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?