My dear fellow evangelicals in Iowa,
Grace and peace to you, my friends.
The world will be watching you tonight. Because you are such a very large part of the voting population of your state, your choices will play a huge role in determining what happens in the presidential race.
But they will also play a huge role in the perception of evangelical Christians on the part of those outside our tradition. You will affect how people think about Jesus and his message.
It is never easy to figure out how to vote. (Or how to “caucus.”) There are no perfect political parties or candidates. Most of us decide that we need to participate in the political process anyway, choosing the best available or least bad candidate.
Figuring out how our faith in Jesus, and our reading of the Bible, should intersect with more worldly considerations is a tough job.
To help you (and me) think about that, I have some questions for you to consider:
Do we simply vote based on which candidate seems like the Best Christian — you know, the most godly, the most knowledgeable about the Bible, with the most obvious track record as a churchgoing, committed Christian?
Do we vote based on Social Policy — like whether the candidates are opposed to the things we are opposed to, and for the things we are for?
Do we vote based on National Security — like which candidate seems most likely to protect us from terrorists?
Do we vote based on Finances & Money — like how we are doing economically, or which candidate seems most likely to improve the economy or better the fortunes of ourselves and our families?
Do we vote based on National Pride, looking for a candidate who can make us feel good about being Americans or like America is (again) the most powerful, respected, and feared country in the world?
Best Christian. Social Policy. National Security. Finances & Money. National Pride. These are some of the common factors that determine how people vote.
Are they the factors that should determine how evangelical Christians vote? A case could be made for some of them as really important. But I ask you to think about three different kinds of considerations:
Presidential Character — Please consider who these people have revealed themselves to be over the course of the campaign. Ask whether they exhibit the virtues (and avoid the vices) that are most important in a president. Ask whether they are wise people, as the Bible defines wisdom. Ask whether they exhibit qualities like good judgment, self-control, and kindness.
Presidential Justice — Psalm 72 prays for the king this way: “May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice…May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.” Ask whether this person is one whose heart and therefore whose politics is oriented toward protecting those who are vulnerable and who cannot protect themselves.
Presidential Servanthood — Remember how James and John wanted to be Jesus’ right-hand men in the kingdom of God, and how Jesus told them: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them…It will not be so among you. Whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:25-26). Look for a candidate with a heart not of pride but of service, and who seeks to serve not just some Americans but all Americans, which is the role entrusted to the president of this great country.
No, there is no perfect candidate. Yes, there are many factors when voting. But I submit that presidential character, justice, and servanthood are considerations that Christians especially can bring into the caucus room with us. I hope you will think them over before you gather tonight in front of a watching world.