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Churches Must Address Political Questions

Posted by Matt Postiff January 24, 2012 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Society 

The first sentence of Dr. Bauder's article "Let Me Tell You How to Vote" certainly captured my attention. It said, "Churches have no business addressing political questions." After reading the article a couple of times, I still was perplexed. Perhaps, I thought, he has simply made a too-broad statement that is inconsistent with the rest of his article. Maybe he purposefully said it with the intention of returning to the issue later to clarify things. Maybe he means something different by "political questions" than I do when I use that general phrase. Maybe the church is not supposed to address political questions, but the Christian academician is permitted to do so.

The article is helpful, and one of the ways it was helpful was that it prompted me to think on the issues. Generally I agree with the principles Dr. Bauder puts forth. I differ in where I draw the line as far as principle and application, and this affects my summary statement. That is, churches have to address political questions because those questions often have some connection to Christian morality. are some of my thoughts.

I wondered if we would be having the discussion in the way that Bauder frames it if we did not have to concern ourselves with 501(c)(3) constraints. In other words, if we were given totally free religious speech, would we just "spit it out" and avoid the circumlocutions?

When I say "circumlocutions," I am thinking of the ways in which Bauder frames his eight biblical concerns such that they are effectively recommendations on "who to [not] vote for" even though he writes in terms of "general principles." If you preach Bauder's list, most people are going to understand your message in light of the current political situation and candidates. Consider some of his concerns and how they would be "heard" by the contemporary audience:

1. Reputation for Integrity - Don't vote for Newt Gingrich.

2. Right to Life - Don't vote for Barack Obama, and maybe not for Mitt Romney either, and possibly not for Ron Paul either.

3. Rule of Law - Don't vote for Barack Obama, and maybe not for some of the other candidates because of their weak stand on the immigration issue.

4. Restraint of Evil - Don't vote for Barack Obama.

5. Respect for Property - Don't vote for Barack Obama or most other Democrats, nor many establishment Republicans.

6. Recovery of Moral Responsibility - ditto.

7. Recognition of Israel - Certainly don't vote for Barack Obama, and probably not for Ron Paul either.

8. Responsible Use of Nature - Don't vote for most everyone on the left.

Now, as I said, I am in almost 100% agreement with Bauder's principles. However, in a sin-cursed world it is tough to apply them with 100% consistency. Maybe Rick Santorum is left standing after all these principles are applied, but maybe not. Couldn't we just say what we mean in terms of contemporary application instead of talking around it?

Another thought on the point about integrity comes to mind. Bauder says "a man who will violate his marriage oath is one who will violate his oath of office." He does not say "a man who has violated his marriage oath in the past is necessarily of the same character now and will certainly violate his oath of office in the future." All men are inconsistent in some ways. Some would violate their oath toward their spouse but not toward their job. Others maybe have learned their lesson and do not want to repeat their past mistakes.

Another thought: I would add a ninth biblical concern to Bauder's list.

9. Reduction of Debt by Paying it Off Fully. Proverbs 22:7 tells us that the borrower is slave to the lender, and Psalm 37:21 says that the wicked borrow and do not repay. The United States is currently a slave nation as well as a wicked nation in this regard. The continual piling up of yearly deficits into the national debt is morally wrong. The weak dollar policy that causes inflation, lessening the value of debt that is paid back on the same face value, is morally wrong as well. A default on sovereign debt would be morally wrong. And the surreptitious reduction of the purchasing power of savings held by our citizens by means of that same inflation is also morally wrong.

The point about debt, then, brings me to my final thought. Bauder makes the popular appeal to downplay purely economic issues in one's decision to vote (the idea is "don't worry about your pocketbook, vote for life/integrity/property rights/etc.!"). The problem is that many economic issues are also moral issues. Most of the concerns enumerated by Bauder are not only spiritual concerns; they are also economic concerns; and they are also political concerns, at least in the common sense of the term "political." Since the Bible gives us wisdom for all areas of life, it does so also for political questions. In preaching the whole counsel of God, we will necessarily run into passages that have applications that deal with political questions. It is true that principles must guide our decisions as to how to vote, but these principles at some point have to come down to the level of application in answer to the question "who to vote for," or at least who not to vote for, as well. —MAP

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