Well, I’m sorry to disappoint, because I don’t have an answer. The truth is, I’m suspicious of those who do, be they Republican or Democrat.
The other day someone I love and respect sent out a request for prayer that sounded more like a veiled attempt to tell me how to vote as a Christian. The letter urged me to vote on the basis of “Judeo-Christian principles such as the right to life and marriage between one man and one woman, as well as policies that uphold our Constitution and the rule of law and present a sound economic plan that takes the nation out of debt.”
I prefer how Jim Wallis puts it in a recent installation of his column for Sojourners, when he reminds readers that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, considered next to campaign spiels, “reads as almost a direct refutation of everything politics values in our world today.”
Borrowing the same logic, I suspect that if Jesus lived as an American today, he would be more apt to describe himself as an “independent.” I am pretty convinced, in fact, that Jesus would not support and invest in a corrupt political system that desperately needs reform. “Rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s” is a reference to paying taxes and respecting civic authorities; it is not a blanket endorsement of a broken political system.
These days, in a time when our government has become a virtual oligarchy, with both parties beholden to the powerful lobbying interests of big businesses corporations at the expense of the rest of us, I sometimes wonder whether Christians would do better to disengage from the system as it stands, with a view to reforming the system from the outside. This sort of divestment would involve stripping ourselves of any party identification or monetary stake-holding and calling for radical reform. We would all go to the polls on Election Day as “independents” in other words.
Wallis goes on to state the obvious, which in the shrill tenor of our times maybe needs to be restated: “on November 6, neither a Republican nor Democratic victory will bring in the kingdom of God” (itallics are Wallis’).
And, the truth is that Jesus has very little to say in the way of so-called “biblical principles” or a “Christian worldview” that would tell his followers how to vote. We are by and large left to rely on our own consciences and the leading of the Holy Spirit when it comes to electing our political officials.
That said, there are some broad guidelines that can help guide us as we make our decisions. Apparently Miroslav Volf has recently laid down 20 principles for political and moral discernment, each of which are grounded in Scripture. This morning, in the absence of these- (if any of you find them online, will you send them to me?)- I have compiled my own very provisional list which I hope you’ll feel free to supplement or question in a spirit of mutually respectful civic dialogue:
- God cares about the poor and issues of socioeconomic injustice (over 2,000 verses in Scripture, as Wallis notes, underline this)
- God cares about the most vulnerable, voiceless and under-resourced persons in our communities, be they the “outsiders” (refugees or immigrants), the unborn and children, the elderly (Jesus’ parables, Paul’s epistles, story of Ruth and Naomi, etc)
- God cares about how we use our money, time and talents and wants to see us put them to use not just for ourselves but for our world (parables of the talents, the rich man and Lazarus, etc)
- God cares about our sexual relationships- that they have integrity, be just (Sodom and Gomorrah), reflect God’s covenantal commitment to us (Paul’s letters) and are fruitful (bearing children or spiritual fruit); in the interest of total honesty, I’m actually not sure that God prescribes “traditional marriage between one man and one woman” as the only “right” and, for that matter, “straight” option- pun intended- in today’s context
- God cares about the sanctity, preservation and flourishing of all human life (Psalm 139, etc)
- God cares about how we steward creation and the environment and challenges us to consider how our transgressions impact the natural world around us (this goes all the way back to Genesis, is in the Psalms, etc)
Got suggestions for what’s missing here, or unsure if one of the above really belongs on the list? Send along your thoughts.