As the presidential election nears, I feel a pastoral obligation to comment on the stewardship of one’s vote.
Those looking for me to endorse a candidate will be sorely disappointed (or greatly relieved). I don’t endorse candidates. While I have respected colleagues who do–whether by announcement or innuendo–I regard this as a misuse of the pastoral office.
To imply that any political candidate has the stamp of divine approval is a dangerous business, not to mention, patently untrue. Jesus was the last and only mortal, yet divine, Son of God (Col 1:15).
Political candidates, like the rest of us, are ordinary mortals trying to find their way. They articulate a philosophy they try to live and enact into law. At best, they probably live their philosophy 70 percent of the time. Their success rate at legislative victories is usually considerably less.
Fortunately, the framers of the Constitution had a healthy respect for what theologians call “original sin.” They knew the truth of the axiom, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” What candidates can and cannot accomplish is greatly constrained by the Congress and the courts.
So how do I decide for whom to vote?
For the Christian that decision cannot be reduced to “What’s in it for me?” as in “Which candidate’s tax plan will give me a $2,000 tax cut instead of $1,500?” That framework, while natural for us all, does not represent a distinctively Christian way of decision-making.
“What would Jesus do?” doesn’t help much either, since Jesus would, and did, die for the sins of the world rather than trifle with such choices.
The “What would Jesus have me do?” question might be, “Given my commitment to Christ–and the choices available–which candidate do I believe best embodies Jesus’ brand of compassion, love, and moral courage?” And that decision is best made in light of a candidate’s record–not his or her formal pronouncements about religion.
Christian faith consists less of having the right answers than asking the right questions. In the interests of humility and civility, it is important to remember this as the election nears.
Bob Setzer is pastor of First Baptist Church, Macon, Georgia. He serves on BCE’s board of directors.