The beginning of every Christian citizen’s civic duty is to vote. Chief among the reasons Christians should vote is that it is an opportunity to love God, by loving what He loves, and an opportunity to love our neighbor, by advancing those policies that lead to moral and personal goods.
At the same time, voting is about more than who is on the ballot at the top of the ticket. Of course, the Presidential race is incredibly important, but so are the other races from the federal to the most local ones. Ballot initiatives matter, too.
A few weeks ago, a friend and listener asked what questions Christians should ask candidates. Because there is no perfect candidate but so many issues, casting an informed vote requires research. Since most of us will never get the opportunity to question Presidential candidates (apparently, even if we were moderating the debates), we should be able to know how they might answer the questions based on the statements of public record. At the same time, candidates running for Congress or for state and city offices are, perhaps, more accessible.
Either way, the key thing we must get at in our questions and research is worldview. Values matter. Behavior matters. Party matters. But at the root of each of these things for all of us, including political candidates, are our most deeply held beliefs about life and the world. Here’s how G.K. Chesterton put it in an essay entitled “Introductory Remarks on the Importance of Orthodoxy,” from his book Heretics:
But there are some people, nevertheless–and I am one of them–who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether their theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them.
Recently I asked our Colson Center staff and a few others to submit questions they’d ask candidates to get at what Chesterton called “their view of the universe.”
Several offered the question, “What makes human life valuable?” It doesn’t get more fundamental than this. Does our value come from what we can contribute to society, which group we do or don’t belong to, or whether we are wanted or dependent on others? Do only some humans have value, or do all humans have value simply because they are humans?
Another question is “What is the basis for moral judgments?” Does morality evolve over time, or is it based on knowable and unchanging principles? This question gets to the heart of what a candidate believes about the fundamental principles established in our nation’s founding documents, and whether or not they will look to the Constitution or some other source in carrying out their responsibilities.
A third question offers insights about how a candidate understands the scope and limits of government: What are the most significant problems we face as a society, and whose job is it to solve them? Any candidate that points to the state as the only answer to every problem not only is wrong, they will undermine the God-given role of pre-governmental institutions such as families, churches, religious organizations, business, voluntary associations, etc. Whenever these intermediate institutions are bypassed or even worse, intentionally weakened, the society is weakened. Not to mention, unchecked power provides the greatest potential for state corruption.
There are also important questions of definition. Most battles for a culture are fought over the definition of words. Here are two words that matter in our cultural moment:
- The “common good.” You might remember from civics lessons (or at least the song from Schoolhouse Rock) that our Constitution was developed to, among other things, “promote the general welfare.” What does that mean? What does a good, flourishing society look like? How might it be achieved?
- Religious freedom. The free exercise of religion is the first freedom listed in the Bill of Rights for a reason. However, many candidates have replaced “free exercise” with “freedom to worship.” They are not the same thing.
On today’s BreakPoint Podcast, we offer a special episode of the Focus on the Family broadcast, in which I joined Tim Goeglein and Jim Daly of Focus on the Family to discuss the importance of voting. A special thanks to Focus on the Family for allowing us to air this broadcast. Come to BreakPoint.org or subscribe to the BreakPoint Podcast wherever you get your podcasts.
And then, please, vote.
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