NOTE: I write this is as my own opinion, not on behalf of any church or denomination. The link to this blog from my church’s website has been removed until after the election to alleviate any confusion. While pastors are not permitted to endorse candidates “from the pulpit,” there is no legal or other impediment to ordained ministers stating their personal views on political or any other matters. In fact, I am called to live out my faith publicly, which I will do in this post . . . .
Somebody asked me how I, a Christian and a pastor, could vote for Hillary Clinton. Here’s my answer. I don’t post this with the quixotic hope it will change anyone’s mind. I want to do what I always do on this blog; to show how faith impacts real life. I also hope unChristians who read this will see that Christians are not monolithic in their politics; you don’t have to subscribe to a certain ideology or party to follow Christ.
That’s not a bad thing for Christians to realize, either.
You can certainly disagree with my reasoning. That doesn’t make you any more or less of a Christian than I am. As we try to live out our faith in a perfect God as deeply flawed people in a less-than-perfect world, we are going to disagree and we are going to get it wrong sometimes.
What I will not do is to judge whether someone else is a follower of Christ based on their politics. I have seen memes and other posts on Facebook saying, “You can’t be a Christian and vote for _____.” Yes you can, no matter how you fill in that blank. Our status as followers of Christ does not depend on our voting right or getting anything else right; we are saved by what God in Christ did for us.
Of course we should try to put our faith into action, including taking God into the voting booth. But we should also put our faith into action when we encounter someone with whom we disagree. As I will do for those who choose to respond to this post with disagreement . . .
I focus on issues. We can argue endlessly about which candidate is personally better or worse, but what really matters – well beyond the next four years – are the policies espoused by the candidates and their parties. So here are the issues that most sway my vote as a Christian . . . and as an American.
Stewardship of the Earth – We are called to be stewards of God’s creation. That does not mean to exploit it for our benefit, but rather to care for the earth and its creatures as God cares for us. Sometimes that involves sacrificial safeguarding. I put this reason first because the damage done is often irrevocable . . . once national land is sold to developers, it’s not coming back. Once pristine wilderness is opened to mining and drilling, it’s not wilderness any more. Once tops are blown off of mountains to extract coal and streams are polluted and dammed by the debris, the ecology and topography are irrevocably spoiled.
I am old enough to remember our country’s burning rivers and smog-choked skies before clean water and clean air legislation. The Republican platform’s objection to environmental regulations would take us back toward those less-than great days for the environment. There is no incentive for “The Market” – which some Christians have made into an infallible idol – to protect the earth.
Unfortunately, there is a misguided strain of Christianity that teaches we may do what we wish to the earth because Jesus is coming back soon and giving us a new one. That is antithetical to the Biblical mandate we have as God’s caretaking hands in and of the world.
Science – There is no conflict between science and Christianity. Science is simply coming to understand the “how” alongside – not in opposition to – the “Who” and “why” answered by Scripture. To deny the overwhelming conclusions of the scientific community about things like climate change, vaccines, and evolution only makes Christians look silly and irrelevant . . . As does supporting a candidate and a party that embraces and promotes that denial when science inconveniently conflicts with business interests or the fundamentalist faith of the party’s political base.
Pro-Life – Because I follow Jesus, I am pro-life. Jesus was so pro-life he was willing to die so we can live.
But I am not just pro-life regarding fetuses. I am also pro-life about actual babies whose families need assistance in order to have food and shelter. I am pro-life for all people when early intervention medical care will save or improve their lives, even if it means my higher taxes pay for someone else’s insurance or care. I am pro-life for prisoners on “death row,” not just because it is inevitable innocents will be executed in the name of “justice,” but also because I believe no one is beyond redemption.
But back to what you thought I was going to write about in this section – I believe abortion should be as rare as is possible. Making abortions illegal, throwing women and doctors in prison, is not the just – or effective – way to do that. Because I am pro-life, I believe in comprehensive sex education including accurate birth control information and availability. Certainly I believe abstinence should be presented as a good and viable option, but not in demonstrably ineffective “abstinence only” curricula.
Republican candidates talk about making abortion illegal with no exceptions, not even in cases of rape or incest nor to save the life of a mother. If that had been the law of the land when my wife terminated a pregnancy that would have killed her, she would be dead, sacrificed on the altar of misogynistic patriarchy cloaked in religion.
Christian Integrity and Witness – Christian leaders like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr., are promoting a triumphalist Christianity I do not believe Jesus would recognize. They desire to use the government as an instrument of their brand of religion. Unchurched young people in particular already stay away from Christianity because they believe (rightly in many cases) that Christians are hateful and judgmental. Supporting a hateful and judgmental agenda that denigrates and dismisses those who are different – whether they are immigrants or Muslims or LGBTQ+ folks – only reinforces the perception of Christianity as an exclusive country club for “people like us.”
When Christianity is dragged into an unholy alliance with the Republican platform, it is harder to communicate the real Christian message of love for the last, lost, least, and left out. When the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan – that EVERYONE is my neighbor – is completely missed by Christians, is it any wonder those outside the church misunderstand what Jesus is all about?
LGBTQ+ Brothers and Sisters – It is diabolically ironic that many of the people who accuse Muslims of using their religion to taint the law want to deny LGBTQ+ folks the right to get married and live without being discriminated against because, you know, religion. Some of the people I care most about are members of the LGBTQ+ community, so this is personal for me . . . to roll back the civil rights advances of the past few years as the Republican platform advocates would directly hurt people I love.
Speaking of personal, this last reason is deeply personal . . .
Obamacare – My daughter has Crohn’s Disease. It was diagnosed when she was 15. She will never get well. Prior to Obamacare, she could be – and would almost certainly have been – denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition once she was off our policy. So, yes, the preservation of Obamacare is personal.
But it is more than that. My daughter has infusion treatments every six weeks that cost between $14,000 and $40,000 each time. Thank God my wife has excellent insurance through her job, or we would be in dire financial straits. EVERYONE has a right to that kind of insurance . . . EVERYONE has a right to know that a catastrophic illness will not result in a catastrophic financial family meltdown.
When I volunteered at a homeless shelter before Obamacare, many of the families – fathers, mothers, and children – who ended up there had lost everything due to overwhelming medical bills.
I know Obamacare is not perfect (I would personally prefer a single-payer system), but I will vote for the candidate who proposes to fix it, not throw it out with no viable replacement in sight. Anyone who thinks the opportunity to “buy health insurance across state lines” or to have “medical savings accounts” would help the truly desperate doesn’t know any really poor – or really sick – people.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to disagree, to argue . . . or to share. America – and the church – are stronger when folks can discuss differences without denigrating and degrading each other. I look forward to your civil conversation. . .