What Principles Guide Your Vote?

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Let me confess, I think conservative Christians took their eyes off the ball in the 80’s and 90’s. We thought political change would bring a change in hearts and minds and because of that we invested enormous amounts of Christian capital in the political process. During that time, I think we neglected the thing that really changes people – the gospel. We didn’t stop believing in it, but we stopped believing in the power of it. As a young preacher, I bought into some of that.

Now I see the pendulum swing and Christians, in trying to emphasize the Kingdom of God, have made comments that we should not be involved at all, in the political process. Or that our personal faith convictions shouldn’t shape our vote. I believe the hearts of these people are well-intentioned. But I think we’ve forgotten that God uses the church to build His kingdom and he uses nations to provide an atmosphere where the gospel will excel. We see a clear picture of that in the Old Testament. God chose Israel, but He didn’t only care about Israel. God cared about Babylon, Assyria and Egypt. He held them accountable for their pride, sin and destruction.

So, if God still has a role for nations, I think we can postulate that we should care and speak when nations get it wrong. We should also strive to influence nations to get it right.

In this political cycle, there are a lot of things I don’t like about both candidates, platforms and parties. That will be the case until Jesus sits on the throne here on earth. But here are several of the principles that are helping me make a decision.

1. Religious Liberty – Simply this is the right to practice your faith according to your conscience. I’m sure there are reasonable limits, like if I wanted to sacrifice my child to Molech! But today regulation, taxes, fees, zoning, health care requirements, etc. are all working to 1) eat up a church’s resources that could be used to further its cause. 2) impose penalties on religious organizations and Christians for living according to their religious convictions (i.e. the health care mandate).

2. Life – Maybe this should have been first. Because without it, we have no others. I still believe that every human being is created in the image of God. And any society that discards human flesh as if it were yesterday’s trash can’t receive God’s blessing. Are there difficult situations and painful experiences that make this hard? Yes there are. But I will never believe that the answer is to destroy something that is unique and loved personally by God.

3. Personal Rights – This ties in easily to number 1. With liberty, personal rights have to be secured. Personal rights recognize that each individual is an entity deserving the freedom to make his/her own decisions, choose his/her path – where it doesn’t constrict the rights of another. Part of this is the necessity of personal property rights. If you don’t have control of your personal property, you don’t have the right to be autonomous.

4. Personal Responsibility – With rights and liberty comes great responsibility. There are certainly times for helping and assisting those who have been overwhelmed by life-circumstances. Nevertheless, we have seen the growth of an entitlement culture. With the rise of personal and government debt, we act as if it is someone else’s job to bail us out. Again and again, I have experienced the phone call from someone who wants nothing to do with the church, except to receive money. Even the gospel is wrought with personal responsibility. The very acts of repentance and confession express that we are fully responsible and it is only by grace are we freed. And then we are responsible for obedience.

5. Projection of Power – In the world, power is the greatest commodity. And if the US gives up its power, by decreasing our ability to protect ourselves, our allys, or our interests; the power vacuum will be filled by less gracious nations. We must influence. But we must also hold accountable those we help. In my opinion, no nation should get a dollar of US aid if they aren’t on the path to upholding our values. How does this worldwide influence affect the gospel? As nations open up, the gospel has greater opporutnity to make an impact (think China, Russia and South Korea).

I envision when these principles are practiced, the gospel of Christ will have a greater freedom to impact others. Churches will not be hindered in supporting, declaring and living out the truth as they see it. The truth, when proclaimed freely, will stand above and against all other philosophies and ideas. The respect for all life, will support the message and the work of the church to give dignity to all people as they are created in the image of God. Personal rights and responsibilities make people more dependent on God and on their communities of faith to give them strength and support, instead of an impersonal government. Through a healthy, value-based projection of power, the church will see other avenues for mission and outreach around the globe.

I’m not endorsing a candidate. But I am endorsing a political philosophy that I believe will enable the gospel to move forward with great freedom and impact.

I’d love to hear what are the big principles shaping your vote? And just as important, how will they impact the work of the church in the world?

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7 thoughts on “What Principles Guide Your Vote?

  1. It seems that we are in a “leadership void” in establishing a clear direction for our country. We need a leader who can clearly espouse a view that brings greater unity and cooperation, and the ability to openly discuss different viewpoints and different solutions without condemming those who differ with us. I have always enjoyed the give and take involved in expressing my views, and hearing the views of others, but feel it is unacceptable in too many situations and that I must be “politically correct” in order not to offend any group or individual. It is impossible to solve problems if you don’t consider all possible solutions. (Like looking for God inside a finite closed system that doesn’t include the spiritual realm).

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    1. Thanks Don. That is a challenge in such a diverse culture. But I think, you’re right, leadership is key. If we are going to move forward together we need someone who will pull us together on the bigger issues and help us work together on the details.

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  2. Jim,
    Great article. Appreciate your thinking, especially since it mirrors mine.
    I was taken back though by your need to say you were not endorsing a candidate. It is not that I think you need to endorse a candidate, it is that if you follow your own principles you have only one choice for voting among the two main candidates. At least to me that seems obvious. I have noticed that there seems to a great reluctance among those who clearly would not endorse or vote for the current President to admit that they will be voting for Romney. I have wondered if his Mormonism is the issue. What are we afraid of? The issue of religious liberty alone is cause to say we need another man running this country.
    My thought. Write the article and let the chips fall where they may without the qualifier because unless I have missed something in what you said, you are endorsing Romney, or at the very least, will be voting for him.
    I hope you know this comes from a friend.

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  3. I agree with your guidelines, but II think you are in the minority of this nation. I have been rethinking my views on the role of our country. I put too much hope in politics influencing people. As Christians, we should vote our conscience, which should be guided by God’s Spirit, and we should try to do good whenever we can, even as a nation. Our great nation is blessed in many ways, and is filled with many good and charitable people. But our culture is less than Christian, and the world sees it. If we desire to be a Christian nation, we truly need Spiritual Revival, which will only come when we become a praying nation, and focus on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Many of us, Christians included, are self reliant and proud, and we don’t want to appear weak or needy, and we are mostly interested in what’s good for us. We don’t want to offend anyone, so we tend to not hold each other accountable for much of anything, and we don’t value Truth. That is our culture. I think we need to pray that God would change our hearts, individually, and that as our hearts change, this change may start to be reflected in our politics, and our nation, eventually. Unfortunately, I think many of us, including myself, thought that if we can influence people through politics, we can start to change the nation, as if we can change peoples hearts. We know that it is God who changes hearts. I don’t know if what I said sounds sensible, or if i’m just talking in circles. I’m going to vote my values, and I am praying that God changes many hearts, and draws them to Himself, that His love for us may be known personally.

    Also, I do agree with you that Life should be first on your list. We don’t value life in our culture, and life is often sacrificed to the idols of convenience and success. I don’t make light of those who suffer violent crimes against them, but the innocent life should not also suffer because of those crimes. The argument is not a an easy one.

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    1. I certainly agree that change begins with me. I need to live the gospel and share it with others. As far as this being a Christian nation, I have said, “I don’t think America was ever a Christian nation. It was a nation of Christians.” That is what has changed. And that is what will need to change for America to be what it should be. We need more Christians living Christianly.

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