I am almost 49 years old. Afforded by our country’s law to vote at the age of 18, I have been diligent to do so. The Amendment to our Constitution states, “The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.” This was amended July 1st, 1971. Since the ratification of the Constitution in 1788, the age was 21. Women could not vote. Neither could those of African descent. There is a lot of interesting history here in the development of voting rights as it applies to every American Citizen, but that is not my purpose to discuss.
Every election-cycle brings about a divisive argument from the Christian populace (termed, “the Evangelical vote” or, “the Born-Againers”). The last cycle was sharp because Mitt Romney was a Mormon. On that basis alone, many Bible-believing Christians could not vote for him. Yet others, who equally, sincerely claimed to believe in the same Bible, argued that regardless of Romney’s cultic religion (which Evangelicals largely consider Mormonism to be), he was principled. Anything but Barrack Hussein Obama (who also garnered a considerable vote from Christians, too. Particularly many quarters of Black Christians, who are strangely not considered Evangelicals).
Obama claimed to be a Christian. He went to Church. His daughters were baptized. But we all remember his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. To the point: “Christian” in the history of this country is a very wide umbrella in terms of pinning it down to what it means. “Evangelicals” is more centered. It’s the Jerry Falwells and Billy Grahams. Mostly White folk, inherited from an Anglo Saxon history beginning with the Reformation of 1517 (at least this is how it is more or less projected by the Academians today).
Roman Catholics are included in the term, Christianity, but are not Evangelicals. John F. Kennedy was a Roman Catholic. The first (and only) Roman Catholic to be elected as President. On September 12th, 1960, JFK delivered a powerful speech to the Ministerial Association of Greater Houston. Having won the presidency, the Protestants demanded that he separate himself from any control from the Pope, his Head, according to his Catholicism. In other words, theology and politics entered into the picture (and this is just one example in our history). Kennedy stated, “I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so–and neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test–even by indirection–for it. If they disagree with that safeguard they should be out openly working to repeal it.” The President is sworn to uphold the Constitution, not the Bible.
Of course, this needs to be qualified because at the President’s Inauguration (whoever he or she may be), they will, presumably, place their hand on the Bible. This practice goes back to George Washington. It is not constitutionally required. It is a tradition. John Quincy Adams, a Christian, and Teddy Roosevelt did not place their hands on the Bible. Obama used Lincoln’s Bible and the Bible of Martin Luther King, Jr. (a Baptist). Washington’s Bible is no longer used because of its age. It is housed in St. John’s Mason Lodge Number 1 and contained the Apocrypha (Books that Protestants believe are added to the Bible). It is also debated as to the use of the term, “so help me, God” in the Oath. Nonetheless, the symbolic action that is supposedly to be affirmed is that the President shall uphold the Constitution and do so by acknowledging a Power Greater than himself: God (however He may be interpreted, which was as varied then as it is today).
With such a history, why do some Christians argue to the point of condemnation of another Christian for who they vote for? We can see on the social media phrases like, “you can’t be a Christian and vote for so and so.” “If you vote for X, then you are not saved.” “How could a true Christian in good conscience vote for this person?” In other words, from this perspective, a true Christian can only vote for someone who claims (“claims”, mind you) to be a true Christian. But, what is a true Christian? A Calvinist? A Baptist? A Methodist? No, none of these, they will say, really matters. A true Christian, post Kennedy, is Pro-Life, Free Market, Capitalist, Anti-Homosexual, Pro-Gun, Laissez-faire, Anti-Liberalism. Also, he or she cannot have a sinful past or any morality issues (such as adultery, strip club attendance, gambling, any vice, etc.). They have to be able to demonstrate in their lives the example of a true, principled, moral Christian – a Bible believing Christian. A Church-Going Christian.
This is asking a lot of a person, of course. Only God knows the truth of the shady deals, the back slaps in back rooms, the prostitutes and trysts, the mockery in secret or hatred in heart, the hidden things that are kept from the public eye, broken promises, flip flops, and on and on. And, of course, every President is going to try to put their best foot forward, even if they have to lie and embellish their humility a little bit in order to do so. The Presidential election has, for many Christians, become an election to voting in the best (or closest) example of their idea of Christianity. Even though the Constitution prohibits a litmus test for religion in order to hold office, this does not prevent a litmus test for voters to have one. This, again, comes under the idea of the qualifications for the Office. Jefferson was a slaveholder. Lincoln objected to African-Americans holding any office or voting. Good, Christian men. Well, maybe not by today’s standard. Nonetheless, their terms accomplished great outcomes that all Christians, “true” or not, benefited from when considered historically.
Voting on the President of the United States does involve theological thinking. Christianity, whether considered broadly or narrowly, is inseparably tied to the founding of the country. The fact that nominees have to scramble to dig out of their past some sort of Christian affiliation in order to pacify their Christian voters is a sight to behold. Hillary Clinton is a Methodist. Trump is a Presbyterian. Rubio is a Roman Catholic. Cruz is a Baptist. But, this isn’t the issue, really, is it? Isn’t it more the issues mentioned above? Political views, rather than what denomination one is from? Yet, if one strictly adheres to the Constitution, not the Constitution and the Bible (or my particular interpretative community’s view of the Bible and moral issues), then how do these other issues come to play such an important role when we decide to vote?
If I am a staunch Pro-Life supporter and believe abortion is a form of infanticide, period, can I argue that from the Constitution? I can argue that from the Holy Scriptures. If I am firmly persuaded that homosexuality is a sexual, psychological perversion: a choice based on a variety of factors, can I argue that from the Constitution? I have to go to the Scriptures, and, more narrowly, believe that the Scriptures are the infallible words of God. Even further, believe that my interpretation (aligned with as much study as can be done, reading opposing views and the like, citing significant, legitimate sources) is the more correct one according to, bottom line, my conscience. Can I, then, in good conscience, vote for someone who endorses homosexuality or abortion on demand? Or, should the question be, is this person going to uphold the Constitution? Considering our next President, I have to also consider the Senate, the Congress, the current laws of the land, the Supreme Court, and the political climate of the air. It’s not just one person. We do not live in a dictatorship (and I have studiously read enough about Nazi Germany to make one puke, and hate the comparisons between so and so and Hitler. I’ll take Jimmy Carter and Obama over Hitler any day of the week).
Does voting for someone whose morals (which, for me, are solely to be derived from the Scriptures) are different from mine, mean that I endorse those morals? If, say, I voted for Trump, does that mean I favor strip clubs? If I vote for Clinton, does that mean I am a supporter of the Pro-Choice idea? No, any more than voting for Ted Cruz means that I endorse baptism by immersion and the doctrine of freewill. The issues go far deeper than that: it is not whether the next President has the same biblical, moral code that I have, but whether or not this person will uphold the Constitution to the best of their ability given the current climate we live in, and believing that this person will have adequate counsel, checks and balances afforded in our form of government, failures and accomplishments that keep us, more or less, within a Constitutional way of life by which the American Citizen can pursue life, liberty and happiness with the least amount of intrusion of dictation from the lawmakers.
With such vote, which is between me and my Father who is in Heaven and in me through His Son, by His Spirit, blessed Tri-Unity, I also affirm that I am ultimately guided by His Hand Who Guides All Things. He raises up leaders and places them in office, good or bad. What a Christian should demand of other Christians is that they make a thoughtful, considered, meditated upon and researched vote based upon the considerations mentioned above (as well as others), and, then, leave it at that. Let the cases be made, of course. And, in the free country, let the condemnations from others be hurled, even when they use the Bible to pound you. But, if that is the reason you are voting for who you pick, then are you following the herd, or thinking for yourself in your prayer closet? I choose the latter.
In conclusion, I have been quiet this time around concerning who I will vote for, if I even vote at all (which is my right not to, equally guaranteed by the blood of our soldiers. I don’t buy the argument that if one doesn’t vote they can voice no opinion). I am a studied person (as listed by my academic accomplishments). I think I am pretty aware of what’s going on. I also affirm the Scriptures. Foolish shepherds, Romans 13.1-ff, theocracy, God’s judgment and wrath against evil leaders and nations, etc. It’s just this time around I am not so gung-ho on voting for someone based solely on their being the closest thing to my understanding of God’s word. I am going to vote, if I do at all, and leave it to the Lord who ultimately appoints the next President either for our sinful ways in order to display His wrath, or perhaps paving a way for our next revival. But, I will not do so based upon whether or not some think tank condemns my vote as “not Christian” because of their position. There’s more to it than that, folks. In other words, I can respectfully disagree with a another Christian, and still call them brothers and sisters in Christ.