Monday, October 06, 2008

Can a Christian vote for Obama?

I've had a couple of posts recently about people who couldn't restrain themselves from endorsing political candidates in the classroom. Recently a number of pastors, who can't resist telling their parishioners who they should vote for, have made the news. They risk their churches' tax exempt status by doing so, and Minneapolis StarTribune carried an article about them yesterday. Gus Booth, a fundamentalist pastor in Warroad, has been very involved in this movement. He made headlines across the country last May when he told his parishioners that a Christian cannot vote for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton because of their positions on abortion and gay rights.

I find pastors like Booth offensive for two reasons. First of all, I think they give Christianity a bad name. Like radical Muslims, or radicals of any other faith, they are convinced that they have a complete monopoly on the truth, and anyone who believes anything different is evil. I also find them offensive because of the effect they have on our politics. I am so sick of Republicans and Democrats who find it necessary to demonize the other side. Not only that, but they drive a lot of good people out of politics who don't want to associate with the extemists who have taken over the two parties. After Booth and his followers took control of the local Republican caucus in February, a number of local Republicans with common sense said they would never go back again.

When I read about Booth's idiotic sermon last spring, I was appalled. At that time, I was leaning toward McCain, but I was tempted to respond with a letter to the editor in our local newspaper. Since I always have some kids in my classes who go to his church, however, I decided that it probably wasn't a good idea. As it turned out, I'm glad I didn't, because Robert Baril, a former student who is now majoring in political science at Bemidji State University, wrote a better letter than I could have. Robert is more to the left than I am, but his letter made me proud to have been his teacher. Here it is.

I was stunned recently to hear that a pastor in Warroad was using his sermons to tell people who they should vote for. Apparently, his message was the "good Christians" should not vote for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton because of their stances on abortion and gay marriage, which seems somewhat lmiting as there are plenty of other reasons not to vote for them (though I did).

Now, I have seen Pastor Booth administer a wedding, and he came off as both warm and funny. He seems like a decent man, and I understand his passion for politics. What I disagree with is by making statements like that, Mr. Booth is turning the 2008 campaign into a two-issue election: abortion and gay marriage. This may be painful for some to hear, but this is exactly what the Republicans want, because they use the religious vote to win elections.

The same thing happened in 2004 when gay marriage was the big issue for religious voters, instead of the war in Iraq--currently in year five. As soon as they won, what? That promised gay marriage to the Constitution? Didn't happen. What did happen? A disastrous foreign and domestic policy that has left us militarily vulnereable abroad and financially unstable at home.

The only role these issues really play in elections is to serve as a conservative distraction from issues they're less inclined to talk about, such as the deficit. Could we at least make China work a little bit for their ultimate takeover?

This also may be tough to hear, but it's the truth: abortion will never be completely banned in this country. The closest you can come is to make it a state's issue and limit it to the first or second term. I don't agree with the practice myself, but at the same time recognize that others may live under circumstances that precipitate a different belief and ulimately their call, just as it should be a consenting adult's call to marry the consenting adult of their choice.

I'm sorry, but I fail to see how a gay couple threatens the sanctity of marriage, which straight people can't seem to get right, having a roughly 50% divorce rate. The Bible is often referenced to combat the argument for gay marriage. The problem is that it has also been referenced to justify slavery. There are so many alternate translations that practically anyone can use the Bible to justify their actions.

Our death penalty is based on eye-for-an-eye vengeance, yet there's a commandment against killing. And if the Bible is excused from participation, the argument against gay marriage falls through. For procreation only? Well, sorry infertile people. They'll raise gay children? We'll just elect them to be vice-president.

What issues should matter? Iraq, Afghanistan, the economy, universal health care (something I think Jesus would be just alright with), our painfully degraded infrastructure, taxes (this is the first time the country has been at war and we haven't raised taxes. I think if we ask our soldiers to sacrifice their lives, we can sacrifice a few extra cents), and the environment...

If you want to vote for John McCain, that's fine. I'm not. If that makes me a bad Christian, I ask you to pray for me. But I'm choosing to base my vote on issues that affect me directly: the economy, the wars we're deeply involved in, and health care.

It's not that issues like abortion and gay marriage don't matter to me, but I know that whoever I elect is not going to affect these already contentious issues that much. Because these areas are such political land mines, and politicians are all about career survival, they try to avoid dealing with them as much as possible. They're much more satisfied with the status quo because that gives them something dependable to complain about every four year to stay in power. Conversely, on matters such as foreign policy and economic strategy, our future president will have a significant and profound influence. That is why I feel they are of greater concern when it comes to basing your electoral choice. Your vote is your choice, for your reasons. I didn't write this to tell you who to vote for. I just wanted to remind you that there's too much at stake in this presidential race for it to be reduced to a two-issue campaign.


Blogger Charley said...

Your letter writer misses the point altogether. For someone who actually cares about what God has to say in the Bible about life and about the sin of homosexuality, one cannot in good conscience vote for Obama or for Clinton. To have a pastor point that out is a far cry from "telling their parishioners who they should vote for." It is simply pointing out two major issues that God repeatedly brings up in His Word and pointing out that these particular candidates are diametrically opposed to the Biblical position.

It is disqualifying a candidate based on a position rather than qualifying a candidate based on a position. This is not "demonizing the other side." There are clear differences here that are being pronounced from a pulpit. And it seems from your statement regarding a "monopoly on the truth" that you've bought into the postmodern idea that truth cannot be known and the illogical assertion that "what's true for you isn't necessarily true for me and what's true for me isn't necessarily true for you."

As to your student...his logic makes no sense in saying all these other issues count, but that we should ignore abortion and homosexuality. He's also wrong on the death penalty...the commandment is against "murder," and the state is given the power of the sword in order to deliver justice. And he might think Jesus would like universal health care, but he would be wrong. God established spheres (civil government, church, family, and individual) that have very little overlap, and then charged them with particular duties. The civil government is NOT charged with providing health care! In fact, it is very limited in its scope, mostly to protecting the populace and ensuring justice with punishments up to and including the death penalty.

Bottom line... the government has NO BUSINESS telling the church what can or cannot be preached from their pulpits, to include political issues. I, for one, am glad some are finally standing up and saying, "NO!" If you don't want to hear it, then don't go to that church! It's that simple....

HomeDiscipling Dad Blog

10/06/2008 4:35 PM  
Blogger Mrs. C said...

So, according to this logic, 150 years ago it woulda been DEAD WRONG to base your vote on the abolitionist issue. There are just so many other important issues out there...

I think we can admit elections aren't *just* decided based on a demographic group's feeling on a subject, but they ought to have their voices heard at the polls.

And I know there is a just and holy God who WILL take into account who we voted for and what we watched when no one was looking. I wouldn't ever want to vote for Obama for that reason. I don't see how any true Christian could in good conscience, but then again, I'm not standing before God when their time comes. I can't be their conscience for them. I'd like to think, though, that reading about the issues and especially the testimony of Jill Stanek would change even the hardest of hearts.

I guess that makes me dogmatic. So be it. I have a feeling Dennis isn't too surprised. :p

10/06/2008 5:31 PM  
Blogger Mrs. C said...

PS It sure doesn't follow that one must vote for McCain. I hope I don't give the impression that I think the Republicans own Jesus or anything.

I miss Ron Paul, though I suppose strictly interpreting the Constitution may or may NOT result in the repeal of Roe V. Wade.

10/06/2008 5:33 PM  
Anonymous daniel simms said...

Mrs. C, Ron Paul has advocated voting for any of the third party candidates and forsaking both McCain and Obama. I have an even better idea - don't vote at all. There are some very good articles by Butler Shaffer and Wendy McElroy about why you shouldn't vote, as well as an excellent one I saw recently by Mike Rozeff titled "Why I Don't Vote." Also watch George Carlin's video on why he doesn't vote. It's funny as can be, but he is absolutely correct. You can use google to find any of these.

10/06/2008 7:09 PM  
Blogger Cory Harris said...

I know that no one here specifically said vote for McCain, but I was wondering how an Evangelical could vote for a guy who:

a) repeatedly, knowingly, and admittedly committed adultery
b) unless he was an even more incompetent pilot than his record shows, has killed

I've always wondered how all that is reconciled. Does the stuff in the ten commandments hold less water than the stuff written elsewhere? Or is a "belief" worse than actually performing the act?

10/07/2008 6:11 AM  
Blogger mazenko said...

Excellent points, Cody.

If I'm not mistaken, Christians aren't really supposed to be in the habit of judging other Christians. Clearly, Charley doesn't just believe himself to be judge, jury, and executioner, but Supreme authority as well.

We should probably leave issues of conscience and relationship with God up to the individual.

10/07/2008 11:55 AM  
Blogger Charley said...


Fighting in the armed forces of one's country in a just war, and thus taking the lives of enemies, is NOT a sin in the eyes of God.

And mazenko... typical of the post-modern mindset... rather than deal with arguments in order to best ascertain the truth, you go for the "judge not lest you be judged" verse out of context. There IS such a thing as truth and it IS discernable from Scripture. You might not LIKE it because it challenges your life, but that doesn't change the fact that there IS knowable, objective truth. If you don't think I've stated it correctly, then show me the Scripture (in context, please) that refutes my positions. That's the way this sort of thing should be done.

BTW...It does seem like you are "judging" in your post... you "judged" Cody's post to be "excellent." You "judged" that Christians are not supposed to judge other Christians. Right or wrong, you made judgments.

I wrote an entire blog post on the topic of judging, using points from one of John MacArthur's books. You can find it HERE.


10/07/2008 1:05 PM  
Blogger mazenko said...


You correctly note that I am judging, though I've never claimed to be a Christian. I just wanted to point out the awkward position a pious Christian finds himself in when dealing with a secular government/world.

Clearly, fighting in a war can be supported in much of the Bible, though it was written at a time when men couldn't drop bombs on large areas of the earth where innocent casualties might occur - probably an important distinction. Secondly, a true scholar of both war and religion might take exception to making "enemies" out of the Vietnamese who never sought conflict with America. Biblical wars are a much different issue, though we'd have to judge that.

Interestingly, your "truth" may not be someone else's truth, as that word tends to slip in slide. I'm no moral relativist, but I do know that while facts stay the same, perspective is often used in ascertaining truth - example: Columbus - hero or villain? Depends on your "truth," doesn't it? It's a pretty bold judgment to identify the "truth" of whether a fertilized egg is a "person," as a proposed amendment to the Colorado Constitution asserts. Certainly, can't look to the Bible on this one.

Reasonably, I could argue in support of Obama, knowing that he has never actually had or performed an abortion. So, his "state of sin" is rather theoretical. However, McCain's "state of sin" in regards to marriage is not at all in doubt. Thus, Cody makes an excellent point. My judgment, of course.

10/07/2008 2:17 PM  
Blogger Dennis Fermoyle said...

As long as we're at it, I think I'll get my two cents in on abortion. I consider myself pro-life, but I have to admit to mixed feelings about the issue. I believe life begins at conception, so I see abortion as killing a person. I would not want to play any part in any abortion, and I would object to having my tax dollars used for them.

I am queazy about saying that abortions should be illegal, however. In a republic like ours, prohibitive laws should have a strong consensus behind them, and there is no such thing when it comes to abortion. I recently read that one out of every three pregnancies ends in abortion. I think most people would agree with me when I say that is horrible. But ask people if they think that abortion should be illegal in all cases, including rape and incest, and see what response you get. Somewhere between 60 and 70% of the public think abortion should be allowed in some cases. How can we have laws that so many people disagree with? I have a great deal of sympathy whe Joe Biden says that he believes life begins at conception and that abortion is wrong, but he's reluctant to impose his views on other people.

But on the other hand, if we really believe that life begins at conception, don't we have a duty to protect that small, defenseless person. I get a headache just thinking about it.

Regardless of how I feel about it, I think Robert Baril is right when he says abortion will not be outlawed in the forseeable future. The most important thing a president does regarding abortion is appoint Supreme Court justices. Most of the present Supreme Court has been appointed by pro-life Republican presidents, and nothing has changed. Two out of three of Reagan's appointees ended up being pro-choice. His very first appointee, Sandra Day O'Connor, wrote the Court's opinion upholding abortion rights in Pennsylvania vs. Casey. Why should we expect McCain to change things? He will have to get any nominees through a Democratic congress, and he's not exactly the most committed pro-lifer in the country. His campaign was floating the names of pro-choice candidates as his running mate shortly before finally settling on Sarah Palin.

If the Supreme Court ever does overturn Roe v. Wade, that will just send the issue back to the states. How many of them will outlaw abortion? South Dakota is one of the most conservative states in the union, and when their legislature passed a bill to outlaw abortion in an attempt to bring a challenge to the Supreme Court, the voters of the state overturned the law in a referendum.

So, yes, I am against abortion, but Robert Baril is right. It is not the most important issue in this year's presidential election.

10/07/2008 4:17 PM  
Blogger Tressa said...

I haven't posted in awhile, but I couldn't let this one go.:) I am strongly pro-life. I am also a Christian. However, I am probably different than a lot of Christians in that I do not think that it is the government's responsibility to stop abortions. I believe that is our individual responsibility to calmly and quietly state what we believe and pray that the Spirit changes hearts. You won't find me protesting either, but everyone around me knows what I believe.

You will never make anyone pro-life by shoving it down their throats. Do I believe that human life needs to be protected? Yes, but I don't believe that legislation is the answer. I do think that Obama's stance on abortion is a representation of his character. I still can't get over the "punished with a baby" comment.

Anyway, there are my two cents for whatever they are worth.

~Another homeschool mom who is trying private school for awhile.

10/08/2008 6:33 AM  
Blogger Mr. McNamar said...

Ms. C, writes, "I don't see how any true Christian could in good conscience [vote for Obama], but then again, I'm not standing before God when their time comes."

Here's one for you: I'll take my chances. And I'll add to it: I don't see how any true Christian could in good consience believe that today's church has acted anything like Christ intended. This world is ripe with examples of how the church has failed to live out, at the very least, 1/2 of God's Commands: Love God; Love Your Neighbor.
Today's Christians have largely forgetten the latter. I find this telling of our faith.

10/08/2008 3:19 PM  
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