulted in; 1) corruption of the political process to a greater degree than previously in this nation, 2) substantial corruption of the legal and justice systems in this nation, 3)unparalleled growth in organized crime, and, 4) encouraging disrespect in the population towards our laws, legal system, and judicial system. It may also have been a significant contributing factor to the start of the abandonment of Biblical morals and morality which this nation is now experiencing.

      Those who championed prohibition did so out of a genuine desire to correct a social wrong; the problems the habitual drunkard experienced as well as the problems their families experienced. However, using law to deal with individual moral choices did not work.

      Those same Christian leaders would have served their communities much better by exercising true love by confronting those having problems with drinking among their friends, family, and congregations. This implies willing to take care of the families while the affected individual worked on straightening out his life. Finally it means that these individuals and their families would not be ostracized but remain welcome in the fellowship of believers.

      Of course, this did not happen in most cases in families and local churches. So we had a failed attempt at using law instead.

      1. The American Holiness Movement and its daughter denominations known as Conservative Holiness Movement, has always taken the forefront in opposing alcohic beverages. Indeed, the Manual of the Bible Missionary Church, for example, declares in its Special Rules that we believe in abstinance for the individual and prohibition for the state. Your comment is interesting because it shows how the media has portrayed Prohibition. Here’s an excellent website to check out that may change your mind. http://kevinsabet.com/prohibitions-real-lessons-for-drug-policy

        Bottom line: “A vote for principle is never lost”

        1. Mr. Swift, your immediate characterization of my comments as nothing more than “how the media protrayed Prohibition” is repugnant. However, this is not the forum for a continuing discussion of this issue. Please contact me at infmaj04@gmail.com with your email address to continue this discussion.

          1. Mr. Caswell, I certainly didn’t mean to degrade your comments. What you said in the last two paragraphs is right on the money! We do need to be concerned with the harm that is done to our society. I’m sending you an email so I can better articulate the comment you felt was repugnant. Sorry for the misunderstnading!

        2. I think it is very interesting that you have brought up this topic as I have a familial heritage with the prohibition party. My great grandfather Dr. D. D. Gibbons ran for the prohibition party in the late 40’s and 50’s. He was against alcohol because of the way that it destroyed his family growing up, while at the same time his occupational habits tore apart his. My grandfather on the other hand decried the injustices of alcohol while going to bars, as long as he was able, and ministering and encouraging those there.
          My grandfather was very stubborn about his political opinions but was very serious about his desire to do more than just vote an opinion.
          All in all I do not feel that James is that far off, and I have experienced it first hand.

          1. My great grandmother on by dad’s side of the family was a Prohibition Party member and a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. My grandparents were not officially members of any party. I have my grandfather’s old sermons. He wrote his notes on the backs of letters,etc. In one of his notes, is a page from The National Voice, a prohibitionist paper. Enjoyed reading about your familial ties to the Prohibition Party.

            That being said, B.T. Roberts in his book, Pungent Truths advised his preachers against becoming so involved in politics that it becomes the main focus. That is a bad habit I have! This Jesus Voters Guide more or less gives us helpful advise as we go the polls.

  4. Very wise and helpful thoughts. We should arm ourselves with love and look for ways to engage with those we disagree with politically. Hard to do, but the Christ way. Thanks for the good words.

  5. Thanks so much for the further clarification. As you could probably tell in my responses to the previous blog posts I am reluctant to say that Jesus would vote or that He would even want us to vote but I now see what you are getting at. Thanks for the voter’s guide but I feel it will lead more people to the point of indecision and thus not voting more than it will alleviate a persons resistance to voting, but maybe that was the point.

  6. In the arena of civic or political affairs, I believe Jesus has done something far more influential and important than merely “voting”. When our nation was being birthed, Jesus was “inspiring” our founders, and revealing to them a form of government that was far more virtuous and respectful of justice and the human condition than any prior form of government ever tried.

    God had warned Israel what would happen to them when they insisted on having a king. Our founders rejected a king – in fact, a common cry shouted out by the colonial patriots was: “No king but Jesus!” Throughout the course of human history, government had always existed to exercise sovereignty over the people. Our founders, through divine providence (and an awareness of scripture that would put most of us to shame) reversed that concept and established a government that has the people and “Rule of Law” as being sovereign over the government. Government receives its authority and limited powers only by the consent of the people, not through the tyrannical tendencies of a democracy but through the mechanisms of a constitutional republic. A constitutional republic that doesn’t grant people rights, but recognizes that rights originate from God. And these rights are inalienable – since they come from God and not from man or government, then any attempt by man or government to usurp these rights is illegitimate and an abuse of power. Governments ONLY legitimate power is in the protection of those individual rights of life, liberty and property.

    The founders, being members of fallen humanity, didn’t do everything perfect, and from that generation to this one we have failed to follow the blueprint that they laid down. But one thing has become very apparent, the further we stray from the principles that embodied our founding, the worse off we become. We’ve turned away from our only legitimate king, turned our biblical command to educate our children over to the state (and then expelled our Creator from those now-pagan schools). In our laziness and our covetousness, we have traded our liberty for serfdom, our freedom for false security, our concept of individual responsibility and Christ-like charity for the destruction of the welfare state. Perhaps we need to rephrase JFK’s famous words: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask why is your country trying to do for you what you should be doing for yourself!”

    If we would only seriously live out 2 Chronicles 7:14, if we would only humble ourselves, seek His face, prostrate ourselves in earnest prayer, and turn from our wicked ways, then God may have mercy on our nation and heal it.

  7. Reflections on the Voter Guide

    I view with some degree of reserve the principles expressed in the 3d paragraph of this guide. It was this view of Kingdom principles that helped to bring about the 18th Amendment to the Constitution (Prohibition of Alcoholic Beverages) and the Volstead Act (actual enforcement mechanism). The historical consensus is that these laws caused much more harm to American society than benefit. The principles in this paragraph above appear to assume that government, as an institution, is under the same directives as the Church regarding the advancement of God’s Kingdom.

    Carried to an extreme that Bishop Kendall would probably not agree with, one can use these principles to build the argument that the United States is morally and Biblically required to go to war against Iran to; a) open the country to the Gospel, b) found a government that is more conducive to justice based on righteousness, and c) care for the poor of that country. (Kind of sounds like our incursions into Iraq and Afghanistan.) These same principles can be used to justify removing all restrictions on immigration into the United States from all sources thus opening the borders to a huge flood of the poor as well as large numbers of criminals and enemies intent on doing the nation and its citizens great harm.

    I cannot find any Scripture that charges the institution of government with furthering the cause of the Kingdom. What I do see is a few references to government that indicate the role is limited to national security and the administration of justice. Romans 13:1-7 clearly state that God ordained government to order civil life and to dispense justice; specifically to punish evil. Leviticus 19:9-10 and Deuteronomy 24:20-21 make it clear that caring for the poor and disadvantaged of society are the responsibility of individuals and not the responsibility of the government. This is in contrast to Joseph’s actions recorded in Genesis 41:54 and 47:13-26. Here Joseph caused the Egyptian farmers and tradespeople to accept virtual slavery in the service of Pharaoh as the price for grain during the years of famine. It would appear the God recognizes that dependence on the government for our daily bread will ultimately lead to slavery to that government. I do not see this as a good thing.

    In 1 Samuel 8:11-22 God records the problems that a king would bring to Israel. These include high taxes to support the army and bureaucracy, requirement for sons to serve in the army and bureaucracy, and the removal of the daughters to be the concubines of the king. Further this burden would continue to grow over the years. This scripture seems to be a caution that we need to pay attention to in our times. As American society leaves more and more of the social welfare to government, government infringes more and more on daily life.

    Finally, Scripture is very clear that the Kingdom of God will not be found on this earth until Christ returns in Glory. There is nothing we can do to bring the Kingdom before this time (John 18:36, Revelations 22:2, and Romans 14:17). Further, there does not appear to be any reason to expect or attempt to embody its principles into secular government.

    Scripture is clear that social welfare is the responsibility of individuals, and by extension Christ’s Church. Therefore why are any of these concerns part of the voter guide (see bullet points 3 and 7)? Bullet points 1, 2, 6, are met when our governments (federal, state, and local) keep interference in daily life to the minimum needed to administer justice and punish evil; a strong argument for the limited government envisioned by those who wrote the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

    1. James I feel you have a very limited view of justice if it only has to do with punishing criminals. Justice or shalom all has to do with things being the way they are supposed to be, which includes people not being in poverty. This is why I feel that the government should get involved in welfare programs as well as people’s lives. If the government is God’s conduit for ordering civil life then we as a people, or civitas, should submit to the government and support their moves to help those who don’t any better than the unhealth they live in. I would assume that this is the same way you feel about prohibition, so why do support that but don’t support other laws?

      1. Mr. Gibbons

        Your observation that I appear to have a limited view of justice does not appear to be relevant to the issue I am discussing. That issue, restating, is to determine what Scripture has to say about the role of government. I will readily admit that Scripture does not have very much to say on the topic. However, Scripture does have something to say about the role of government. In Scripture it appears that government has a very limited role to play in society. Further, once government begins to exceed this role it become oppressive and unjust.

        You believe that government has a obligation to promote the economic welfare of the disadvantaged. My question to you is this: Where in Scripture do you find any support for the proposition that you have the right to compel me, through the coercive power of government, to surrender any portion of my earthly goods to accomplish what you consider to be a moral good?

        A related question is just where in Scripture do you find any support for the proposition that government is to concern itself with the economic welfare of individual members of its society (as opposed to insuring that economic activity as a whole is conducted according to whatever law is imposed on such activity)?

        As an aside, you completely misunderstood my position on Prohibition. I think that Prohibition resulted in a large amount of net harm to the nation and was not a viable policy.

        1. Very well said, Mr. Caswell. Your argument is well-founded in knowledge, logic and wisdom – and it reflects the opinion of our nations founders as well. Our founders had a very profound understanding of what God’s Word has to say about the legitamate role and limitations of just government. We deviate from their scripture-based ideals at our own peril.