Without doubt this presidential election cycle is unique in its own right. My Facebook and Twitter feeds have been charged since early summer with shared articles and posts from almost every perspective—don’t vote for him, we must do everything to make sure she doesn’t get in, we must vote for him because he is the hope for our future, Christians should vote this way, Christians absolutely shouldn’t vote this way, and on and on.
Having gone rounds on Facebook about the wisdom of Christians voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, I want take a step back and focus more broadly on the matrix through which a Christian ought to evaluate candidates at every level. Several weeks ago Kevin Bauder, a man I highly respect, presented in a Sunday School setting a list of nine principles by which a Christian ought to evaluate every candidate that comes on the ballot. I posted the videos on my Facebook feed. Each session is about 30–35 long and I don’t anticipate everyone that follows me was able to watch. In light of the ratcheting up of the presidential campaign, I wanted to post the list here for your consideration. Lest anyone accuse him otherwise, Bauder came up with this list years ago when he was thinking through how the Christian ought to relate to the political realm.
No, these are not explicit moral imperatives that he found in Scripture. But they are derived from the biblical text so as to imply a moral oughtness to the Christian.
Bauder begins his talk by declaring himself to be a “classical liberal” (also known as a “paleo conservative“). Though I’ve linked to Wikipedia articles on each of those terms, I’m not certain Bauder would agree with how Wikipedia defines them. As part of his introductions, Bauder states that disagreement is okay—there is liberty in this area. He restricts his talk to those moral issues which must take priority over what he calls prudential issues, matters which become relevant only when all candidates are evenly matched on moral issues. To clarify then, Bauder lists a few prudential issues that are not at issue in his talk:
- The candidates personal salvation
- Economic growth and stability
- Employment and the creation of jobs
- Financial and medical care of private citizens
- Equality of condition
And then Bauder moves directly to the nine principles, ordered sequentially in importance. I will list them here along with verbiage that accompanied Bauder’s Power Point.
#1 Reputation for Integrity
The first principle is that the candidate must have a reputation for integrity. Bauder derives this principle from Proverbs 29:2, which says in part, “When the wicked rule, the people groan.” That is, wicked people in positions of authority is a bane society. Matters of integrity include how the candidate handles an oath. Oath-breaking, says Bauder, disqualifies a candidate from holding public office. Bauder later clarifies that oath-breaking is different from lying, clarifying what lying is as well. To put a fine point on it, one who has committed adultery has broken his or her oath and is thus disqualified from office. If he or she will break an oath, they hold no integrity.
#2 The Right to Life
The second principle is that the candidate must have a proper view of life. Genesis 9:6 establishes the role of government in protecting innocent life—those who take life illegitimately must have their life taken by the government. The government must use its power to defend those who cannot defend themselves. And no life is more innocent and in need of defending that the life of the unborn. Psalm 51:5 establishes life as beginning at conception. That life is worthy of protecting from its very beginning through natural death. Thus no candidate is worth a vote who will not demand the end of abortion and euthanasia.
#3 The Rule of Law
Bauder’s third principle takes a bit more time to explain and so I would encourage you to see it in video one, starting around 30:10. The foundational text that Bauder refers to is Acts 5:29, from which we derive the principle of obeying God rather than men. The rule of law, in sum, is that magistrates (all branches of government) are bound by the law of the land. Namely, the Constitution of the United States is a fixed document, which meaning is bound by the understanding and intention of its authors. Christians, then, should support and approve only originalists.
#4 Restraint of Evil
Government exists, in part, to restrain evil in society (Rom 13:4). Principle number four in Bauder’s list argues that Christians should vote for candidates who will use government to restrain public evil and maintain order. Implications of this would include a strong defense and secure borders, retributive justice for wrongs, and orderly public policy.
#5 Respect for Property
The fifth principle that Bauder offers is the respect of property. Exodus 20:15 is foundational here. Stealing something that belongs to someone else is immoral. Therefore, as Bauder states it, “Christians should support candidates who resist the pressure to make the government an expression of envy and an agent of economic retribution.”
#6 Recovery of Moral Responsibility
For principle six, Bauder argues that government should have a limited (no?) role in the display of compassion toward the downtrodden and destitute. Those endeavors should be limited to local and private levels. Christians, therefore, should seek candidates who will keep these activities where they ought to be. Second Thessalonians 3:10 is helpful here: those who don’t work, don’t eat. Able-bodied people must work. But those who are unable to work remain accountable so that when they are able to work again, assistance is ceased.
#7 Recognition of Israel
Bauder sees Genesis 12:3 as applicable today and a strong, friendly relationship with Israel is essential to societal outcomes today.
#8 Responsible Use of Nature
For number eight, Bauder reminds us that God intends for humanity to subdue and exercise dominion over creation (Gen 1:28). So then Christians should seek candidates who advocate for a responsible dominion. Bauder notes pointedly: “Contemporary environmentalism often thwarts the divine design, and must not be assisted or advanced by government regulation or policy.
#9 Religious Liberty
Finally, Bauder adds that government should take no role in the religious consciousness of its citizens. Those candidates are dangerous who advocate for imposing religious tests on anyone.
Bauder implies that every candidate must pass these tests without exception. But what are Christians to do if no candidate passes these tests? Bauder offers two options, conceding that good Christian men come down on either side of these two options:
- To choose the lesser of two evils is to choose less evil. Therefore, to vote for the lesser of two evils is desirable for the Christian. The problem, notes Bauder, is that the philosophy of voting for the lesser of two evils will always lead to being pulled into greater evil. It will be known that the Christian of this persuasion will knuckle under.
- To choose the lesser of two evils is still to choose evil. Since it is always immoral to choose evil, Christians must refuse to vote for any candidate. Bauder acknowledges the problem here that the worst candidate may win and things could get worse.
These principles, these tests, are well worth consideration by Christians. For the reader’s reference here are the two videos of Bauder’s sessions.