Do you have to agree with a candidate on every point before you can vote for that person? I think most people will say no. The important question is, on what issues can we disagree amicably, and what issues are deal killers?
As believers, we want to let the Bible inform our vote, but there are issues the Bible doesn’t seem to directly address, and there are issues that the biblical position, if there really is one, isn’t especially clear. On those issues, I believe we can only use our best judgment after careful, prayerful consideration.
Even then, though, we’re going to disagree – with each other and with those running for office. That’s ok, but it doesn’t help us decide what to do. How should we approach choosing a candidate?
We can disagree about whether a policy is prudent. Was NAFTA a good idea? How about Social Security “privatization?” If you think a policy is a bad idea, and your candidate disagrees, you can overlook that. Of course, if the list of such issues is arm length, maybe you need a new guy, but the occasional policy difference is not a big deal.
We can disagree on whether a task is the government’s responsibility or prerogative. Some think certain issues are not the federal government’s jurisdiction – e.g., funding for the arts. Others think some problems are best handled at the local level – like education. Even if you disagree about constitutionality, that is differing on interpretation of the law, and you can get over that.
We can disagree on whether a policy is the best way to approach an issue. Everyone thinks we need to do something to address illegal immigration. If your candidate’s position is somewhat more liberal than yours (or vice versa), I think we can let that slide when there are more pressing issues. How should we handle tariffs, foreign aid, or health care reform? Reasonable people can differ on how to address these issues.
However, if we disagree on a moral issue on which you are convinced that I am indisputably wrong, you cannot vote for me. For believers, morality – i.e., God’s moral law – is immutable, and if a policy is sure to violate or encourage others to violate it, we can’t support that.
The “indisputably” is an important caveat. Can you accept that reasonable people can have different beliefs on this issue? Can you see how a case can be made in the opposite direction, even if you find it unconvincing? If so, then the other is not being recklessly immoral; a seriously considered, prayerfully formed position that is different than yours can be respected and even overlooked if necessary.
If you cannot fathom how another person can hold that position, though, voting for that candidate is voting for what you are convinced is an immoral policy, and I think that is a compromise believers cannot make.
I’m not saying that you have to get all judgmental or that you believe you are inarguably right on all moral matters. I’m saying if you cannot even imagine a plausible case for the other side, you’ve got to act as if I’m wrong.
Now the question begs to be asked: What are moral issues upon which I should hinge my vote? Over the coming weeks we’ll be looking at some issues that I believe are, and some that aren’t, deal killer issues.