An Update of a 2020 Blog
I vote. And I encourage you to vote. But I won’t tell you to vote for. I don’t endorse candidates and I don’t endorse parties. I know some pastors endorse candidates directly, and I know many more who do so indirectly, by saying something such as, “No honest Christian can vote for candidate ‘X’ or for any candidate in party ‘Y.’” Years ago, I made the decision not to endorse candidates or parties. I want to be able to speak truth to both parties. And that’s nearly impossible to do when you support one or the other.
Both parties need a hearty dose of truth more then they need my endorsement.
We are just days before an election that will see those of us in Arizona elect a Senator, a Governor, a few more statewide officers, and a whole hose of others. These are important—and we want to do our best. Though I won’t tell you who to vote for, I will teach you some of the principles you should think about before you vote.
Understand that Christians are citizens of two kingdoms. My first loyalty as a Christian is to the Kingdom of God. After that, I am loyal to the United States of America. I love my country deeply. I love my God more. Whenever there is a conflict, my priority is the Kingdom of God. So I look to the principles of God’s kingdom to find out how to vote for candidates in my country.
I don’t take my vote lightly. I send much time in research, reading, evaluating, listening, and praying before I vote. I don’t vote by party loyalty, which frustrates many of my friends who have great loyalty to a party. And I do examine all candidates in the light of Biblical teaching on leadership. I look for three broad things in a candidate—character, competence, and core values. Let me explain:
Character. To get my vote, a candidate must convince me that they are a man or woman of character. They must speak the truth, have a deep level of integrity in both their personal and public life, treat people with love and respect, have high moral standards, have a long record of compassion and generosity, and keep their word. I’m not looking for perfection, for it does not exist in this world, but I do want to know that past mistakes and sins have been admitted to and repented of. It helps if the candidate is honest and open about their family life, their personal morality, their finances, and their business life, for public action is based on personal character.
In the last election, I heard many objections to putting such a high premium on character:
- “I’m not voting for a pastor, I’m voting for a President.” Sorry, but Biblical standards of leadership apply to all people, not just pastors. You cannot so easily dismiss Biblical teaching.
- “All have sinned and all men are flawed, so you can’t hold it against them.” Of course, all men have sinned, but that does not negate in any way the Biblical teachings about honesty, integrity, morality, love, or any other virtue. A pattern of sin that is unadmitted and unrepented of indicates a serious character flaw. A refusal to admit to sin indicates a serious character flaw. We can’t use a legitimate Biblical doctrine (“all have sinned”) to justify continued ungodly behavior—especially not in a leader.
- “God can use an ungodly leader for His purposes.” That is another great example of taking a doctrine out of context to justify a vote. Of course, God can use anyone for His purposes, and there are many people in Bible times to illustrate that truth. For example, God used both King Herod and Judas for His eternal purposes, but I wouldn’t vote for either one of them.
- “I’m voting for the platform, not for the candidate.” Sorry, but platforms aren’t on the ballot. Only people are on the ballot. It sounds good, but it’s not true. We vote for individuals. People in office—and not party platforms—make the policy and vote on issues.
There is a reason I put character first in my list. I believe that it is the most important Biblical qualification for leadership. It is the first thing I look for in a candidate in any race, from local school board member to president.
Competence. I also want to know if the candidate is competent to do the job for which he is running. Does he (or she) have the necessary skills, talents, temperament, and experience to do the job? If I’m voting for a school board member, I want to know if that person has a solid operating knowledge of education, districts, schools, budgets, teachers, and student needs. If the person is running for a legislative office (Senator, Representative, etc.), I want to know that the person knows how to get things done in a legislative body. Can he or she work with others who disagree? Is the person a good communicator? Does the candidate have the intelligence and perseverance to work through the long process that turns an idea into a bill and see it through to become a law? Is the person an independent thinker rather than just supporting the party agenda? Does the candidate have the emotional stability and self-discipline to handle disagreement and even anger?
If the person is running for a leadership position like President or Governor, I want to know their ability to lead, manage, and coordinate. Can they attract and work with top-quality people with expertise in the military, the economy, intelligence, housing, water, business, climate, education, justice, international trade, diplomacy, etc.? Does the candidate have the temperament and ability to listen to, recognize, and accept advice from experts? Can the candidate communicate effectively to his constituents and set a positive leadership tone for the country or state? Is the candidate able to pull an increasingly diverse group of citizens together in times of crisis? Can the candidate make—and stick with—the tough but necessary decisions even when the decision is unpopular? Does the candidate have the right balance of compassion and toughness? Can the candidate show a positive track record of leadership and management?
Character is the first essential, but character without competency—the ability to do the job at a very high level—will lead to disaster. There are multiple examples in American history of men of good character who simply weren’t competent enough to do the job.
I’ve made a promise to myself and to God. I won’t vote for a candidate who doesn’t have the character and the competency to do the job. It doesn’t matter to me what party they are a part of or even what their platform is. If they don’t qualify in those two areas, I will not vote for them. I will not vote for the “lesser of two evils” if neither of the “two evils” has the character or competency necessary to do the job. Occasionally, but rarely, this means that I could not vote for anyone in a race.
Core Values. The third thing I look for is the core values of the candidate and whether they are close enough to my core values that I can vote for them. The “core values” I’m talking about are deeper than a “platform” or campaign promises. I want to know what the candidate really believes and what they will really work for based on their talk, their voting history, and their track record. It’s easy to say what you will do during the election cycle; it’s much tougher to do it when you’re in office.
For that reason, I’m a skeptic during election season. Candidates tend to say whatever it takes to get the vote. We see it in the “dance” of both parties. Democrats do the “Democratic Shuffle.” They “move to the left” in the primary to get the party loyalists and then “move to the center or even to the right” to get the independent voters. The Republicans do the “Republican Shuffle” by moving to the right and then back to the center. It all just leaves me thinking, “Who are they?” and “What will they stand for—and work for—once elected?”
Still, I do want to know their core values, and I want to see it demonstrated in their past decisions. Do they align with the Bible on issues such as abortion, the economy, the environment, fair wages, education, family, immigration, justice, poverty, race, and world peace? Do they have a plan to deal with crises such as deficits, immigration, and water shortages? What are their thoughts on fair tax rates, police, the military, government regulations, and what to do with “Dreamers?” What are their thoughts on economic fairness, poverty, homelessness, and drug abuse?
I know I won’t agree with any candidate on all the issues—I’m far too opinionated for that. But I do want to know that a candidate has a consistent track record on the issues and that they have done enough thinking, talking, praying, and working that I can be sure of their stance. I don’t expect to agree on all issues, but I do want to know their core values.
That’s what I’m looking for in a candidate. Is the candidate a person of high moral character? Is the candidate a competent leader? And does the candidate have core values that align closely enough with mine that I can vote for him?
I believe that we hurt the cause of Christ when we support, campaign for, endorse, and promote candidates who don’t meet these standards. We often complain about the poor quality of candidates. We have inadvertently contributed to that by our willingness to endorse candidates of low character, incompetency, or with core values that don’t come close to aligning with the Bible.
I am not speaking for-or-against any 2022 candidate by name or implication. I am not speaking as a member of any political party. I am speaking as a Christian and a citizen of the United States of America who deeply loves our country and our state. The political process often frustrates me, but I will continue to seek and vote for leaders of good character who show every indication that they are competent and have solid core values.
I am doing my best on all levels to find candidates that meet these standards. I encourage you to do the same. These standards are needed by our leaders if we really want to be “one nation under God.”