Whenever I hear someone refer to the “Christan vote” I cringe. As if all Christians think – let alone vote – the same way.
Most often, reference to the “Christian vote” assumes that Christians are overwhelmingly conservative and Republican. The truth is that when most people refer to “Christians,” they are referring to Evangelical Christians – another term that is misleading because, again, Evangelical Christians do not represent a monolithic belief system or voting bloc.
While pundits and pollsters often assume Christians = Evangelical Christians = Conservative = Republican, the equation is not without error. Consider this alternative group of Christian voters: clergy who wear their collars during protest marches, Christian college students rallying against sex trafficking, chaplains serving in prisons, and churches taking in refugees, church members who demonstrate against pipelines.
As people of faith, we are called to live through prayer, reading of scripture, studying history, engaging in communal worship and sharing in conversation. These are the spiritual practices that influence my political leanings as a Christian.
Most often, reference to the 'Christian vote' assumes that Christians are overwhelmingly conservative and Republican.
Full disclosure: I am a registered Democrat (I registered with a party in 2008 so I could vote for Obama in the primary). While I tend to lean left, I was appointed by a Republican president (George H. Bush) to serve on the Commission for National and Community Service and served appointments made by two Republican Governors (Gov. Underwood of West Virginia and Gov. Whitman of New Jersey)
But it is my Christian faith and not my political allegiances that define my conscience and that determine my vote. It is my faith that makes seven issues – poverty, peacemaking, safety, equality, care for the earth, prisons and immigration – central to my decisions when voting.
On Tuesday, when I “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s” and translate my faith into action as I cast my vote, I’ll consider seven questions relating to these seven issues. It is these questions that will guide my vote.
I’ll ask: What is each candidate saying and doing about these issues? What policies and programs is s/he proposing? What actions has s/he taken in the past around these areas and what have they promised to do moving forward?
What is each candidate saying and doing about each of these issues, what policies and program is he or she proposing? What actions has he/ she done in the past around these areas? And what Scripture compels my thinking on each issue?
1. What are the candidates’ positions and practices on poverty?
According to Feeding America and the No Kid Hungry campaign, nearly 50 million individuals in the U.S. struggle with hunger and over 13 million children in live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life. 800 million people do not have enough to eat.
Rich people who see a brother or sister in need, yet close their hearts against them, cannot claim that they love God. (1 John 3:17)
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy (Proverbs 31:8-9)
“If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)
2. What are the candidates’ positions and practices on safety?
According to the FBI, in 2015 there were about 15,000 murders in the U.S., over 90,000 reported rapes in the U.S. and over 20,000 calls a day are made to domestic hotlines nationwide are you focusing on violence against women?
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)
You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless. (Exodus 22:22-24)
3. What are the candidates’ positions and practices on environment?
According to the United Nations, 782 million people do not have access to clean water and 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation. By 2040 the Artic will be ice free in the summer. The 20th century’s last two decades were the hottest in 400 years.
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” (Genesis 2:15)
The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small and for destroying those who destroy the earth. (Revelation 11:18)
The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it (Psalm 24:1)
4. What are the candidates’ positions and practices on peace?
“Global Violence has reached it highest levels in the last 25 years,” according to the Global Peace Index.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9)
He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)
5. What are the candidates’ positions and practices on racial, gender and cultural equality?
The poorest half of the U.S. owns about 2.5 percent of all of the country’s wealth. The top one percent owns 35 percent of all private wealth. Female full-time workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. Nine percent of students from the lowest income quartile graduate with a bachelor’s degree by age of 24, compared to 77 percent for the top income quartile. While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned.
“Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously each against his brother so as to profane the covenant of our fathers? (Malachi 2:10)
I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. (Acts 10:34-35)
But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:9)
6. What are the candidates’ positions and practice on immigration/refugees?
According to the UN, in 2015, more that 65 million people have been displaced because of war. In 2016, 10,000 Syrian refugees were accepted by the United States.
For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in.” (Matthew 25:35)
Don’t mistreat or oppress an immigrant, because you were once immigrants in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:21)
That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:19)
7. What are the candidates’ positions and practices on prisons?
According to prisonpolicy.org, there are 2.3 million people incarcerated in the United States.
“For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.” (Psalm 69:33)
To hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die, (Psalm 102:20)
Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.” (Hebrews 13:3)
I am sure there will people who say that this is a plug for Hillary, that I started with supporting Hilary and moved backwards to support my preference. As clergy, we are taught to “exegete” or interpret the text rather than eisegete (when the reader imposes his or her meaning). To do it the other way around is nothing short of idolatry and would violate my ordination vows.
I didn’t write the Bible, and the behavior and the policies of the candidates are of their own making not mine.
So what are the issues that you care about? Why? Now go: Think, pray, vote.