Should a Christian Vote for any Candidate Who is Less than 100% Pro-life?

 This post is the third of a four part series related to the 2012 Presidential Election.  Please consider reading the introduction which will also include links to all the articles as they’re posted.

The question is simple: should a Christian vote for any candidate who is less than 100% pro-life?

Before I get started, I’d like to point out that while the specific catalyst for this post is how it applies to Republican candidate Mitt Romney, there is also a much larger issue at stake here.  Directly, this specific issue of “mostly, but not totally pro-life” candidates comes up frequently.  Indirectly, the logic applied here will impact how we vote on other critical moral issues.

Current reality

Right now in the United States over 1.2 million babies are aborted every year.

Our Goal

I suspect we agree on the importance of Christians doing all they can to protect the lives of those who cannot protect themselves.  If we doubt the need for our involvement, there are plenty of Scriptural passages could be brought to bear – just for starters: Exodus 1:17-21, Psalm 82:3-4, Proverbs 24:11-12, Matthew 25:45, Luke 10:30-37, and James 1:27.

Romney’s Record

Mitt Romney was decidedly pro-choice for much of his time in the public spotlight.  This is common knowledge at this point.  However, according to Romney, he had a change of heart and is now firmly in the pro-life camp.

What are we to make of this?  To be clear, his history on this issue is complicated.  But does his record matter?

I’d certainly prefer a candidate with a stellar record on the issue, where I could see proof of their commitment even in the heat of political battles.  That notwithstanding, at least two of our recent presidents, Reagan and Bush 41, were also pro-choice prior to running for president, then ran as pro-life candidates.  Most importantly, they both governed throughout their presidency from a solidly pro-life position.  Clearly, a candidate’s record is important, but we should also recognize that genuine changes of heart on this issue do in fact occur.

There has also been a fair amount of hysteria stirred up regarding the 1999 investment of Bain Capital in a company called Stericycle, which is a medical waste disposal firm that, among other things, disposes of aborted fetuses.  Obviously, we would find involvement in such a company to be repulsive, but we should be careful not to jump to conclusions.  (If you want to research this issue on your own, Life News has a fairly comprehensive treatment of the issue that would be worth reading.)

First, consider that this story was pushed by the far left Mother Jones website in an attempt to dampen conservative enthusiasm for Mitt Romney.  Second, while Romney’s personal involvement in the deal has been debated (he retired from Bain in Feb. 1999 to run the Salt Lake Olympic Games), that isn’t even the issue.  It appears the first time Stericycle actively courted abortion providers was in 2003 with a concerted effort during the years of 2005-2007.  At this point, not only was Romney was long gone, but Bain Capital had sold its remaining interest in 2004.  Third, even if the Mother Jones version of the story were correct, Romney was still pro-choice at the time.  This doesn’t make it right, but it does mean that this issue wouldn’t reflect on his current pro-life position.

So was Romney’s pro-life “conversion” legitimate?  Only he knows for sure, but it would hardly be uncommon.  From 1995 to 2012 the number of Americans considering themselves “pro-life” increased from 33% to 50%, while the number identified as “pro-choice” dropped from 56% to 41%.  This represents approximately 15% of all Americans changing their view (source: Gallup).  Romney’s views changed over the same time as millions of other Americans.

9 Week Embryo – Used by Permission through Creative Commons license – Click image for full credit

Romney’s Current Position

In light of his consistent position over the past 5-6 years and the fact that his pro-life path is generally reasonable and believable (as outlined above), I’m going to take Romney’s current position at face value.

Romney believes abortion is wrong, but allows exceptions in the case of rape and incest.

I don’t agree with this view.  I believe that even in such difficult circumstances, killing an innocent human being is still wrong.  (For a more complete discussion of this question, Michael Stokes Paulsen recently wrote an excellent piece entitled, “The Right to Life and the Irrelevance of Rape“.)

So while I agree with Romney on 99% of abortions.  I believe his position on the 1% of abortions which occur due to rape and incest to be wrong.

This is not an inconsequential issue – those are still human beings being murdered.  However, the fact that we agree 99% of the time is not inconsequential either!

By the way, if you wish to read Romney’s official position it’s available on his website.  Now in light of Romney’s position, let’s look at the practical ramifications.

The Next 4 Years: There would be fewer abortions under Romney Administration than an Obama Administration

While it is impossible to determine exactly what the impact of either administration would be, we can make some pretty safe assumptions:

  1. Judicial Appointments – We know Republican Presidents have not always picked the best Supreme Court justices, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t picked some good ones.  We owe a debt of gratitude to Republican-appointed Justices like Alito, Thomas, Scalia, and (generally) Roberts.  With the next president likely appointing 2-3 justices on the Supreme Court I’d rather have Romney making those picks than Obama!  Why does this matter?  In addition to the possibility of seeing Roe v. Wade overturned at some point, we must recognize that even if we succeed in restricting abortion through legislation, those laws would almost certainly be litigated.  If we lose the court, our fight becomes infinitely more difficult.
  2. Working with Congress – If Republicans are able to gain control of the Senate (this looks to be about a 50/50 proposition right now), we have the opportunity for pro-life legislation in various forms – either directly or indirectly (such as restricting funds to Planned Parenthood).   An Obama Presidency would completely negate a Republican congress in terms of legislative advances on this front.
  3. Political Appointees, Executive Orders, etc. – Abortion policy can be impacted on a number of levels through appointments such as the Attorney General, Secretary of Health and Human Services, etc.  These actions tend to fly under the radar, but make a big difference.
  4. Reversing Obamacare – Obamacare has further entrenched the abortion culture by forcing insurance coverage of abortion, and making employers pay for this coverage.  Romney has promised to repeal Obamacare.  This will be difficult, but it would be near impossible by the next election cycle.  We must reverse Obamacare now before it becomes further entrenched.

Will the scourge of abortion be eradicated in the next 4 years with a Romney Administration?  Very likely not, but rather than see Obama further advance the culture of death, we could actually move the fight back in the right direction.

Beyond 4 years: The Path to Eliminating Abortion

The crux of the issue is simply this: Politics is the art of the possible – both in policy and in candidates.  We are not electing a dictator who can fix or ruin everything in their first week in office.  This is a good thing.

Understanding then that God has providentially placed us in a democratic system where change is, by design, excruciatingly slow, we should do what we can within the system where God has placed us.  We certainly want to see abortion eradicated, but if we settle ONLY for a complete ban on all abortions we will never arrive there.  This logic that applies to policy would certainly apply to candidates as well.

I admit it’s often frustrating to accept only a partial victory.  I realize progress is slow when we fight tooth and nail just for a minor victory.  But is this the right course?  Consider the following:

  1. Policy in the United States will only change legislatively at roughly at the same speed as public opinion – this means that we either wait for public opinion to come all the way around, or we take ground every time we have a chance.  (The exception to this is when there are power grabs by the court, such as Roe v. Wade.)  The most important task right now is to persuade other Americans that abortion is in fact, a great evil which must be stopped.  Apart from this we will lose the war.  (Btw, a great website in this regard is www.abort73.com.)
  2. Laws are instructive in morality – Over time, laws tend to inform the moral compass of the citizenry.  Consider slavery: after being outlawed for 150 years it would be virtually impossible to find someone today who would defend slavery on moral grounds.  We saw a similar impact when segregation was outlawed.  While you need some level of public support initially to effect change (see point 1 above), the fastest change in opinion can actually follow a change in the law.  In terms of abortion, this means taking even small victories, because every time we can further restrict abortion it has a teaching effect.  For example, by outlawing partial birth abortion it instructs the public consciousness and paves the way for further progress in the future.
  3. Our historical example in the abolition of slavery – Perhaps the best parallel to the current abortion debate is the effort to eradicate slavery 150-200 years ago.  Both are sins against humanity which have become deeply ingrained in our culture.  Both have always had a significant contingent of people who refuse to support the status quo.  Both saw decades of back and forth politically as the two sides vied for public opinion and small political victories.
    Simply reviewing a timeline of the abolition process makes this point abundantly clear.  A small victory here, another there… slowly changing the course of history.  Long before the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, or even the British Slave Abolition Act in 1843, the abolitionist movement fought many battles and incrementally won one small battle after another.  Of course, they lost some too.  But in the end, after almost a century of constant struggle, institutionalized slavery was gradually eliminated across much of the globe.
    I firmly believe, that just as with slavery, we will eventually see abortion outlawed in the United States.  I realize my optimism may not be shared by many, but I believe that by virtue of current technology, the diligent efforts of pro-life citizens, and the grace of God we will see this scourge reversed.

Policy vs. Principle

This ties into the points already discussed, but I want to mention it on its own for emphasis.  Simply put, while we should never compromise our principles, that doesn’t mean we don’t compromise on policy.  Principles don’t change.  Policy is a matter of applying those principles to the greatest extent possible – but policies will never be a perfect reflection of our principles.

Al Mohler made this point quite well in The Briefing, his daily podcast, on Friday.  The relevant portion starts around the 13 minute mark.

The Decision

So should a Christian vote for a candidate that is only pro-life in 99% of cases?  (When the alternative is a candidate who believes abortion should be completely unrestricted.)

Are you willing to tell the 99% of aborted children that they must continue to die until we can save the last 1%?  If your home was on fire, would you hesitate to save 4 of your children because you cannot save the 5th?

Will your ideological purity prevent you from taking policy victories that are within reach?

I hope not.

I invite you to join me in casting a pro-life vote for Mitt Romney.

– Jeremy

P.S. Still to come… Why not just vote for a minor party candidate?

Should a Christian Vote for a Mormon?

This post is the second of a four part series related to the 2012 Presidential Election.  Please consider reading the introduction which will also include links to all the articles as they’re posted.

Let’s just get the question out in the open so we can have a frank discussion about it.  Can a Christian vote for a Mormon in good conscience?  I believe the Mormon church (also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or LDS) has many teachings which are clearly unbiblical and place it far outside any attempt to define Christian orthodoxy, but does this impact our vote?

Perhaps the better question is, “should a Christian vote for anyone who is not a Christian?”

The Double Standard

What about voting for a Roman Catholic?  Most of those opposed to Romney on religious grounds would also take issue with the theology of the Roman Catholic Church (as would I), but I’ve heard nary a word about not voting for Paul Ryan or Joe Biden on account of their Catholic faith?  What about voting for a Jewish candidate?  What about an atheist, a Hindu, or even an “evangelical” whose fruit is questionable?

The Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City. Used by Permission through Creative Commons license – Click image for full credit.

As Christians, I think we sometimes put to much emphasis on the “cults” rather than simply recognizing them as just another person in need of Christ.  I believe that many, though not all, Christians who are opposed to Romney solely on the basis of his Mormon faith would not have to think twice about voting for a Catholic or a Jew.  This is a double standard.

Frankly, I believe this may be, at least partially, born out of fear because the LDS church is expanding at an exponential rate while our own evangelical churches are experiencing anemic growth.  But instead of making this an issue of evangelism, we’ve made it an issue of Presidential qualification.

With that out of the way, let’s go back to the proper question – should a Christian vote for anyone who is not a Christian?

The Biblical Standard

Before we go any further, we need to get one thing correct at the outset, Romans 13 makes clear the role of civil government.  In a nutshell, government is instituted to restrain/punish evildoers and to protect those who do right.  That is the biblical role of secular government.  (Note that the purpose of government is not to advance our faith – that’s our job.)

Based on the biblical purpose of government, the single most important factor in choosing our leaders is then, presumably, to choose a leader who has a solid understanding of morality – what is right and what is wrong.  Certainly a person’s faith will inform their moral calculations, but their faith is not, in and of itself, the issue at hand.

Beyond this, the Bible never seeks to offer specific criteria for the selection of civil leaders.  It would certainly stand to reason that we may prefer a Christian where possible.  After all, we are to pray for the salvation of our present leaders per I Tim 2, so certainly electing a believer at the outset would seem good.  However, saying this is preferable is hardly the same as saying we must vote only for a Christian.

We certainly understand that in selecting church leaders there is an abundance of Scripture which addresses spiritual qualifications.  The Israelites had spiritual requirements for leaders as well, but these were leaders whose authority also extended into spiritual matters.  God is clearly concerned about the spiritual qualification of spiritual leaders.

However, one of the defining principles of the American experiment was that the civil leaders were to have no jurisdiction of spiritual or ecclesiastical matters.   As such, there are no specific spiritual qualifications.

Furthermore, God has worked through sundry non-Christian leaders throughout history to fulfill the biblical purpose of restraining evil, punishing evildoers, and protecting those who do right.  Even beyond that, these non-Christian leaders have been used to further the spread of the Gospel, raise up other Christian leaders, and protect God’s people.  Biblical history is itself replete with such examples.

During the the 2008 primary season, Dr. Wayne Grudem had the following to say:

“For evangelicals to support a Mormon candidate would be similar to supporting a conservative Jewish candidate—someone we don’t consider a Christian but who comes from a religious tradition that believes in absolute moral values very similar to those that Christians learn from the Bible…

Or have we come to the point where evangelicals will only vote for people they consider Christians? I hope not, for nothing in the Bible says that people have to be born again Christians before they can be governmental authorities who are used greatly by God to advance his purposes. God used Pharaoh, King of Egypt, to raise Joseph to a position of authority over the whole country, so he could save his people from famine (Genesis 41:37-57). God used Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, to protect and raise up Daniel and his Jewish friends to positions of high authority over Babylon (Daniel 2:46-49). God used Cyrus, King of Persia, to restore the Jewish exiles to their homeland (Isaiah 45:16; Ezra 1:1-4), and used Darius, King of Persia, to protect the Jewish people as they rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 6:1-12). God used Ahashuerus, King of Persia, to raise up Esther as Queen and to give Mordecai high authority and honor in his kingdom (Esther 6:10-11; 8:1-2, 7-15). In the New Testament age, God used the peace enforced by the secular Roman Empire, the Pax Romana, to enable the early Christians to travel freely and spread the Gospel throughout the Mediterranean world.”

(You can read Grudem’s full article here.)

I believe that to categorically declare that we must vote only for a Christian candidate is to add to the clear teachings of the Scripture.  I believe the burden of proof rests with those who believe God has forbidden us from voting for a non-Christian candidate in civil government to make that case.

The Priority of Religious Liberty

One of the first, if not the first, priority of civil government should be to ensure freedom of religion.   In fact, the verse I mentioned earlier in I Tim. 2:2 instructs us to not only pray for the salvation of our leaders, but also that they would allow us to worship freely.

Why is religious liberty important?  Because true faith in Christ must be voluntary.  Jesus never forced faith upon anyone.  He simply proclaimed the truth, and allowed people to respond.  (Through the work of the Holy Spirit, yes, but I’m speaking here in human terms.)  Our desire should be that the government simply stay our of the way, and allow us to live and preach the Gospel, so that people may choose Christ for themselves.

How does this “justify” voting for Mitt Romney?  May I answer that with another question… If religious liberty is the first priority of civil government, would it not be hypocritical for us to then require a religious litmus test for our vote?

How can we say that our primary concern is for the government to allow all people to worship freely, and then immediately qualify that by saying that we cannot support a person of any other religion to be a civil leader?

The Job Description

Would you hire a Mormon?

If I were to hire a mechanic, I would certainly ask him about his experience in auto repair, types of cars he is familiar with, perhaps some technical questions to test his knowledge, but whether or not he was a Christian would be immaterial to whether or not he’s a good mechanic.

Of course, I also need my mechanic to be honest and show up on time, so assuming I’m convinced of his mechanical skills, I’ll also take the conversation another direction as I seek to understand his work ethic and his moral basis. (Note that we don’t even need to have this conversation unless he’s already qualified as a mechanic!)  His faith certainly may come up in this conversation, but only to the extent that it impacts his moral character or ability to do the job required – not as it impacts his eternal destiny.

But, many would say, surely hiring a mechanic isn’t the the same as hiring the President!  Let’s take a look at the president’s job description – that would be Article 2 of The Constitution.  The primary constitutional roles of the president are as follows:

  • Commander in chief
  • Negotiate treaties
  • Appoint judges and ambassadors
  • Provide information to Congress regarding the “state of the union”
  • Convene both houses of congress on extraordinary occasions
  • Receive ambassadors and other public ministers
  • Take care that the laws be executed
  • Commission officers of the United States

That may not be a complete list, but I don’t think I’ve missed anything major.  Must a person be a Christian to properly assume these duties?

Let’s go back to the question about whom you would hire.

What about the surgeon who is going to operate on your child?  No doubt, you’d like it if he were a believer.  It would be comforting to know that he prays for guidance and seeks God’s help.  However, faced with the choice between a Christian (btw, he’s a resident just out of med school) or a Hindu (he’s a top expert in his specialty with 30 years experience), who would you choose?  I would suggest that to choose the Christian would not only be wrong, it would be foolish and a dereliction of your parental duty.

Likewise, when hiring a President, let’s make sure we’re focused on the right questions.  Their faith is not, in and of itself, one of those questions.

The Bully Pulpit

One of the specific critiques which I’ve heard more than once is that a Mormon President would lend new legitimacy to the LDS faith due to the prestige of the office of the president.  This is highly speculative, and could theoretically be true, but could just as easily go the other direction.  For example, it could make it more difficult for a LDS missionary to proselytize a Democrat!

Simply looking at historical precedent, there don’t appear to be any major religious realignments on account of any President’s particular religious affiliation.

By the way, I tried to do a simple analysis with our first Roman Catholic president (John F. Kennedy) to see if there had been an appreciable impact on Roman Catholic membership due to his election.  Unfortunately, it appears there is going to be nothing simple about such an analysis since Vatican II occurred in the early 60’s, and America experienced an influx of Latin American immigrants starting in ’64.  Kennedy was President from ’61-63, so it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to test any theories on the that historical precedent.

Conclusion

I do not believe we should apply a double standard to members of the LDS church.  The Bible clearly establishes the role of civil government to restrain evil, but does not require that we vote only for Christians.  We must not be hypocritical in our commitment to religious liberty.  We need to make sure we use the right criteria for “hiring” a President.  And I do not believe the concerns about a potential Romney presidency becoming a platform for the Mormon faith are valid.

The fact that Mitt Romney is a member of the LDS church will in no way impact my vote for him this November.

– Jeremy

Decision 2012 – Our Next President

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As this year’s election draws near we are again faced with an important choice.  I could argue for why it’s the most important choice of our lifetime, but that would be cliche at this point.  Whether this is just another election, or the most important of all time is frankly of little relevance.  The reality is that we have a duty to vote, and furthermore, we have a duty to be informed and vote wisely.

I fully realize that passions run high in such a discussion, and I respect those who have carefully considered the facts and come to a different conclusion than I have.  In fact, I would add that our vote is a matter of conscience, and we have a duty not to violate our conscience. (Rom. 14:5, 23)

I also realize that many people feel like we’re again faced with the option of picking between the “lesser of two evils” in terms of the two major party candidates.

Having said that, I would still encourage you to vote for Mitt Romney for President.  I am fully aware of the arguments both for and against Christians voting for Romney – if there is a point or a counter point to be made on this topic, I’ve probably heard it.  My goal here is to sort through some of the main issues that seem to come up repeatedly in Christian circles as we seek God’s wisdom in this decision.

Mitt Romney – Used by Permission through Creative Commons license – Click image for full credit

Let me also briefly state what my goals are not.  My intent today is not to compare the two major party candidates.  Likewise, my point here is not to sway my libertarian-minded friends considering a vote for Gary Johnson.  I’ll try to take up the Democrat vs. Republican and Republican vs. Libertarian comparisons another time.

My intent is address the following questions individually in three separate posts:

First, the elephant in the room (pun may be intended) for many evangelicals is should a Christian should vote for a Mormon candidate?  More broadly phrased, to what extent should the religion of a candidate be considered when deciding how to vote?

Second, should a Christian vote for a candidate who is less than 100% pro-life?  Can we vote for a candidate whose principles don’t perfectly align with the Bible without compromising those principles ourselves?

Third, is voting for a third party candidate a viable alternative?  Often, there are minor party candidates (or write-in candidates) who may more closely match our ideology than that of the two major parties.  How should these candidates factor into our decision?

There is much that hangs in the balance this election, and there is no perfect candidate.  But that only make our need for wisdom that much more critical.  Let me implore you to make wise use of your vote this November.

– Jeremy

P.S.  As always, I welcome your comments on this and the three posts to follow.  If you’re like me though, you might want to read this post before responding.  (And I’ll do likewise before I respond to your comments :)