As the last two US Democratic primaries are held today in South Dakota and Montana, I’ve been thinking again about the different ways followers of Christ enter a voting booth.
During the course of this lengthy election process, with far more to come, it’s been clear that some of us believe we have an obligation to cast our ballot in a way that supports our own Christian values. I’m inclined to think that the best way to do that is to lower our expectations for government and settle for a political realism that grants people with opposing viewpoints the civil rights and protections we would want for ourselves.
I realize that, to some, this will sound like a forfeiture of faith. But would it really?
Imagine what would happen in our court system if 51percent of the electorate chose a president who could convince congress to adopt the Ten Commandments as the law of the land:
1. No God but the God of the Bible
2. No idols.
3. No taking of the Lord’s name in vain.
4. No work on the seventh day
5. Honor your father and mother.
6. No killing
7. No adultery
8. No stealing
9. No lying
Would we suddenly become a moral nation that stopped producing pornography, exploiting workers, and abusing legal and illegal substances? With Ten Commandments on the books, would we become a noble democracy that elects its leaders through a political process that brings out the best in candidates, and their supporters, rather than the worst?
Even during the days of Moses– when it was a capital offense to promote another god, curse a parent, or collect wood and start a fire on the seventh day– the Ten Commandments with all of the additional case laws based on them, could not keep a “chosen people” from wanting to adopt the gods, values, and government of their neighbors. According to the God of the Bible, the law of Moses didn’t keep the mountaintop city of Jerusalem from sinking lower than the Dead Sea community of Sodom.
As much of some of us would like to think otherwise, America is no better than ancient Israel. Government is no church. And law is no substitute for grace.
When the Apostle Paul wrote, “But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are his, and those who claim they belong to the Lord must turn away from all wickedness'” (2Tim 2:19), he was giving counsel not to government, but to the church. Just as importantly, he was not urging a new law– but an extension of the life-changing grace that his readers had already found in Christ.
If we want to really adopt the perspective of the Bible, wouldn’t we do better to remember that fallen human nature is such that if we “ban a book in Boston” we can assure that it will become a best seller. Make a public moral outcry against a movie that profanes the reputation of Christ and we can all but assure that it will be a box office success. Forbid a sexual behavior and multiply its allure.
Don’t get me wrong. I would never want to diminish the importance of a national law that reflects the wisdom of God, while being supported by the moral consensus of our voting public. Neither would I want to minimize the importance of wanting our elected officials to be people of integrity and principle. I’m just saying to those of us who look to the Bible for our counsel and wisdom, let’s use government to regulate a public moral consensus that both atheists and church going people can agree is in our common interests. Let’s vote as if our responsibility as citizens is to treat one another the way we would want to be treated.
I can’t help but believe that lowering our expectations for government might be a way of elevating the importance of personal faith in the Lord of lords.
OK, I’ve had my say for now, :-). What are you thinking?