Decision 2016?

In case you have been living in a cave or under a rock somewhere, it’s time you heard the news: Presidential election season is upon us! Ok, so that’s not really news, especially since the campaigns have been unofficially underway since the morning after the November 2012 election. As I write this, the pundits are recapping the results from Super Tuesday, and the candidates are all declaring victory in some form or another. As Christians we are faced with choices about which candidates we prefer, which we can live with if we must, and which we must denounce as not representing our values. Sometimes these decisions can be very difficult, and I find that the question is sometimes complicated by the climate of political punditry in the United States. Are we obligated to choose the “lesser of two evils?” Or even to follow the popular formulation of the Buckley Rule1, that we must support the most conservative candidate who can win? In my mind, a more important question for Christians to ask ourselves is, “Does the outcome of the election matter as much as my involvement in it?” This question focuses our attention on the one thing we can control during election season, our own vote.

Scripture is clear that each one of us will be held accountable for our own actions. In 2 Corinthians 5:10, the apostle Paul says, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” And Jesus taught in Matthew 12:36, “that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.” Now, I realize that in their context these two verses are not primarily focused on our political activity, but the reality of personal accountability is undeniable. Each one of us will be made to answer to God for things we say and the things we do. There does not seem to be any corresponding principle of accountability for the words and actions of others. In fact, the Lord says in Ezekiel 18:20 “The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

If this is true, then each Christian ought to evaluate the candidates and issues for himself and vote according to his Biblically-informed conscience, whether or not his vote supports a mainstream candidate “who can win.” Your vote matters, not just as a means to political victory, but as an expression of your Christian faith in the free society in which you live. In this way, you can trust the Lord for the outcome of the election, while maintaining your own integrity before the Lord.

1It is worth noting that the Buckley Rule is often misunderstood and misrepresented. According to Neal B. Freeman, William Buckley did not say “the rightwardmost electable candidate” but “the rightwardmost viable candidate.” The issue isn’t necessarily who can win, but who will best represent conservative values, win or lose.

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