IntroductionAs a defender of the Christian worldview, I do not defend just a "mere Christianity" but an entire worldview that encompasses morality and ethics. Unfortunately, politics is necessarily dependent upon those two. How a person governs, legislates, judges, and even votes all comes down to their view of morality and ethics. In any political season, it is necessary for the Christian to understand the proper (true) ethical view to guide their decision in how they vote. They need to not only be grounded for their own decisions, but they need to be prepared for the times in which they can have intelligent discussions on the topic, rather than contributing to the simplistic emoting that we see on the internet today. In this post, I want to take a look at how (if) a Christian should vote when the given option is not clear (who or if we should vote). I will conclude with books that I highly recommend for everyone interested in ethics and politics to read. Please take the time to read this post carefully and the links provided at the end. I believe that they will help prepare you for making the right decision when you go to the voting booth and will help you intelligently discuss and defend your decision.
Voting According to the Moral LawI recently finished Norman Geisler's and Frank Turek's "Legislating Morality: Is It Wise, Is It Legal, Is It Possible" to help me work through how Christians should address the question voting. I like the fact that they make the distinction between affirming the Moral Law and affirming its Foundation (God). Since legislating morality cannot be logically avoided if we legislate at all, it seems to me that any vote I cast should be for the person who's ideals most closely aligns with the Moral Law that has been "written on their hearts." This informs how I will vote. However, when it is not clear which candidate I should vote for (or if I do not like any of the available options), I make a distinction between my vote and my support.
The common Christian distinction between a person and their actions/behavior allows for me to vote for a person yet not support their past actions/behavior. If Candidate A (let's call him John Jackson) is closer than Candidate B (let's call him Jack Johnson) to the Moral Law in his ideology, then I have no problem voting for Jackson over Johnson. However, my vote for Jackson does not mean that I support his ideologies in their entirety or his violations of the ideologies that I do support. In that sense, no, I do not support Jackson. However, I may still vote for Jackson. What would make that possible is that Johnson's ideologies are further from the Moral Law than Jackson's. My vote for Jackson is not a vote of support but a vote to keep Johnson out of power to legislate or execute based upon their ideologies that are further from the Moral Law than Jackson's.
Preserve Life and Liberty For The Great CommissionIt is very rare that a candidate in any race will be in full agreement with the moral law, so how can I vote for a person who is not fully in support of the Moral Law? If neither candidate agrees fully, should I not vote at all? As a Christian, one of my moral obligations to the Creator is to contribute to the completion of the Great Commission. This means that lives must be preserved to tell people of Christ and liberties to do so should also be preserved (though this is not necessary- the Church is working "underground" in many countries). If am certain that Johnson will continue to support human-determined death (abortion, suicide, euthanasia, etc.) and continued restrictions on freedom of religion, then that alone gives me confidence of just how far Johnson is away from the Moral Law. If Jackson, on the other hand, support restrictions on any of the human-determined deaths (even if its not complete abolition) and commits to preserving freedom of religion, then he is closer to the Moral Law than Johnson.
With every Presidential election in the United States comes discussions of possible appointees by the candidates to replace deceased Justices on the Supreme Court (SCOTUS). I use the same test when looking at names tossed around for possible SCOTUS appointees. If the ones that Jackson will nominate are as close or closer to the Moral Law than the ones likely to be picked by Johnson, that is a huge factor in protecting earthly life and the liberty to openly share The Way for eternal life to those people. I believe that any obligation that I have to vote for whoever is tied to my moral obligation to God. Even though I may not like my options, and there were candidates who would be much closer to the Moral Law than Jackson, if my only options are Jackson and Johnson, I believe my moral obligation is to vote for Jackson.
What About A Third Party Vote?In the case that neither of the primary party candidates are desirable, some people suggest voting for a third party (who may very well be even closer to the Moral Law than either Jackson or Johnson). In this case, I would have to add that my vote against the candidate furthest from the Moral Law must be for a candidate who truly has the potential to defeat that most undesirable candidate (Johnson, in this case). If there is no possibility that a third candidate, who may be closer to the Moral Law than Jackson, can beat Johnson, then I must fall back on my derived moral obligation to protect life and religious liberty. For a vote for a person who cannot beat Johnson means that I have not voted in a viable way to protect life and liberty. Whether a third party is truly a viable option against the most undesirable candidate will depend on many factors in any given election, for instance: the moral views of voters, the candidate's ability to persuade voters of the truth of his positions, the candidate's ability to persuade potential voters to vote for them over the other two candidates, the candidate's polling numbers compared to the other candidates, and many, many more. So in the event that a third party candidate's ideologies are closer to the Moral Law than either of the primary party candidates, these factors must be closely examined and analyzed. If it is determined with a high level of confidence that they cannot beat Johnson, then Jackson is the vote to cast.
This is probably the hardest pill to swallow in voting for who we wish to be in power. Most of the time neither Jackson nor Johnson are close to the Moral Law in their ideologies or in their personal actions/behaviors. But we live in a world of free creatures who love to sin, and if the only viable opposition to Johnson is a person who's closer to the Moral Law than Johnson but can beat him but not as close as another who cannot beat him, then I believe my obligation is to vote for the one who can both beat Johnson and will preserve life and liberty, for they are both necessary to my goal- fulfilling my moral obligation which is contributing to the completion of the Great Commission. Only one of those is not sufficient by itself. Thus even a third party candidate, who is closer to the Moral Law than Jackson yet not a viable opponent against Johnson, is not the right vote because my vote would not be to preserve life or liberty but to assauge my conscience.
Is Not Voting An Option?I would address this just as I did regarding the third party candidate, recognizing one difference: even if the majority of the electorate chose not to vote (this is not really a hypothetical) someone still gets elected. The choice to abstain from voting in order to avoid showing support for two bad candidates will not ensure that neither wins (if it did, no one would ever get voted in because the majority of registered voters do stay home). The decision to not vote, like voting for a knowingly unviable third party candidate, is a choice not to preserve life and liberty but to make ourselves feel better. In the situation that I have created in this post, not voting at all is just as morally wrong as voting for a third party candidate who you know does not stand a chance against Johnson.
Free Will and Personal ResponsibilityWe all have free will to choose who we will vote for in our elections. Because we have that freedom, we will be held morally responsible for our choice. We also have to remember that the candidate we vote into office has a free will of their own. The choices that they do make while in office is their moral responsibility, not the responsibility of the voters. I, as a free-willed voter, am held responsible for voting in a way that the evidence I have before me indicates will preserve life and liberty. I am not responsible for the actions of my chosen candidate if they get elected to office (whether moral or immoral actions); that is on them.
In order for us to make accurate analyses of candidates with respect to the Moral Law, it is important that we know the Moral Law. Several excellent books that I recommend to you for further investigation are:
- Legislating Morality: Is It Wise, Is It Legal, Is It Possible?
- Tactics: A Game Plan For Sharing Your Christian Convictions
- Christian Ethics: Options and Issues
- Relativism: Feet Planted in Mid-Air
- The Case For Life