Conventional Thinking: Faith and politics in 2012
With the Democrat and Republican parties having officially convened, the presidential nominees are set. Barring the late entry of a significant third-party candidate, Americans will choose from two for President this November.
Oklahoma Baptists who vote will either give Barack Obama a second term or cast a vote for the first-ever Mormon U.S. President.
In 2008, much of the conversation focused on Obama’s background and faith. In 2012, much attention surrounds Romney’s faith.
This brings up a key question in the minds of many: Can a Baptist vote for a person who is a Mormon? The question could be enlarged: In any given election, can a Christian vote for someone of a different faith (or of no faith)?
To state the obvious, our publication does not tell people for whom or how to vote. Rather, it is our job to shine the light of God’s Word on the conversation, leaving individuals to decide.
The lens through which we see the world—whether finance, family or life—is the Scriptures. Often times, the guide markers jump right off the page. Other times they require more discernment.
When discussing voting principles, it is difficult to impose our predicament on Bible times. Moses and Paul each wrote during a time and to an audience that did not live in a representative democracy like ours. This partly explains why the right to vote is not explicitly discussed in Scripture.
Moses had the benefit (and responsibility) of hearing directly from God on political and social matters. In the case of the Sabbath breaker in Num. 15, Moses could take the case to God Himself. Despite the arrogant tone of some cable TV news commentators on politics, we have no such luxury.
What do the Scriptures have to say? Proverbs has many applicable verses, including: “When the righteous triumph, there is great rejoicing, but when the wicked come to power, people hide themselves.” (Prov. 28:12).
The New Testament speaks a great deal about government. Paul says: “Everyone must submit to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are instituted by God.” (Rom. 13:1). And Peter says: “Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good.” (1 Peter 2:13-14).
The contemporary rulers surrounding Paul and Peter’s day included Nero, Tiberius, King Herod and Claudius. These are hardly the sort of leaders to make the top picks list of Southern Baptists, yet these were the rulers to which they were told to submit.
Fortunately, we have different choices than did Paul and Peter! Let’s be grateful the Lord has placed us in America, where we get a say.
Throughout history and the Bible, we see that Christians can fare well under an upright non-Christian, what Augustine calls a “virtuous pagan.” In the Old Testament, Cyrus the Great rebuilt the Temple at his own expense. Cyrus was no devout Hebrew, but his policies were good for the Hebrews. While in Babylonian captivity, Daniel also found favor with the rulers.
In more modern history, various non-Christian rulers have ushered in times of peace for Christians and ended their martyrdom. Meanwhile, true Christians have been persecuted by professing Christians, as is catalogued in Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
Merely because someone claims to be a Christian does not mean they will be a good ruler. Conversely, the fact that someone is not a biblical Christian does not mean their policies will be adverse for God’s people.
The answers are not as clear cut as we would like. While I know many Christians whom I respect that cannot stomach voting for a non-Christian, there is ample room to say the Scriptures allow for the possibility of a good ruler who may not be Christian.
In any case, we can safely say our hopes will not be fulfilled in 2012 or beyond by a candidate. Our hope is in the Lord alone.