I would not consider myself into politics. As a pastor for the last 7 years, I try to avoid the topic like an elevator full of adults where someone passed gas. Everyone knows it stinks, but no one wants to bring it up. But, I can’t help myself. I’ve watched almost every single primary debate. The bachelor wishes it had as much drama as these presidential debates. And I’m apparently not alone. A recent Fox news debate drew in 24 million people, more than the NBA Finals and more than the Women’s World Cup Final. Besides the amazing mic-dropping drama, I think we all realize something big is at stake here.
As a follower of Jesus, the clear choice for president is apparently not so clear. Recently Liberty University president Jerry Falwell officially endorsed Donald Trump, as did prosperity preacher Mike Murdock. Prominent t.v. personality and follower of Jesus Phil Robertson, a.k.a. Duck Commander endorsed Ted Cruz. Christian speaker and author Tony Campolo believes Christians should vote for Hilary Clinton. We’re obviously a confused bunch in this murky presidential race.
I find myself asking, “But, how would Jesus vote”? I’m not so sure there is a definitive answer to that. I believe if Jesus was presented two candidates during his ministry, and asked to vote for one, he would not follow the rules. Let’s say one side hopes he’ll vote for the more progressive Pontificus, while the other side hopes He’ll endorse the conservative Conservicus. Similar to the woman caught in the act of adultery, I imagine him bending down before the crowd and candidates and drawing in the sand, then saying something awesome like, “Let he who is completely righteous declare the perfect candidate.” Then, one by one, everyone would begin leaving, the older and wiser ones first.
Jesus tended to stay out of politics. He was leading a secret revolution. It was the kind of revolution that begins slowly and swells like a wave until it crashes upon the shore of the political landscape, forcing leaders to react. He was after people’s hearts, not their policy or politics. It’s not to say those things aren’t important, it’s just not what Jesus spent his public ministry doing. And so we are left to wade through the ambiguity and make our own political decisions.
Among the candidates, it’s interesting that Donald Trump is seen as least religious, by far. Half of adults (in general) say they would be less likely to support an atheist president. But, half of evangelicals think that Trump, Cruz, and Rubio would make a good president. But, these facts differ when taking into account black protestants because 60% think Clinton would make a good president. And just to round out the stats, a little over 50% of non-religious people would choose Sanders as best candidate for president. America truly is a diverse place and it’s clear there are some complexities in our decision-making process.
So, how does a follower of Jesus decide? I see three possible areas by which a Christian can make an informed political choice: moral issues, character, or policy.
Christians might vote on topics related to their moral beliefs. These are topics like abortion, marriage, serving the poor, or any moral issue directly related to their faith, a person would base their entire vote around. The good part of doing this is how clear cut it makes a voting decision. If a candidate will stand with your particular moral issue, then they have a chance to win your vote, if not, then no way! The downside of only voting specific moral issues is that it leaves out all the other parts of the candidate like their policies and character.
A follower of Jesus might also vote for a candidate because of their character. We might like them as a person and believe their character and personal beliefs most closely align with our own. This can be helpful because it’s a reminder to the political parties that a person with character matters. The downside is that it’s difficult to really figure out who the candidates are and what they believe. They want to win everyone’s vote, especially people of faith so they’ll say whatever they can to make sure people of faith believe he/she’s on their side.
Question: If a potential candidate shares your moral beliefs, but has questionable personal character, would they still win your vote? Or, if a candidate had amazing personal character, but didn’t go quite far enough on that one moral issue that matters to you, would you not vote for them?
As an American you value smaller government and less regulation, or you value increased governmental programs and more regulation. Both sides have a justifiable view point. As a government we should live within our means and need less bureaucracy. But, we also must make sure the most vulnerable in our country are taken care of and regulations are in place to protect from greed.
The problem here happens when a follower of Jesus involves their faith in this discussion. If a candidate shares your particular moral view, it doesn’t mean all of their other policy views are somehow more “Christian.”
I’m not sure Jesus is really worried about creating a bigger or smaller government. I’m not sure he’d lose sleep if the government had more power or less. I’m not even sure if he’d go crazy if there was a balanced budget or not. Remember, he lived at a time where Israel was ruled by a foreign power- not good. Local Jews hoped he had come to physically save them from the Romans, but he didn’t. It’s great to want a bigger or smaller government and to pay less taxes or increase social services, but don’t drag Jesus into it or believe that one party’s policy is somehow closer to what Jesus would have wanted than the other.
I can’t think of a presidential race more interesting than this one. It’s pretty clear America is tired of business as usual. We’re desperate for change. Each Democratic and Republican candidate feels like a very different direction for our country. I have no idea who will receive my vote. As you and I figure out who that person will be, we should make sure to balance the candidate’s moral views, character, and policies. Good luck to us all.
On a personal note, I would never write about politics, but man have I been riveted by this election season. I sat down to figure out how a follower of Jesus should think through the candidates in a balanced way and boom- here’s this post.