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There is a standard for your vote

During the US election campaign, I have often thought about the willingness of evangelicals to explain away the implications of some parts of Scripture. This can be evident on both sides of politics. Modern evangelicals have both an obsession with the importance of the Bible, and a curious disregard for it. Apparently reading the Bible is essential to spiritual life. On the other hand, evangelicals are prone to arguing that the Bible does not speak to particular areas. They usually do this through explaining away or ignoring the parts of the Bible that do apply. This has been evident Christian responses to this election campain.

Some go as far as arguing that Christianity does not have implications for whether you vote Democrat or Republican. Why? Being a Christian is about the gospel. This statement implies that the gospel comes to us in some kind of nebulous vacuum. It comes contextless, and devoid of any compelling claim upon our decisions. It is odd, then, that God chose to accompany the gospel with a Bible. Jesus came to us in the context a wealth of literature that gives us a very good idea of what his will is when it comes to rulers and laws. It may be that neither Democrats nor Republicans fit the bill, but we have been given standards we can use to evaluate both. Yes, you are still a Christian if you sinfully support wicked rulers. You are a Christian who needs to repent, and who can rely on the endless grace of God given in the gospel.

Cabernet Leather  – (November 10, 2008 at 1:29 PM)  

How, specifically, does Christianity have implications for voting Democrat or Republican?

I think you're treading on very dangerous ground when you make a statement like:

"Yes, you are still a Christian if you sinfully support wicked rulers. You are a Christian who needs to repent, and who can rely on the endless grace of God given in the gospel."

There is never going to be a perfect ruler besides Christ, and I don't think it's anyone's place to judge those that prayerfully consider their vote because the bible does not tell us who to vote for.

Sherrin  – (November 10, 2008 at 3:25 PM)  

Specifically? I would argue that any Christian could find that out by first examining what the Bible has to say about righteous and wicked rulers, and righteous and wicked laws, and then comparing that to the platforms of both parties. Unless a person is looking for the words Democrat or Republican in a concordance, this shouldn't be hard. Being imperfect is fine. Being an advocate of what God calls wicked is not.

Prayers are no help if you're ignoring what God has clearly said. The conscience is not God. After all, Bill Clinton prayed before he refused to sign a bill protecting infants born alive after abortion.

Since I've clearly stated that "It may be that neither Democrats nor Republicans fit the bill", I don't think I've entered dangerous ground. If you believe I have, please show me where biblically.

Sherrin  – (November 10, 2008 at 4:11 PM)  

Actually the bill he refused to sign was the one that attempted to ban Partial Birth Abortion, a particularly gruesome method of late term abortion. Sorry!

Cabernet Leather  – (November 10, 2008 at 4:33 PM)  

I think it's dangerous ground because the implications of your comments are that Christians who voted for Obama have sinned and need to repent.

His postion on abortion makes me uncomfortable and if I were American, it may have been enough to stop me voting for him, but I don't think we have ground for judging those that did vote Democrat.

Both candidates claim to be Christian - the platforms of either party contain nothing that is obviously wicked so I still don't see how there's a black and white choice for Christians.

mike  – (November 10, 2008 at 5:37 PM)  

I also think you are on very dangerous ground.

When it comes to what the Bible says about human life we’re agreed. Where we differ, is in our application of the principals the Bible offers.

Choosing to vote for a pro-life candidate is an application of a principle derived from scripture. Don’t mistake of insisting that people agree with your application of these principles.

You may want to check out Mikey’s post about this issue here.

Sherrin  – (November 10, 2008 at 6:39 PM)  

Hello friends,

Obviously I don't insist that people agree with my comments :). If I thought everyone agreed, I wouldn't have bothered to attempt to make a case for my position.

I am not going to get into the specifics of Republicans and Democrats (or of third parties, some of which are better). The whole point of my post is to argue that the Bible is clear when it comes to rulers and laws, and has implications for both major parties. If we don't agree on this, we're not going to agree on anything.

I believe that a person who chooses to vote for someone who advocates things that God calls wicked or abominations has sinned. These things include, to name a couple, child murder and sodomy. Such a candidate could be a member of any party. Why do I believe that supporting wickedness with your vote is a sin? In voting for a candidate whom you know advocates such things, you have participated in evil.

I'm interested . . . do you belive that voting for such a candidate does not entail support for and participation in his/her policies?

Sherrin  – (November 10, 2008 at 6:47 PM)  

I'm also still interested in a biblical reason why my position that it is possible to sin in voting for a candidate or party is dangerous.

Faith  – (November 11, 2008 at 1:30 PM)  

Be thankful you are not living in America.
I have not experienced a non wicked politician my opinion they are all wicked to some degree and most of them are liars. Sad, but true.

I didn't vote for Obama but I sure as heck didn't like who I did vote for I kinda of felt compelled to as he seemed the lesser of 2 evils, morally....neither of them are born again Christians to my knowledge...we know them by their fruit......To me, God is the one in Control...He knew who He wanted to place in the USA office of president...or perhaps...America might be suffering the consequences of "we reap what we sow".

Sherrin  – (November 12, 2008 at 1:26 PM)  

Yes, Faith, it is hard here as well. I agree that all politicians are more or less wicked. All people are wicked, that is why we need the gospel!

I've tried to carefully define that I believe that it is sinful to vote for someone who advocates things that the Bible calls wicked. E.g. the politician's actual platform involves promoting and giving aid to evil things, meaning that they promise to rule wickedly. In giving a vote to such a person citizens are asking him/her to represent them. Politicians do vary greatly in what they promote and/or endorse, and what they are therefore representing on your behalf.

Seumas Macdonald  – (November 14, 2008 at 10:42 PM)  

I realise this post is a little old, but I can't resist asking, especially in light of your last question. If all candidates endorse policies that are wicked (different policies), then isn't the application of your view that a Christian who votes for any of them is sinning? What would this look like in Australia where voting is compulsory?

Sherrin  – (November 17, 2008 at 1:09 PM)  

Hi Seamus,

Good question. I've been mulling on that one myself :).

My position on this is based on a couple of base ideas that I may not have made clear in prior answers:

1. A democracy is based on the concept of representation. We participate in governance by casting our vote. Our vote indicates the person we want to represent us.

2. In knowingly voting for someone who promises to do evil, we are asking for that person to represent us. We are therefore participating in evil governance.

In order for this idea to work at all, one has to define evil and wicked actions on the part of governments. These have to be defined as distinct from unwise actions or even those that overstep the proper boundaries of government. I also have to make a distinction between the personal sins of individuals (such as the adultery of politicians) and their publically advocated policies and actions on behalf of citizens.

In my opinion, we usually do have a choice of a candidate who does not advocate evil. However, in the hypothetical situation of only two candidates where:

1) promises to kill all the refugees who stepped onto our shores

2) promises to kill only half of them

I believe it would be a sin to vote for either! It would not be right to vote for person two in the hope of saving half.

Sorry this is so long - there doesn't seem to be a short way to cover this topic!

In my opinion, if we have no concept a people sinning by the governments they choose then there can be no concept of collective responsibility. This would make a nonsense of events such as the apology to the stolen generation on behalf of Australians, which is based upon the idea that "Australia" sinned in allowing those policies to be enacted.

Seumas Macdonald  – (November 17, 2008 at 1:30 PM)  

Thanks for your response! Let me ask some more questions, if that's okay.

If representative democracy is predicated on the idea that elected officials represent those who voted for them, how much credence do we give that idea, given that the functional reality of (let's stick to Australian democracy) that democracy is voting for parties and party-policies. Ie, can we sustain the ideology of 'representative' democracy when the reality is not so?

Secondly, given the ideology of representative democracy also includes the idea that those who vote for losing candidates, by their act of voting, are consenting to being represented by the winning candidate, so that the elected official represents all voters, not just their supporters - what does this say about the culpability of voters for the actions of elected representatives?

Sorry for the convoluted questions. If they are too unclear, happy to break them down.

Sherrin  – (November 17, 2008 at 1:33 PM)  

Sorry I neglected to answer about the compulsory situation in Oz - you are free to drop a blank ballot into the box. It is compulsory to turn up and put something in!

Sherrin  – (November 21, 2008 at 10:42 AM)  

Hello Seamus,

So sorry I missed your second set of questions! I didn't see them on comments moderation until today. I have no idea why!

I'll mull a little over your questions and get back to you soon :)

I like questions like yours. They are worth mulling over.

Sherrin  – (November 21, 2008 at 5:19 PM)  

Question one:

I studied the rise of parties in pol sci at uni. This was something the founders of the system did not foresee, so we do have to ask questions about the implications for representative democracy. Many people now effectively ask a "party" to represent them.

It is still possible to assess candidates on the basis of their individual character and positions. We still have to vote for representatives for particular geographical areas, and those people do claim to represent that area's interests. We can research candidate's positions and actions with regard to various matters. Sure, this is hard work. However, participation in governance via the vote should surely involve more work than listening to party sound bites on TV? If we are to take more accountability for voting decisions, it will necessitate moving away from allegiance to parties.

Second question:

A little clarification would be helpful.

I have not thought about the concept of implied consent. Is the idea that you consent to the system of governance, and any of its results, via the act of participation in it?

Your question implies that voters could be accountable for the actions of elected representatives regardless of whether or not they vote for them. Am I right that this is the idea you're presenting?

Seumas Macdonald  – (November 21, 2008 at 5:25 PM)  

Your clarification of my second question is correct. In a representative democracy, it seems to me that the act of voting implies consent to the system, and that elected representatives represent all voters, even those who opposed them. Thus, those who consented to the system by voting de facto agreed to be represented by whoever was elected

Sherrin  – (November 22, 2008 at 6:06 PM)  

I'd like to do some more research into this concept. If true, your position seems to have a number of potential consequences.

I'm not sure what your thoughts are about the implications, but I'd be interested in hearing them.

Perhaps, in your opinion, this means that anyone who voted is as responsible before God for the policies that are enacted as those who voted for the politicians who are in power?

Or would that be going too far?

It seems to me that this would put voters in quite a difficult position in terms of accountability, and that it would seem inescapable that even the act of voting = participation in what is evil.

If so, maybe the Amish and the Brethren have it right - opt out :)

Seumas Macdonald  – (November 22, 2008 at 10:00 PM)  

I will make a few comments, and leave you to consider to think through the implications. If my thoughts incline me some time, I will gather my thoughts into a more comprehensible presentation.

I do not think voters are as responsible - that would result in everyone implicated in an action being equally culpable for it. That seems an untenable position for corporate sin.

Secondly, the NT is written in a period and context where participation in government and state of this kind is simply incomprehensible. The democracies of Greece function very differently to our modern states.

The Amish have their flaws, but I suspect that the mainstream churches have a lot to learn from them too.

Sherrin  – (November 24, 2008 at 5:21 PM)  

The fact that our form of government did not exist at the time of the Old and New Testaments does mean that the implications of the Bible’s teaching on governance must be applied in an entirely different context. My goal in writing this post has been to argue that there are relevant biblical principles, however, whatever the complexities of application may be.

Well, I’ve enjoyed discussing this with you. If you ever feel inclined to share a “more comprehensible presentation” I’d be interested in it!

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