We are in the home stretch of personal and collective debates about which presidential candidate should win our votes and why. Many Christians believe that our faith demands we vote for Republican candidates because of the party’s more restrictive stance on abortion. I have a different approach that is anchored in freedom, not legalistic demands imposed upon me by others.
I am not a one-issue voter because God is not a one-issue God. If he were, there would have been only one commandment: Thou shalt not kill. Instead, there are 10 commandments which forbid idolatry, adultery, and falsehood, among other sins.
In Proverbs Chapter 6, we learn of seven things that God hates, including arrogance, quarreling, lying, and troublemaking.
In Romans Chapter 1, Paul offers a list of more than 20 inexcusable sins, including envy, slander, boasting, and greed. This modern version seems especially relevant:
Since they didn’t bother to acknowledge God, God quit bothering them and let them run loose. And then all hell broke loose: rampant evil, grabbing and grasping, vicious backstabbing. They made life hell on earth with their envy, wanton killing, bickering, and cheating. Look at them: mean-spirited, venomous, fork-tongued God-bashers. Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best! (Romans 1.28-32)
Another version concludes by saying, Although they know God’s just requirement—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do these things but even applaud others who practice them. (Romans 1.29-31 ISV)
Whether I applaud Republicans or Democrats, I am applauding some form of unrighteousness. My vote is imperfect and will foster human and political imperfection. I accept that. But taken in totality, these scriptures combined – not just the ones that say killing is wrong – offer me comfort and guidance in my voting. God is a multi-issue God.
I am not a one-issue voter because I am voting for a person, not just a party platform. A candidate’s personal qualities and qualifications mean just as much to me as their policy positions. When I review the list of sins God hates, lying really stands out as important.
Christians should have a high regard for truth in politics. God is a God of truth. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The Book of Proverbs tells us that truth and wisdom are priceless. The prophets expressed God’s anger when truth and justice were abandoned for greed and power.
I know that all politicians bend the truth, but others outright lie and hide the truth. Lying is a serious offense. I want an honest president in the White House.
Not only did Jesus say Satan is the father of lies, he outlined eight attitudes of the heart that matter to God like humility, mercy, and peacemaking. I don’t allow my prolife position to cloud my ability to see good characteristics in politicians who support abortion rights.
That’s why I see my vote as a choice between the candidate whose policies most align with my values or the candidate whose character most aligns. Sometimes, the two are the same. Sometimes they are not.
Prolife politicians who lack the character qualities God blesses, those who are divisive and self-centered; who make no attempt at humility, mercy, and repentance; who mock and slander their neighbors and bring out the worst possible behavior in their followers bring chaos to the nation. Their claims of goodness because they hold a prolife agenda mean little when they fail to show basic human decency in every other way.
Qualifications over policy drove my voting decision back in 2008 when I was much more conservative than I am now. I liked John McCain, but I thought his choice of Sarah Palin for VP was evidence of poor judgment. Even though she governed a state, it was soon clear that she lacked the intellect and breadth of experience to handle the world stage if – God forbid – McCain had died while in office. I felt sorry for her because it seemed clear she was merely used to make a splash and excite voters. She was the fireworks, the whipped cream atop a campaign that was lagging in the polls. Palin’s energy and bulldog approach impressed some, and I certainly related to her as a devoted Christian mom, but I value qualifications too much to accept just anyone as a viable candidate even if we agree on policy.
So, I voted for Obama. He was intellectually qualified even though he lacked the governing experience of Biden, McCain, and Palin. Smart people surround themselves with smart people not their unqualified family members.
I voted for Obama because I believe health care should be a basic right for all Americans. Jesus healed people to draw his followers into the love of God, so free and easy access to health care is a way to align our nation with God’s heart.
I voted for Obama because I had roomed with his wife Michelle during a brief summer program at Princeton. I knew Michelle to be down to earth, funny, relatable, and passionate about uplifting the marginalized. I found it hard to believe she would marry a Communist, the typical mischaracterization of someone who wants to help the poor. I took deep offense when Christians attacked a man with all the qualities we value in husbands and fathers.
I voted for Obama because he is black. I felt overwhelming pride and hope as I saw him garner so much support from every color, race, and creed. I could not pass up the prospect of what seemed like the emergence of a post-racial America. Obama was a unifier, a symbol of redemption for a nation that sinned against God when they enslaved my ancestors.
Looking back on it now, the election of 2008 ushered in the age of anybody-can-be-president. I think Palin’s nomination hurt the credibility of the Republican party. I think Obama’s election riled up racists who will accept anyone over a black man for president. And it riled up sexists who don’t want a woman for president. The result is a party of Christian voters who consider prolife policies more sacred than integrity, humility, intellect, and experience.
I am not a one-issue voter because the Bible is not the Constitution. The Bible guides my personal life. The Constitution guides my American life. The two are not the same. Even though laws and collective morals may align with my biblical views, I don’t expect them to. The separation of church and state is fundamental to American democracy.
That’s why, for example, I accept the idea of same-sex marriage as a legal matter even though I don’t see a biblical model for it. America is not a church, so I do not expect the tenets that guide my religious views to be enforced by the government. When they are not, I see my opportunity to be salt and light as Christ commanded. My job is to love my neighbor, not to shape their constitutional rights to match my spiritual beliefs.
I am not a one-issue voter because I am looking for a whole suite of policies that are steeped in compassion for everyone, not just for the unborn. When I read Exodus Chapters 20-23 where the Ten Commandments are laid out, I see comprehensive guidance for social order. Anchoring these directives is the character of God, described in a simple statement at the end of Exodus 22.27:
I am compassionate.
This is the same God who descended upon Mount Sinai with fire, smoke, and a trumpet blast. His directives included care for the vulnerable like foreigners, widows, the fatherless, and the poor. Because I work in poverty alleviation, that issue is paramount in my voting decisions.
One argument I often hear is that it is clear from scripture that killing is wrong, but it’s unclear from scripture how to end poverty. So as long as Republicans also try to reduce poverty, their platform is most godly overall.
I understand this logic, but I take a different view. Since 75% of abortions are sought by women who are poor, poverty alleviation must become a greater priority for Republicans. Even the Pope – who unequivocally upholds the sanctity of life — thinks trickle-down economics makes the poor poorer. I too am not on board with a party that drips wages to those at the bottom while pouring prosperity upon those who already have more than they need.
This is not how they did it in the Book of Acts when the early church sold their possessions to help one another.
And so it turned out that not a person among them was needy. Those who owned fields or houses sold them and brought the price of the sale to the apostles and made an offering of it. The apostles then distributed it according to each person’s need. (Acts 4.32-38 MSG)
If this isn’t wealth redistribution, I don’t know what is. And it is not socialism, it’s generosity, plain and simple. If we can use the Bible to guide our voting because it says thou shall not kill, then we can use the Bible to guide our voting because it also says the way to eliminate poverty is to be more generous.
Since we can’t legislate generosity, let’s make it simple by requiring those at the top to pay more taxes. They already have more than they need to live a comfortable life in this nation. The average CEO makes 278 times more than their workers. Why is this acceptable?
Abortion has steadily declined for decades under every president, whether Democrat or Republican. Last year, there were about 862,000 lives lost to abortion. I grieve those numbers and I want to see them reduced. But I also grieve that 34 million people live in poverty in America. I grieve that 25 million people do not have health insurance in our country.
The love of money is the root of so much of the other evil we want political policies to combat. If staunch pro-lifers were equally vocal about corporate greed and low wages, it would force politicians to address the wealth gap in our nation, which in turn would reduce abortion.
Finally, I am not a one-issue voter because I am free to vote as I please
I own the fact that no matter who I vote for, my values will be compromised. I own the fact that politics is an earthly framework that is both necessary and flawed. I accept that heaven is my home and earth is my mission field comprised of sinners like me. Most of us want to do what is right. Most of us want to love our fellow man. Most Christians certainly want to honor God when we cast our ballots. We do use the scriptures to help us decide.
But the key to my voting peace is the freedom God gives me to let my conscience be my guide. I see voting as a non-essential issue for Christians, like what to eat and what days to celebrate. In Romans 14, Paul calls them disputable matters (NIV) or personal opinions (GNT) for which we should not judge one another.
So those who are convinced Republicans will move the nation in a good direction should vote for Republicans. Those who are convinced Democrats will move the nation in a good direction should vote for Democrats.
Anyone who tells me I must vote for Republicans is imposing a manmade standard, whittling God’s heart down to what matters most to them.
Anyone who says voting for a Democrat is voting for a murderer is twisting the truth. A president doesn’t perform abortions, but a president can divide, slander, and lie.
Ultimately, voting booths are private for a reason. We don’t have to tell anyone who we are voting for, we just have to show people who we are living for: our Savior Jesus Christ.
Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. You’re fortunate if your behavior and your belief are coherent. But if you’re not sure, if you notice that you are acting [or voting] in ways inconsistent with what you believe—some days trying to impose your opinions on others, other days just trying to please them—then you know that you’re out of line. If the way you live [or vote] isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong.
(Romans 14.19-23 MSG)