Yesterday I put up a photo of a curious bumper sticker:
I noted that many people in America share this sentiment. I know people on both right and left of the political spectrum who really do want to “Vote the Bible.”
But, as I mentioned yesterday, this is easier said than done. I have friends who, a month ago, voted the Bible by voting for John McCain. And I have friends who voted the Bible by voting for Barack Obama. Now I realize that some folks would immediately disagree that there is ambiguity in voting the Bible. For some, the Bible is pro-life when it comes to the issue of abortion. So voting the Bible means, simply voting for pro-life candidates and against pro-choice candidates. In practice, this usually means voting for Republicans. Yet, for other Christians, biblical clarity points to supporting the Democratic party. They see in the Bible a strong call to care for the poor, and hear much more about this from Democratic candidates than from Republicans. So, for these folks, “Vote the Bible” means “Vote Democratic!”
In this post I’m not going to argue either side of this debate. My point is that it sometimes isn’t easy to know how to “Vote the Bible.” I think those of us who seek to have our votes guided by Scripture would be well-served if we acknowledged this fact.
In the rest of this post, I want to note two main reasons that make voting the Bible more complicated that it might at first seem.
The Bible Isn’t Johnny-One-Note
First of all, the Bible isn’t Johnny-One-Note. It includes a wide variety of themes penned by a wide variety of authors. Even if you believe, as I do, that God is the ultimate Author of Scripture, you still must recognize that God’s agenda isn’t a simple, single-issue one. For example, I am convinced that biblical teaching leads us to conclude that all of human life is sacred, including fetal life. But I will acknowledge that Scripture doesn’t often speak directly about the status of the pre-born infant. At the same time, there is much in Scripture that calls us to care for the poor and the oppressed. Biblical teaching exalts peace and condemns violence. It calls us to love our enemies and to turn the other cheek rather than striking them back. Scripture warns us against the dangers of riches and materialism. It also calls us to be good stewards of God’s creation. And this is just the beginning. If you take seriously the breadth of biblical teaching, you’ll find that it isn’t easy to be a single-issue voter. In the end, you’ll have to decide which biblical teachings are most relevant in guiding your vote.
The Bible Doesn’t Directly Address our Political Options
When I last checked, the Bible doesn’t’t speak directly to our political options. Let’s take the example of the poor. There’s no question that Scripture calls us to care for the poor and to help them escape from poverty. This should be a high priority for every Christian.
So how should we vote in light of the priority of helping the poor? I have many Christian friends for whom the answer is obvious. Vote Democratic! The Democrats, after all, talk more about helping the poor. They tend to see the government as playing a major role in alleviating poverty through various government programs.
Yet I have other friends who do indeed care deeply about the poor and are committed to ending poverty. Yet they vote Republican. Why? Because they believe the best way to alleviate poverty is through business development, and they see the Republicans as those who are generally more pro-business. They believe that big government solutions just don’t work, in the end, and often make matters worse.
So, there are biblically-committed Christians who vote Democratic in response to the Bible’s call to care for the poor, and biblically-committed Christians who vote Republican in response to the Bible’s call to care for the poor. They don’t differ much, if at all, in their understanding of Scripture or its authority. Yet they do differ widely in their views of economics and politics. One side sees government as offering the best way to solve the problem of poverty. They favor bigger government and more taxation to pay for it. The other side sees business in this role. Therefore, they prefer smaller government and less taxation.
At the moment, I’m not interested in who is right or who is wrong in this debate. My point is simply that two people can agree about biblical truth and yet vote quite differently because they differ over ideas that are not clearly taught in Scripture. A big-government Democrat and a big-business Republican will vote the Bible in very different ways, even though they might be equally committed to biblical teaching on care for the poor. (Of course, in these days of giant corporate bailouts, it’s very hard to figure out who’s for big government and who’s against it.)
There are many more reasons why voting the Bible isn’t quite as easy as it sounds. If you have some thoughts about this, please let us know by adding a comment below.