The first several months of the presidential election season was mostly about economic issues and questions about the size and role of government. However, the focus has abruptly changed to culture war issues in recent weeks, and in the process has brought religious affiliation, actual or presumed, to the center of the discussion.
“Is Candidate A really a Christian? Is Candidate B’s religion the correct religion? Is Candidate C really the right kind of Christian?”
Millions go to the polls and pull the lever for one candidate or another for a myriad of reasons. Some are motivated by specific issues; others by a general governing philosophy. Some have been inspired by particular ideas; others simply by the candidate’s personal likeableness.
Rhetoric from the conservative edges of the political spectrum sometimes seems to suggest that being a Christian, even a particular brand of Christian, is to be a highly considered qualification for office. For some, it would even seem that a candidate being “their kind of Christian” is determinative, or nearly so.
But I’ve got to ask, are we voting for a religious leader or a political leader; are we electing the President of the United States or a Sunday School teacher?
Think of it this way. How do we choose a mechanic for our car? It would be nice that he shares our faith. It would give us a sense of shared interest and commonality with him. But what if he isn’t a very good mechanic? Would we take our car to the mechanic around the corner who has a solid record of fixing cars but also is known for his foul mouth and the girly picture calendar in his office? Or would we go to the mechanic who frequently doesn’t get the problem fixed right yet sings hymns while working on our car?
What about choosing a surgeon to operate on our spine? If we can find a really good surgeon who also will pray that Jesus helps her while operating on our neck, that’s awesome. But what if the surgeon prays a lot, but also has a number of malpractice suits against her? Would we instead opt for the well-renowned spine surgeon across town who is an atheist?
Coming back to candidates for political office. Is it better to vote for an inexperienced, careless, or ineffective politician who reads the Bible and prays daily and goes to church every Sunday? Or is it better to vote for an effective political leader who is irreligious or of a different religion than ours?
How determinative should a person’s alignment with our own faith be to casting our vote? Consider Jeroboam II in 2 Kings 14. By no means was he godly. But he sure did lead the nation of Israel effectively. God condoned none of the evil in his life, yet He still worked through the leadership skill of Jeroboam.
The Christian faith of a candidate who happens to be otherwise well qualified for the office for which they are running may be a nice bonus. But beyond that, how does the Christian faith of a candidate figure into the equation of whether he/she is actually qualified to hold the office for which he/she is running?