Why Christians Cannot Be “Values Voters”

Casting a voteWe have another American election coming soon. If you are a Christian, you are probably well aware of the “this is the most important election in the history of our country” mantra of fear that gets trotted out by various Christian groups every election cycle. We will certainly hear a verse shared most often today in conjunction with politics, 2nd Chronicles 7:14. We will hear about Judeo-Christian values and saving them from whichever evil political party is deemed most diabolical at this time.

“We have to preserve our way of life! If we don’t, what will happen to our nation?”

There’s a problem with that line of thinking though: It’s the same belief and chant that resulted in Jesus’ crucifixion. The Pharisees were the “values voters” of their day.

The problem with voting values is that values exist in a vacuum. Whose values? Which values? In Christian circles, we hear typically that stopping abortion, halting same-sex marriage, and safeguarding religious freedom are the top three. I will not dispute that those are valuable and worthwhile issues to address. However, the Bible speaks far more often and more boldly about economic justice, yet evangelical Christians balk at talking about economic justice because fixing that problem would probably disrupt our personal little kingdoms. Love for the “alien” and “sojourner” is also mentioned repeatedly in the Scriptures, but that’s not a value most of us consider at the voting booth.

Values change too. Remember that ridding our country of “demon alcohol” was once the most important value the American Church held dear.

Here’s the essence of this post…

These are the two most important questions of life:

Who is God?

How can He be known?

As Christians, the Bible is our book, and it exists to answer those two questions. We as Christians are to embody the answers to those two questions. And as the embodiment of those answers, we are to align everything in our lives to presenting those answers always and in everything we think, say, and do. Our lives are intended from the second we are justified by faith in Christ to be the living response to the two most important questions of life.

Think about that. Then think how we are to live as a result.

Politics is a nasty business. In a democratic republic, we Americans are given some say in our government. For those of us Americans who are Christians, our participation in that government must reflect the answers to the two questions. We are not allowed to answer falsely or to hedge our bets. The answers to the questions cannot be compromised because what is at stake is the truth about the character of God and His revelation.

Nothing the Christian does should question the character of God because no “value” matters more. All answers in life proceed from who God is. Our response to any predicament or issue always must come from who God is is and how He can be known.

This is how we live. And this should be how we vote.

I wrote that the Pharisees were “values voters.” Recall how they were unable to properly answer the question of who God is and how He can be known. This is the failure of values voting. It can’t work back from the “answers” depicted by the “values vote” and determine the truth of who God is and how He can be known. For this reason, Christians can’t vote based on values.

But people try. And this is how we end up with the political mess we find ourselves in.

Yet if we are to move beyond ever-changing values voting then we must always vote with the answers to the two essential questions in mind. They must inform everything we think, say, and do.

How then can we support any politician who distorts who God is and how He can be known?

How then can we support any politician who answers the two questions with lies in both word and practice?

Our task as believers is to reflect the answers of who God is and how He can be known in every aspect of life, including voting.  If we don’t do this, then we send a confused, broken, and destructive set of answers to a world dying for truth.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, has He? And yet we vote out of fear, not out of answering the two questions. We are fearful over the loss of values, but never over the loss of proper answers to the two questions. This is grossly wrong.

As Christians, we are to vote for those people who can answer the two questions properly in both word and practice. Anything else is not of faith and not of truth. God puts few burdens on us, but properly dealing with the two questions is one of those “burdens.”

But here’s the thing: God is in control of the outcome. He asks us to boldly uphold the answers to the two question and then trust Him to handle whatever the outcome of doing so will be. We should never fear to answer those two question boldly and without regrets.

What if this means that in answering the two questions of life boldly and without regrets we vote for a political candidate who answers the two questions correctly but who will certainly lose the election? Well, that may be what is asked of us by God, because answering the two questions properly is what we are about—always.

Do we truly trust God for election outcomes? Does He not say that He is the one who raises up and tears down a nation’s leaders? Do we believe that He knows what is best? If we do the right thing and vote for upholders of the proper answers to the two questions, and those candidates lose, have we not done what God has asked of us? If the “wrong” candidate makes it into office, are we to judge God because He asked of us one crucial thing and now we have regrets over His sovereignty? Are we that faithless?

We Christians say we want things to change in our country. Voting values, for all intents and purposes, has been a miserable failure at changing anything. It was always doomed though. Unless we vote according to the answers to “Who is God?” and “How can He be known?”we will never change anything.

by Dan Edelen

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10 Comments

  1. alan
    Posted September 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Well stated, Dan. Believers are not immune to focusing on the temporal and wanting to control the temporal circumstances. We even try to enlist God as an ally in such efforts. But God’s ways are much, much higher, and the real hope of the believer is eternal.

  2. Posted September 20, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Dire Dan: “The Pharisees were the “values voters” of their day.”

    Does that mean that all value voters today are necessarily “Pharisees”?

    Dire Dan: “…the Bible speaks far more often and more boldly about economic justice, yet evangelical Christians balk at talking about economic justice because fixing that problem would probably disrupt our personal little kingdoms.”

    Does what the Bible say translate into some particular “progressive” scheme of taxation, or using the apparatus and power of government, to siphon off other peoples “excess income” to give it to some other designated category or classes of people? As in “Render unto Caesar those things that will go towards a greater and more equitable income redistribution” Although at the moment, I can’t think of the chapter and verse where the Bible says that.

    Dire Dan: “Remember that ridding our country of “demon alcohol” was once the most important value the American Church held dear.”

    Exactly how was that effort any different from attempting to impose income redistribution (or some other “social justice” scheme) since the Prohibitionist scheme also had as its operating principle utilizing the powers of the government to impose something?

    Dire Dan: “All answers in life proceed from who God is.”

    Okay. Let’s step down from the starry spheres of abstraction and get really specific here. Does God value human life? Let’s assume that, yes, He does, especially the defenseless. Okay, which party do I vote for? For the party that energetically and consistently and enthusiastically promotes abortion? Or do I vote for the party that, at the very least, says it wants to do something, however minimal, to protect life? Why is my making a choice about how I vote here somehow not proceeding from what I know of who God is?

    Dire Dan: “God is in control of the outcome”

    Yes. This is true. I would love to ask those two questions of every candidate. But practically speaking, that’s not going to be possible; so why shouldn’t I make the best choice possible given what’s presented to me? Given the information that I do have, if I know that voting for one candidate will only go towards further cementing in place the on-going national abortion holocaust (just to cite one specific issue), while voting for the other candidate may possibly not have that result (or may possibly countercheck it), then how is it somehow “Pharisical” of me to vote on that basis?

    Dire Dan: “Voting values, for all intents and purposes, has been a miserable failure at changing anything.”

    Some people might not agree with this assessment. I know where one party stands on lots of things; it’s especially vocal and has made itself abundantly clear. The problem is that all too often the other party pays lots of lip service to these matters. But what do I do? Wait for the perfect candidate with all his theological ducks all lined up perfectly in a row? It seems to me that I have to work with what’s available.

    Dire Dan: “If the “wrong” candidate makes it into office, are we to judge God because He asked of us one crucial thing and now we have regrets over His sovereignty?”

    There are no perfect candidates. And for all I know, these are the United States of Sodom and Gomorrah, and soon the entire place will be reduced to a salt desert because of the wickedness of the inhabitants. (Climate Change anyone?) Until then, I have to make the best of what I am given. That’s what I am going to be asked about.

    • Posted September 21, 2012 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      Oengus,

      Pharisees: If the reason for voting a value doesn’t draw people back to the nature of who God is, then it falls into the Phariseeism category. In a way, that’s the very definition of what Phariseeism is. The greater issue here, which I did not get into, is the way “values voting” trends is toward a legalistic moralism that wars against the nature of grace and, again, who God is.

      Economic justice: You’ve read me enough to know that I think a nanny state is the result of a Church that gave up on economic justice. Government mandated or Church mandated, we Christians don’t seem to care much about this issue. Even something as simple as “I’m not going to replace my iPhone 4s with a 5 so I can save the money and help my neighbor pay her medical bills” is not something that occurs to enough Christians today. We will go livid over some issue, but this one hardly registers. Why? If the soul of our nation is at risk here, isn’t this issue a part of that? Considering how much the Bible mentions it, why do we give it so little attention? Will we not be judged for this also? And if we’re turning all those issues into mandates on Christianity and politics in the USA, how is it that not a single Christian on the national stage seems to be talking about economic justice?

      Nature of God: Given how weird the arguments on the opposing side have become, and how easily our traditional supports have been automatically declared ineligible by foes, appealing to the nature of God Himself is the bastion we still maintain. It is one thing to point to a chapter and verse, but few people can work back from that to understand why God says this or that in the context of who He is. I’ve tried to explain why homosexuality is wrong based on who God is, and this takes away all the verse twisting so common to arguments used by foes. That’s the direction we have to take in apologetics and the reasons for why we do what we do. I can go searching for verses that say something directly about abortion (and you know all those verses), but why are they valid in the light of who God is? That’s important to know, and too few Christians can work back to that understanding.

      Outcomes, choices, candidates: I would contend that most Christians are not looking at candidates outside of the two offered by the major parties. The reasons always given is that “they cannot win.” I don’t find that as a valid reason. It’s the same reasoning that says, “I’m going to hedge my bets in case God doesn’t come through.” That’s not faith, though. God asks us to do what is right, regardless of the outcome. In fact, that is what He asks of us in everything! Yes, there are no perfect candidates. But how can Christians vote for candidates who are actively opposed to nearly everything they uphold and believe? How can they vote for a candidate whose values may mirror some Christian beliefs, but whose reasons for those positions are rooted in thinking that is diametrically opposed to core Christian beliefs?

      • connie
        Posted September 22, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

        My problem is that in order to submit to my husband my vote has to go to one of the two major candidates. If my “power of influence” doesn’t change anything between now and the election, I’m going to have to follow the way of peace on this one.

      • Hans
        Posted September 24, 2012 at 1:57 am | Permalink

        Hi Dan

        Excuse me , but what the heck is ‘economic justice’, what does one have to do with the other, economics is about buying, selling and trade, justice pertains to the law, joining the two together as you have done just muddies or worse perverts the meaning of both

        The nanny state is not the result of the church giving up on “economic justice” but rather not understanding the difference and becoming to involved with the former and totally disregarding the latter and embracing the humanistic world view and denying God’s absolute sovereignty

    • alan
      Posted September 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

      How about someone who is born into abject poverty? Are they not defenseless? What are individual believers and local churches in the USA doing to remedy this? There is only anecdotal evidence that the American church is involved in economic justice, but there is no conclusive evidence. Many, many American believers are more concerned with accumulating material wealth and insulating themselves from the problems of the less fortunate. There are exceptions, of course, but for the most part the American church has adopted an “I worked for it – therefore it is mine” mindset. God says it is not ours, it belongs to Him and it should be shared. It should be freely and proactively shared as a validation of the Truth claims of Christ.

      Economic justice is indeed a major theme throughout scripture. If the church was doing what it should do in this area there would no need for the government to be involved. The cry for government intervention is because the church has flunked its role. Especially the mega churches with superstar preachers who raise and spend multiplied hundreds of thousands of dollars on staff salaries, buildings, campuses, and the obligatory broadcast ministries. They do this while people 20 miles away from the luxury campuses and the million dollar A/V systems are starving and hungry.

      The most effective way to eliminate efforts at government redistribution of wealth is not at the ballot box – it is in the active lives of local believers and local churches. This will require a level of personal, DAILY SACRIFICE and involvement that is uncommon among American believers. Just like the Pharisees many American believers want to appear theologically pure – focused on the externals “I voted pro-life”.

      Many of those who vote only “pro-life” do not live pro-life for those already born. I salute those who do – but they are far too few.

  3. Don Costello
    Posted September 21, 2012 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Dan,I disagree with this post on a number of points, too many to mention. The kicker though is in your response to Oengus where you wrote, “values voting” trends is toward a legalistic moralism that wars against the nature of grace”. So voting from a pro-life perspective is legalistic moralism?

  4. connie
    Posted September 22, 2012 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    On further thought this seems to fall in the category of “disputable matters.” A lot will definitely depend on the motive behind the vote. God definitely looks at motives. Besides, having seen the underside of the political rock personally, just because someone claims to be born again as a politician….many times all that means is the constituency expects it and it doesn’t have a darn thing to do with who God is.

  5. Hans
    Posted September 24, 2012 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    Regarding the abortion issue;

    The problem as I see it is that Christians are trying to fight this battle in the political/legal arena which just isn’t scriptural.

    It is just as much an abomination to have a law against abortion as it is to have a law allowing it. Let me explain…..it is an issue of jurisdiction, I remember reading somewhere in Deut. (I think) the phrase “and do not move the boundary stones” , the interesting thing was that it was totally out of context or so it seamed to me at the time because it was in the middle of a discourse not about land but one of jurisdiction.

    Abortion as terrible as it is, is strictly a family issue and does not involve the state.

    One way to test this premise is to take it to the extreme, let say we actually had capital punishment IN THE PRESCRIBED BIBLICAL WAY, in other words where as the state can and must in certain circumstances hand down the sentence of death, it can not itself carry out the execution, the only one who can carry out the execution is the ‘blood avenger’ who is the closest blood relative to the murdered victim. You can see where I’m going with this, If you go all out and say a woman having an abortion ( and person performing it)are guilty of murder and punishable with death then the blood avenger becomes none other than the woman herself. So one can see that having a law on the books making it illegal just doesn’t work, as wrong as as abortion is.

    WE are moving into the Kingdom age and understanding jurisdiction ( family,church, state ) and where our authority lays within those is of vital importance

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