The Bible and the Ballot Box: conclusion
Some folks on the political left have claimed that a Christian cannot be a faithful follower of Jesus and be politically conservative. I’ve tried to show that the conservative position is consistent with the Bible on a few issues that modern Christians face, but now it’s time to bring it all together.
The question at hand is, who can I vote for? Earlier I suggested that you can vote for me (the generic politician) if…
* we disagree about whether a policy is prudent.
* we disagree on whether a task is the government’s responsibility or prerogative.
* we disagree on whether a policy is the best way to approach an issue.
However, if we disagree on a moral issue on which you are convinced that I am indisputably wrong, you cannot vote for me.
When it comes to that moral issue, the question is whether you can 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 you cannot fathom how another person can hold that position, 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.
Some may balk at this saying that we always choose the lesser of two evils. But when we say that, I don’t think we mean real evil. We’re choosing between one candidate’s policy that may not work on issue A and another’s that is a bit dumb on issue B.
Real moral evil, that’s different, and that’s something we cannot support.
So what positions are morally wrong?
On poverty, we looked at the Bible and saw that it consistently calls for personal charity and forms of assistance that encourage self-sufficiency on the part of the poor person and that there is no biblical precedent for forcing charity via government controlled income redistribution. The conservative approach to helping the poor via personal charity and tax policies that encourage economic growth (i.e., job creation) seems to be well within the scope of the biblical picture. Simply giving them “government” money may not be.
Thus not supporting welfare is not immoral. Not having any specific policies regarding the poor, also, is not immoral – the candidate may focus more on the personal charity approach.
The question you have to ask regarding poverty is, really, is this person proposing policies that are designed to hurt the poor? Does he hate the poor, or does he just have a different view on how to help them? If you’re not sure he wants to hurt the poor, you really should give him the benefit of the doubt.
On capital punishment, we saw that you can make a biblical case that the appropriate punishment for certain crimes is forfeiting your life. Certainly you can believe that the death penalty is no longer necessary, not appropriate in most cases, or improperly handled. I’m not asking you to support capital punishment. I’m asking you to accept that this can be a principled position based on the Bible – making it not an immoral position.
Regarding war, there are only two moral options – true pacifism and just war. If you don’t hold to true pacifism, and the candidate in question is not a warmonger in the truest sense of the term (and here again I think the benefit of the doubt is due when lacking evidence), then you have a disagreement over what constitutes a just war – a philosophical, not moral, issue.
On abortion, I really didn’t want to argue whether abortion is wrong – both because people rarely change their minds in this debate and because I think most Christians already think it is wrong. Instead I focused on those Christians who believe abortion is wrong and yet support keeping it legal. I made the case that IF you think abortion is wrong, supporting its legalization makes you, in God’s eyes, guilty of “aiding and abetting” abortion. Supporting those who want to keep it legal is the same thing.
That makes abortion really the only moral issue on the table. That makes it a deal breaker.
If one candidate has great ideas and supports abortion and the other is a blithering idiot but pro-life, abortion should keep us from supporting the former. What about the other guy? More on that later.
Issues in the Balance
A common sentiment is that "being pro-life means also being anti-war, anti-poverty, and anti-death penalty." (Of course, those who say this seem to vote pro-choice.) Let’s break that down:
Abortion vs poverty
Who is pro-poverty? Only the rare nutjob. No one likes to see people suffer. The “evil rich” usually have businesses, so they want poor people to have enough disposable income to become customers.
A common attack on pro-life people is, “You care about children before they’re born; we care about children after they’re born.”
Everyone does. No one wants kids to starve. The question is how to properly help them. But there are many sources of help for the starving child (or his parents); there is no one to help the child being aborted.
Abortion vs capital punishment
You can disagree about the morality of capital punishment, but you have admit there’s a difference between killing an innocent, helpless human being and a killer who’s been found guilty by a jury and had a half dozen appeals.
Abortion vs war
People die in war. Sadly, as long as we live in a fallen world, war is going to be part of our lives. But wars are fought by adults who have the chance to do everything they can to stay alive. In the current war, both sides consist almost entirely of volunteers – people who went into this knowing the danger and choosing to risk their lives for something important to them.
“But children are dying too.” That is tragic. But when comparing abortion and war, only in one is it the expressed intent of everyone involved to kill a child.
Abortion vs poverty, capital punishment, and war
The following numbers are taken from activist websites– so if they’re inflated, they’re probably all inflated. Unfortunately they’re probably mostly accurate.
There are approximately 42 million abortions a year worldwide.
Poverty kills approximately 10.6 million children per year.
An estimated 300,000 children have died in the Iraq war.
It’s not just about math, and every lost life is terrible, but one of these causes kills many more than the others, the same one where the child is intentionally targeted. There are people trying to save the children starving to death. There are people trying to protect the children caught in the crossfire. Who is trying to stop that woman from walking into the abortion clinic? Usually no one.
Abortion is not the only issue, nor is it the only problem in the world, but it is an evil Christians have stood against for nearly 2000 years. We have to continue to do so today.
The American voter generally has to choose between competing philosophies of how to deal with poverty, different philosophies regarding war, varying opinions regarding capital punishment, and the decision of whether or not to support abortion.
If you have to choose between two candidates and only one has an immoral position, you can vote for the other candidate or you can refrain from voting.
But occasionally you might come across a rare nut who really hates the poor or really thinks any war is fine so long as it improves his political prospects. What should we do?
If you can only choose between two immoral candidates, you can’t support either one of them. You are not required to vote for every position on the ballot. Some people show up just to vote for president; some just vote for county clerk. You do have the option to not vote if you don’t have a candidate you can support without compromising yourself morally.
Is there a position on the ballot with no acceptable candidate? Next time, can you run? Could you put more support behind an acceptable candidate in the primary? Just not voting is the way to handle this election, but as good citizens, we should try to put the best people in the office we can – even if it means running yourself. Hey, everybody ran for office a first time.
To this point I’ve tried to show that conservatism is consistent with the Bible. Next I’m going to spend some time explaining why Christian conservatives think the way they do about a few issues.