Friday, September 30, 2016

Some Thoughts on the 2016 Election

I have a confession to make: I am a political nerd. I have been interested in politics since the 1984 election, well before I was able to vote. In 1988 I voted in my first election and I have voted in every election – local and nation – since that time. Yet, this is the first election that I have been tempted to sit out. Tempted to sit out, but not persuaded to do so.

This election cycle has been unlike anything we have seen in recent history. Faithful followers of Christ are not overly excited about either of the two major candidates. We want some answers. We want direction. We want guidance. More than any other election in the past, I’ve been asked, “what do you think of this election, pastor? What are we going to do?”

Two tings I have heard most often are: “vote your conscience” or “we have to choose between the lesser of two evils.” But, these sentiments do not provide the guidance they purport. For example, voting your conscience only makes sense if your conscience is guided by biblical principles. After all, your conscience could be guided be seared by a win-at-all-costs ideology, or a flat our hatred for the “other” candidate. In that case, “voting your conscience” is not as wise as it seems.

While some have argued that when we vote we always, to some degree, choose between the lesser of two evils. While there is an element of truth in that sentiment, it only makes sense as a voting rationale if there is an appreciable difference between the two evils. Apart from that, it is merely a way to excuse voting for someone that you would never vote for otherwise.

While I have no easy answers for this year’s Presidential election, I would like to make a few suggestions. A number of years ago - and in no small part due to the influence of Francis Schaeffer, Russell Moore, and others - I developed a three principle method of evaluating candidates. I provide it here in hopes it may help you as you enter the voting booth this year.

The Declaration of Independence declares: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It seems to me that “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” provides a good three principle framework for evaluating candidates. So, here is how I think about “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” in the context of the policies supported by the candidates.

There is no right more fundamental than the right to life. Every person who advocates a pro-choice position does so only because their own mother chose life. Think about that for a minute. I recognize there are difficult situations people find themselves in and circumstances that are often less than ideal for a pregnancy. Yet, none of those situations or circumstances justify the killing of an innocent child.

Mother Teresa once said, “I feel the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child... A direct killing of the innocent child, 'Murder' by the mother herself... And if we can accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?" And, she got to the heart of the matter - the real reason our culture advocates abortion - when she said, "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."

Therefore, when I vote, the first principle that guides me is whether a candidate is pro-life. This, in my estimation, is the most practical way to ensure that every person's right to LIFE is protected.

2. PRO LIBERTY (Pro 2nd Amendment)
To some people this seems to contradict the first principle. But, it does not. The 2nd Amendment to the Constitution reads: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." The Founding Fathers had experienced the tyranny of King George and had openly rebelled against that tyranny. They were able to do so because they were armed. In their day a militia was a group of ordinary citizens who formed to defend an area or region. It was a precursor to the present day military. Yet, the right to keep and bear arms was not inextricably tied to the idea of the military, as some presume today. Rather, the right of citizens to rebel against tyrannical government necessitates those citizens posses the right to keep and bear arms.

The Declaration of Independence says we are endowed by our Creator with the right to LIBERTY. The way we ensure our liberty is protected is not by trusting that the government will take care of protecting it for us. Rather, each individual has the right to protect their liberty on their own. So, the second principle that guides me is whether a candidate supports the 2nd amendment. Once again, there is significant difference in the candidates.

The third principle that guides my voting decisions is whether a candidate favors limited government and lower taxes. This principle comes out of the Declaration as well. We are endowed by our Creator with the right to the pursuit of happiness. It is difficult to pursue happiness if the government continually takes more and more of your income.

Let me add that we should extend grace to one another, whatever conclusions we may reach about this election cycle. Even with the three principles that I utilize, the only certain thing for me, personally, is that I cannot vote for Sec. Clinton, Mr. Johnson, or Dr. Stein. Mr. Trump meets my policy criteria (though his pro-life views have been a fairly recent development and I am not convinced of his advocacy for limited government), but his megalomania, lack of a moral compass, and weakness on religious liberty give me serious pause. Indeed, of the five major candidates for President, Evan McMullin is the only candidate that meets all of the policy criteria shared above and seems to be a person of high integrity and character. (This comment should not be construed as an endorsement. I do not make it a practice to endorse candidates.) While you may come to a different conclusion on the candidates than I do, again, I encourage us to treat one another with grace during this very unusual and difficult election cycle.