Last week, I talked about why Christians cannot be “values voters.” In the wake of a few conversations and some comments on that post, I wanted to add further thoughts beyond those contained in the first post.
You hear the term values voters used to group those people who use a fixed set of specific issues as a basis for their voting patterns. This term is often applied by conservative Christians to describe the (usually limited) number of ideas they use to clarify for whom they should vote in elections or to note which political issues are most important to them.
Five further reasons why I believe values voting is a grave mistake:
Values alone say nothing about their source and their reason for existing.
Why does a value exist? And what is its source?
Christians must be concerned for sources. Our source is God. A.W. Tozer has said that because we are created by God, all of our answers are found in Him. The wisdom of that understanding of God as our Source cannot be lost when Christians consider their belief and praxis.
Where voting values becomes problematic is that trumpeting a particular value doesn’t necessarily say anything about the source for that value or why that value is important.
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the Pharisees who opposed Him were extremely concerned that Jesus’ activities would eventually bring further oppression from the Romans. In the end, to their eyes, Jesus represented a threat to all that was good, historic, and essential to the Hebrew faith, nationality, and practice. Preserving that heritage, on the surface, appeared to be a noble value, but we know where it ultimately led. Because the Pharisees did not understand the Kingdom of God, did not grasp what God the Source was doing, in fact, did not know God properly, their values were off, no matter how righteous they seemed. In the end, their values voting led to the crucifixion of Jesus.
The decisions we make in life cannot start at an ends and work backwards. They must start at the source. If we do not understand the source for what we believe, then our values will always drift. What is often the case is that the values then become entities in and of themselves, with little reference back to the source. More often than not, this leads to catastrophes (which we will examine later). We end up with values divorced from sources, and the sources always suffer for this split.
Voting values tends to focus too narrowly on a small set of values, while ignoring the wider set of all values and their essential interplay.
When values tend to exist in and of themselves apart from full knowledge of sources, some values end up ignored. Sadly, that ignoring is often purposeful and inexplicable, given our Source
Again, this is a problem of working backward from a values idea to its supposed source. In doing this, a person selects a line of progression and traces it back to its source. But this is the problem of the blind men and the elephant. Each of the blind men focused on one characteristic of the elephant (its thick legs, its long trunk, etc.) and believed that the value told him all he needed to know about the source. We know the result. That each blind man failed to take the values of others into account when trying to comprehend the whole only furthered the confusion.
In the case of the blind men, knowing what an elephant looked like first would have allowed them an almost infinite set of values that could have been traced from the source. By working from the source in its entirety, only then could the men appreciate the values that proceeded from that source, values that they may never have explored if they worked back to the source from one or two values alone. Seeing the source would have greatly expanded their entire set of possible values.
This is critical for Christians. Because we know God, the set of values from which we operate is vastly larger than the small set from which values voters operate. This wider set that proceeds from who God is necessarily requires that any end values not only mirror their source but interplay with each other. And this interplay is not something that a few values here ans there account for. It’s why values voting tends to create massive blindspots—and that leads into the next issue.
Voting values without understanding who God is (or by ignoring the full revelation of who He is) leads to catastrophic errors.
A values voting statement from Protestant Christian leaders :
“A state that once again rules in God’s name can count not only on our applause but also on enthusiastic and active cooperation from the church.
“With joy and thanks we see how this new state rejects blasphemy, attacks immorality, promotes discipline and order with a firm hand, demands awe before God, works to keep marriage sacred and our youth spiritually instructed, brings honor back to fathers of families, ensures that love of people and nation is no longer mocked, but burns in a thousand hearts. …
“We can only plead with our fellow worshipers to do what they can to help these new productive forces in our land reach a complete and unimpeded victory.”
Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
I changed one telling word in that quote from the Lutheran bishopric: nation. The original was fatherland. The quote is part of a 1933 Easter statement in support of the values of the new ruling party within Germany.
Yes, it’s a cheap shot. But it’s also a telling one. When Christians get too caught up in pick-and-choose values preservation and restoration, while at the same time losing touch with the wider set of values found in God the Source, catastrophes happen. When we let values grow greater than sources, disaster is near. When we let a small set of values overrule other values, especially if those overruled are in truth the most important values of all, then we open the door for unimaginable error.
It seems clear to us today that the Christians of 1930s Germany should have seen all the warnings signs. However, they choose to ignore them because those values that should have signaled a warning were ignored in favor of other values. Many in the German Church did not go back to God the Source, which should have led them to reject the politics and ideals of a party that looked good on the surface but which was evil underneath. We simply cannot forget how easy it is to follow in those same mistaken footsteps.
Values voting leads to strange—and usually undesirable—bedfellows.
Too many Christians in 1930s Germany espoused values that led to their support of the Nazi Party. Today, limiting our values to a choice set throws Christians into an equally distressing company of bedfellows that are then used to define who we are. When we pick and choose our primary values, when we forget about sources and limit ourselves to values-based ends, we get lumped into all manner of fringe and hate groups. This only furthers the media bias against Christians and fuels opposition. And that opposition is not because of who Jesus is but because we have focused on too small a set of values that allowed us to be labeled by them.
What fellowship has Christ with Belial? Yet persisting in keeping values at the forefront will often lead us into bed with devils if we are not careful, and the wider world will notice without fail.
Values voting closes lost people to the Gospel.
Because we tend to define ourselves by a limited set of values that do not reflect the wideness of God the Source, the media can more easily label Christians and use those labels to undermine our ability to reach others for Christ. The entirety of the Culture War is nothing but an extension of values voting, and it is a war that we not only lost, but which continues to define us negatively and hurt our ability to reach others for Jesus.
There is a difference between suffering for the sake of a source and losing out because of a limiting value. We confuse the two, though, and perceived losses in values cause those focused on values to bunker deeper in values, which inevitably leads away from resting in the Source. As a result, what truly matters to the Source gets demoted in our belief and practice. Because we trust values more than the source, we no longer trust the source for outcomes.The journey down the spiral gains further momentum.
It bothers me when Christians sell out some values for the sake of others. By not going back to the two big question of Who is God? and How can He be known?, we force ourselves to compromise some values to promote others. That confused response only further confuses lost people who look to us to maintain truth amid all the lies swirling around us today.
Values voting is an error we cannot commit. It is an ends without a source—or the result of a source easily forgotten or ignored when a limited set of values is made an idol. That the Christian’s source is God alone should ever be before us, and the breadth of Him as Source never forgotten.