Well, the American election is safely behind us (thank God!) and we have, I hope, at least a few months before candidates start campaigning for the 2020 American election! Further, Justin Trudeau is less than two years into his mandate so he probably won’t be calling an election anytime soon. This slight reprieve may be our window of opportunity to address a very important issue for Christians before political emotions blind us to reasoned arguments. As a sociologist and armchair theologian, I was amazed at the disparity among evangelical voters in the 2016 American elections. Never in recent memory have American voters had two candidates who were such polar opposites. The contrast was stark which should have, hypothetically, made the process of choosing between them relatively simple. Yet, in the States, evangelical Christians, who hold to the Scriptures as the inspired Word of God, as “the sole and sufficient rule for faith and practice,” were arguing vociferously with one another. Each side maintained that no “right-thinking Christian” could ever vote for Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump. Each side backed up their views with Scripture and maintained that the clear choice was obvious. How, I wondered, could sincere Christians read the same book and reach such starkly different conclusions as to who was the better candidate for the nation’s top office?
I suspect part of the reason is that with a book as big as the Bible it is very easy to miss the forest for the trees. Sometimes we get so focused on specific verses here or there that we miss the broader themes of the Bible. Let me, therefore, suggest a few areas of concern to consider when choosing a candidate to vote for. Oh, and incidentally, these points are as valid for Canadians as they are Americans and as valid in municipal and provincial politics as they are federal:
1. The Poor: Throughout Scripture God makes clear His “preferential option for the poor.” This simply means that God cares greatly for the suffering and hardships of those for whom the American (or Canadian) dream has become a nightmare. What policies are the candidates putting forward to help the poor? What do the candidates have to say about the growing income gap between the wealthiest 1% and the very poor?
2. The Refugee: No one who reads Scripture with an open mind can miss God’s concern for strangers in the land. The Scriptures command us to welcome, embrace, and care for immigrants to our land. What policies are being put forth to encourage refugee sponsorship and to support immigrants to Canada?
3. The Vulnerable: The vulnerable include people of all ages such as the unborn, children, the mentally and physically handicapped, and the elderly to mention just a few categories. How a society treats its most vulnerable citizens is the best indicator of that society’s justice and righteousness.
4. Racial minorities, women, and religious minorities: The “big 3” prejudices are unquestioningly condemned in Scripture, at least in the New Testament. In evaluating candidates, it’s important not just to look at their words while running but to evaluate their record of inclusion throughout their professional careers.
5. Creation care: The Bible makes clear that God is the owner of the earth itself and everything in it. You and I are simply stewards of what God owns and are, therefore, called to care for it. Do the candidates display a spirit of responsible stewardship or would their policies be environmentally destructive?
6. Marriage and family: Marriage and family are the bedrock of cultural stability. As families go, so goes society. Do the policies the candidates espouse support family stability or undermine it?
7. International peacemaking: As Christian citizens we have a responsibility not just to our own nation but to other nations as well. We are all part of one international community. Do the policies the candidates espouse promote peace, justice, and democracy internationally or do they promote our own country’s narrow interests at the expense of the well-being of our greater international community?
This list is far from exhaustive. What other items would you add to it? One word of caution: When considering items to add to the list make sure you’re not simply picking “pet issues” but ones that are truly major themes of Scripture. Our goal should be to have Scripture determine our politics rather than our politics determining our interpretation of Scripture.
Voting is one of the most important functions that people perform in a democratic society. And God cares about whom we vote for. Let’s truly seek God’s priorities in Scripture as we seek to discern who are the men and women He would have lead us at all levels of government.