Imperfect People

I have huge respect for Dr. Mark Noll. He's a first-rate scholar, thinker, and historian. His book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, written ten years ago, remains a tough-minded challenge to develop a Christian worldview. That's why I'm so saddened by an essay he wrote titled, "None of the Above: Why I Won't Be Voting for President." Noll writes, "As has been the case for the past few presidential elections, on Election Day I will almost certainly cast my vote once again for none of the above." He goes on to list seven issues and his convictions about those issues: race, the value of life, taxes, trade, medicine, religious freedom, and the international rule of law. Noll writes, "My position on each is related to how I understand the traditional Christian faith that grounds my existence. Yet neither of the major parties is making a serious effort to consider this particular combination of concerns or even anything remotely resembling it." And so, because both parties and their nominees are flawed, Noll will vote for no one. That position is dead wrong and damaging to democracy. It's the utopian notion which assumes divine perfection in fallen humans. His assumption that we can support only candidates who have perfect scores according to our reading of the Bible makes me wonder how he votes at all. And if that's the standard, all of us should stop voting. But that's exactly what the fundamentalist movement did in the early part of the twentieth century, the movement Mark Noll so correctly criticizes. Their error was allowing perfectionism to get in the way of their responsibility to act for the common good. It's an error we can't afford to repeat -- not this year, not ever. Voting is not an option for Christians. It's a biblical duty, because by voting we carry out God's agency; we are His instruments for appointing leaders. Just like Samuel in the Old Testament, we are commissioned to find the very best people we can who are best able to lead us. Not to vote, or to turn down both presidential candidates because they're not perfect on a biblical score sheet, is a dereliction of biblical responsibility. Remember that the first job of a leader biblically is to preserve order, out of which freedom flows, and then to restrain evil. Every thinking Christian has to look at both candidates this year and decide for himself or herself which one can best keep and preserve order and restrain evil. And remember also Jethro's advice to Moses: Choose men who love God and are able. And you have to look at other things with candidates -- their character and their stand on moral issues. And then once they're elected, we need to keep pressing them on those moral issues, lobbying for what is right. Noll's argument convinces me of the need for more, not less, political involvement from Christians. And it all begins with voting. I shudder to think what would happen in our culture if we fall into the disengagement trap the Church fell into a century ago. It's the reason that we lost our place in the culture. It's the reason people stopped taking Christianity seriously. Instead, let me urge you -- and my friend Mark Noll -- to look at the presidential candidates and make a wise, informed choice. Choose men who love God and are able to govern well. For further reading and information: Mark Noll, "None of the above: Why I Won't Be Voting for President," Christian Century, 21 September 2004. Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Eerdmans, 1994). James M. Kushiner, for the editors, "First Things First," Touchstone, October 2004. David Mills, "Unimposing Kerry," Touchstone, October 2004. Kwaku O. Kushindana, "How Will I Vote? I Won't," Washington Post, 3 October 2004, B04. BreakPoint Commentary No. 021104, "Voting for Less Evil: Why Vote for the Imperfect?" (Archived commentary; free registration required.) BreakPoint Commentary No. 040127, "Two Cities: Augustine's City of God." BreakPoint Commentary No. 040823, "A Sacred Duty: Why Christians Must Vote." Charles Colson, "An Act of Love: The Role Christians Play in Public Life," BreakPoint WorldView, October 2004. Ben Wiker, "Why You Must Vote," Crisis, October 2004. Roberto Rivera, "First Things First: Voting and the Sanctity of Life," Boundless, 2 September 2004. Diana J. Wynne, "Top 10 (bad) excuses for not voting," Christian Science Monitor, 13 October 2004. See the "Worldview for Parents" page "Why Should I Vote?"
  1. M. Moore, "The Church and the Preservation of the Republic," Findings, Fall 2002.
David Naugle, "A New Screwtape Letter: A Christian Worldview Must Frighten the Enemy," BreakPoint Online, 22 July 2004. Ken Connor and John Revell, Sinful Silence: When Christians Neglect Their Christian Duty (Ginosko, 2004). Call 1-877-322-5527 to request the BreakPoint CD "Setting Your Moral Compass," which addresses the ten key issues in this year's election.


Chuck Colson


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