Monday, October 22, 2012

WHY DO I VOTE THE WAY I DO?


According to the statistics and the experts who do the math, my vote in the upcoming election is completely predictable.  I’m a 75 year old married white male, evangelical Christian who lives in the red state of Oklahoma.  I should be voting for Mitt Romney and the whole Republican ticket and platform.  Most of those who are my contemporaries in age are voting accordingly.

So why am I not going to do so?  After all, I am reasonably financially conservative; I hold to and attempt to live by biblical moral standards.

Well, of all of the above listed terms used to describe me as a voter, I feel that only two are of any real importance in influencing my vote – my age, and more importantly, my faith.

First, let me talk about my age.  I was born during the great depression, though I can’t remember it.  I grew up during the Second World War, the Cold War and the Korean War.  I have seen presidents and political parties come and go.  I have lived in the industrial North and the growing South.  I am now observing the 18th presidential campaign in my memory and will soon cast my 14th presidential ballot.  I long ago learned that promises made are not necessarily promises kept and that the fears held by those who voted for the defeated rarely come true.

I have also learned that a president is, to some extent held captive by various entities:  Congress – whether a majority of his own or of the opposing party – and the various special interest groups and lobbies that control much of the cash needed for election and reelection.  The president does not stand alone.  He is a member of a party and for him to accomplish much he must have the backing of his political party.

I have also learned that a president’s ideals and moral posture are not always in the same proportion as his qualities of leadership and the ability to get things done.  Some of our most brilliant leaders have been moral failures while some of our most moral have been at best second rate.

And I have learned that while nearly every candidate presents him (or her) self as some sort of populist, not all are.  An appeal to “the people” is just one of those necessities for election.

So I must say that my age, my experience, my simply living through it and my study of political history, especially that of my lifetime, have definitely affected my hopes for any one man.  I am, to a certain extent skeptical, perhaps even cynical.

However, the most important factor influencing my vote is my understanding of and submission to a biblical worldview.  I believe that God, through the Bible, makes demands on me as a follower of Jesus Christ – demands which I cannot, in good conscience, ignore.  There are certain biblical doctrines that especially bear on my vote.

First is the doctrine of original sin and/or its related doctrine of total depravity.  As Ecclesiastes 7:20 says:  “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins!”  Or as Paul says (Romans 3:10):  “There is no one righteous – not even one!”  This means that our choices will always be between sinners – fallible persons.  There is not and never will be a great champion riding in on a white horse – that is, until Jesus returns!  (Revelation 19:11ff)

A second doctrine we must remember is the doctrine of the two kingdoms.  While we as followers of Christ are ultimately members of the Kingdom of Heaven, we are also members of whatever earthly “kingdom” God has placed us in and have certain obligations placed on us as member of that kingdom.  And as citizens of a representative democracy, we have the obligation of voting – of taking part in the selection process, whether or not a president or his party is totally to our liking.

Whether we call this a choosing of the greater good or of the lesser of two evils, it is not as many see it, a clear choice between good and evil as many of my friends on the right perceive it.

Which brings me to my first disagreement with my right-leaning Christians friends – the absolutist painting of all who disagree as evil while ignoring the flaws and inconsistencies of their own party.  The fawning over hate-mongering talk radio and TV hosts and conspiracy theorists.  The passing around of rumors, lies and half-truths on the internet (which I receive regularly).  It is of no avail to defend these actions by claiming that the other side does the same.  (“Nya-nya - he hit me first!”)

Those on the right claim abortion as the number one sin of America.  While I may not agree that it is number one, I do agree that it is horrible.  It is the taking of an innocent human life.  But in the nearly 40 years since Roe vs. Wade, little has been done to limit the practice – by either party.  I suspect that the pro-life position has been cynically used by many on the right as a rallying cause merely to get votes.  Especially when their presidential candidate has vacillated on his position.  And I fail to see what can actually be done to prevent people from making the wrong choice.  Remember the 18th amendment?

Their other rallying cry is the so-called homosexual agenda.  Again I agree that the Bible clearly teaches that homosexual sex is sin; but it also lists adultery, extra-marital sex and easy divorce as well.  We in this nation long ago realized that laws against such sexual behavior were unenforceable.  Why are we hung up on this one?  And while I feel that “gay marriage” is a contradiction in terms, I see no advantage in denying them some legal and financial protection, call it what you may.

While I strongly believe that the government, Federal, state or other cannot eliminate or even regulate these perceived evils, there is another evil or more exactly group of evils that I believe government can and must bring under control – that is the oppression of the poor and underprivileged.  In fact, I believe that, to some extent, human government is responsible in a positive way for care of the poor.  While the New Testament statements in the Epistles regarding government do not specifically mention care of the poor, there is much to point to as an aspect of what Paul says, “it is God’s minister to you for good … they are God’s ‘liturgists,’ devoting themselves to this very thing” (Romans 13:4, 6).

Jesus’ judgment of the nations in Matthew 24:31-46 points to His heart concern for the way the nations treat those in need.  Or we could take James’ blistering attack on the oppressive rich in James 5:1-6.  The Old Testament is full of God’s heart for the poor and those in need.  Passage after passage in the Mosaic Law, as well as the prophets illustrate God’s compassion for the poor, the alien, the widow and the orphan as well as His blazing anger against those who mistreat them.

“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.  You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.  If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.

If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him.  If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep?  And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.”  (Exodus 22:21-27 – ESV)

Where are those on the right who cry out against these injustices?  Instead we hear anger against the so-called “welfare frauds,” against those who receive “entitlements,” against “the 47%” who allegedly receive and don’t pay their fair share, ignoring all the while the fact that it is the large corporations with their over-compensated officers that receive the greatest amounts of government largesse.

Our economy crashed for a number of reasons, but it did not crash because of too much government aid to those in need.  One major factor was the financial transactions of banks and Wall Street firms – companies and individuals, who made big money by manipulating it, while contributing nothing.  (See:  THE BIG SHORT and GREED.)

I am not an economist.  But I can see that for me to vote for a party that wants to take us back to the financial policies that brought us down, that is more concerned for the wealthy than for the poor and middle-class would be more than irresponsible – it would be a sin.

16 comments:

Sandy said...

Oh, dear. Bill, you know I have the utmost respect for you in every sense of the word. I am voting for Mitt Romney, for many reasons and after much deliberate thought. I respect your choice, but I am sad that you seem to characterize my choice as being sinful. Abortion is the deal breaker for me. Vacillation is one thing, and at least offers a glimmer of hope; outright, unwavering support of it is just too much (in my opinion). I enjoy reading your blog posts tremendously and look forward to reading more in the future.

Anonymous said...

Can I just say what a relief to find someone who actually knows what theyre talking about on the internet. You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More people need to read this and understand this side of the story. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

Bill Ball said...

Sandy; I recognize that others disagree with me. I did not and would not characterize their actions as sinful. I said "for me" it would a sin. I respect your convictions even though I disagree with them.

Bill Ball said...

A: Feel free to repost it if you desire.

EdTechSandyK said...

Lots of great food for thought, Pastor Bill! I distinctly remember being a college student and seeing a Clinton bumper sticker on the car of someone in the parking lot of the church you were pastoring at the time (it wasn't your car) and questioning how a believer could want to vote that way. Thankfully I've matured a bit in my thinking since those days.

A lot of the outright hateful rhetoric I've been increasingly hearing from the "right" in recent years has spurred some of that maturity, simply because like you I can't reconcile it with how we are supposed to conduct ourselves here.

I am still undecided on the big race, but I so appreciate you sharing your thinking. If nothing else it should spur others to think more deeply about their convictions as well.

(As an additional note, I did not detect that you were calling those who disagree with you "sinners" as the other Sandy detected above.)

Sandy said...

Thanks, Bill. I appreciate your taking the time to respond to my post. Above all, I know that both you and I do agree on one major point: we know that God ordains all things, and rulers stand or fall according to His plan, not ours. When I pray about this current election, I ask that His will be done, whether or not I myself understand what that may be. I know you do, too. Blessings to you and Uni! :)

Anonymous said...

How refreshing to read that someone can be on the other side of my decision and still feel compassion for the poor and disadvantaged. It has always been my feeling that there should be more caring for those in our society who are in these sad positions, whatever the reasons. I do also believe that people should be expected to help themselves as well. Life is not a continual handout, but a hand up. I love your perspective, Bill.

Barbara Ragan said...

The sound you hear is a sigh of empathy. Finally, a reasonable voice that I recognize in a cacophony of dissonance. Oh, that there were more who could communicate as clearly. I appreciate that you think with emotion but that emotion does not override your ability to think objectively. I, too, am dismayed at the outpouring of vitriolic messages from the right. To me those messages speak of a deep seated fear. A fear of living life as it comes; a fear of their neighbor (in the widest sense of the word); a fear of their faith being challenged. A question for you: What are your thoughts on this fear being racist based?

I will be voting for my choice this election season knowing he is not (and never will be) perfect. Trusting he and those who govern with him will do all they can to develop policies that benefit all not just a few. Believing our world will not be destroyed in the next four years based on our choices. Believing I am flexible enough to face whatever life sends my way (I've had some practice ;)). Believing there is a mystery in control and it is NOT me.
What is the word I am looking for???? Oh, yes, TRUST!

Anonymous said...

Guess I just did not understand how, as we are all one body of Christ, something could be a sin (very strong word, after all) for one of us yet not be a sin for another. That's the way I read Bill's original post saying he felt voting Republican would be a sin. However, I actually heard a Catholic priest on the radio the other day saying exactly the same thing about anyone in the Catholic church who would vote Democratic. (He threatened excommunication, even, as if such a thing were actually possible). Those "sinful/not sinful" delineations bother me, no matter who makes them, much like Sen. Harry Reid's statement that any Hispanics who are Republicans should be ashamed of themselves. I myself am half Mexican and half Italian -- by all rights I "should" be a diehard Democrat -- but I am first and foremost a Christian and an American. One of my friends shared this quote: "Our political institutions work remarkably well. They are designed to clang against each other. That noise is democracy at work." (Michael Novak) Hear, hear!!

Sandy said...

Bill -- I forgot to put my name on my last post. If you decide to post it, can you fix that, as the administrator of this blog? So sorry!

Bill Ball said...

Sandy:
I tried to moderate your last comment but couldn't make anything work, so I published both.
As far as my statement that for me to vote for the Republican party would be a sin, I based my conclusions on the huge shift to the right on the part of the Republican party and what seems very clearly a promotion of the wealthy and a despising of the poor. I am convinced that for me to side with this would be a sin against my conscience. You may be convinced otherwise. I don't anathematize those who disagree with me, as the priest you mention did. As I said, our choices may be between two evils.
I have spoken to this before. Please read my post: WHAT ABOUT ROMANS 14? (12/9/2008)

jennifer anderson said...

just let me say wow again

Sherry said...

I think the key words are FOR ME IT WOULD BE A SIN. Since the Bible doesn't tell us how to vote, it is personal conviction that guides us. And it's perfectly clear from Romans 14 that we are to follow our convictions but not foist them on others. In that sense, if I eat something or say something or vote in a way that contradicts my convictions, I am sinning.

But as your post on Romans 14 ( http://billball.blogspot.com/2008/12/what-about-romans-14.html ) points out, I am not to judge another as wrong or sinful for having different convictions but I am to love him.

Sherry said...

well my last comment disappeared so I hope you got it

just have to say Dad that your last 3 posts are EXCELLENT

and not just cuz I agree with you politically
;-p

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Trent said...

I don't vote party but prefer to vote for individuals, although I lean towards libertarian. I try to vote for those with integrity and those who support personal freedoms which is "usually neither but sometimes either" of the two main parties. I personally believe the Bible teaches we are only responsible for our actions, not results. i.e. the ends never justifies the means, if the means are wrong, and I can only control the means, not the ends.. therefore I will vote for who I feel is the "best" choise regardless of the "chance" that they may win because I know who is really in control, and I do not know what God's plans are. I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils.. and many times I find myself at odds with my Christian friends..and in fact recently lost a good free grace friend because my political views are to shallow. I have friends like you Bill on both sides of the fence..