But, Russell Moore actually makes a powerful argument in a recent article published on Christianity Today, one which I highly recommend that you read (click here, then come back). Moore's conclusion is that as Christians we have a duty to participate in the process, but also we cannot in good conscience support candidates who have "first-level" major morality stances which oppose Jesus' teachings.
As a result, he concludes that one should in those cases vote for write-in or third-party candidates. The primary argument people seem to have is that this makes your vote meaningless, but as I shared in my first post, mathematically it already is meaningless; you are fooling yourself if you think otherwise. So in that regard, Moore is right on track and I fully agree with his conclusions.
But as I've thought about it more and more, I think that his conclusions don't go far enough.
He spoke of the issues on a candidate-by-candidate basis: that is, what happens when I am faced with a choice between Candidate A and Candidate B, both of whom have major moral issues?
I think the issue is actually much bigger: what happens when we are faced with Party A and Party B, both of whom have major moral issues?
Because make no mistake: the person you vote for--whether they be Congress or for the Presidency--is simply one part of a large machine. Being elected President does not give you carte blanche to do what you want, and every President has always found himself needing the backing of his party plus the "swingable" members of the other party in order to get legislation passed. Likewise, Congressmen find themselves requiring significant financial and connection backing in order to win an election or do anything meaningful in Congress.
The fact is, we are playing a rigged system today--no matter what candidate for which you vote, the reality is that you are choosing Party A vs. Party B.
And that's fine...when one Party is more or less right. But on major moral issues, neither is right.
Major Moral Issues
Now, Christianity does not have (and never has had) a list of key political positions. I wrote extensively about a true pro-life position in the past (read here for entire series), as well as having written extensively about the Adamic and Noahic Covenants which apply to us as Gentiles (see here and here and here).
Based on these links, I will argue that the following are "non-negotiable" or "first level" Biblical worldviews of politics--the things that we as Christians cannot compromise on in the name of pragmatism, when casting our votes:
- Christians should only support candidates who wish to conserve and preserve nature and care for and restore Creation
- Christians should only support candidates who oppose murder in all its forms, including (but not limited to): traditional murder; abortion; active euthanasia; most warfare; any war strategies which have high civilian casualties; and the death penalty for non-murder cases.
- Christians should only support candidates who encourage religious liberty (for the basis of Christianity is freely choosing to follow Christ, with no compulsion)
- Christians should only support candidates who are passionate about social justice, ensuring that all God's creatures are treated fairly. This is a consistent Scriptural theme, including no cruel/unusual punishments; providing aid for the needy; abolishing slavery; opposing inequality against races or classes.
Our Two-Party Problem
Here is where we get into issues.
Both of the major American parties are, to be honest, opposite sides of the same coin. Both care for little other than the protection of their own power, and increase the government to do so. Spend merely a few minutes googling, and you will see that neither party has cared one whit about limiting size of the government or efficiency, etc. Both care only about getting and retaining power--which is why immediately after election, a re-election campaign begins.
Whereas other countries often have ten or more parties--and thus, the opportunity for multiple voices to be heard--our two parties actively and aggressively oppose this, for no value to the country but purely in a bald attempt to maintain their own power.
They secure this power by being willing to do whatever it takes to get the (a) financing, and (b) political support of major corporations or donors--which is why fewer than 200 families in the US account for over 50% of all election donations (see here for the shocking truth). Nor is this just a Republican problem, for the Teachers Unions are also the largest lobbying group, and if you will take two hours of your life to watch Waiting for Superman (here), you will be sickened to consider what that does to our educational system.
Now, what does this mean?
It means that neither party is primarily focused on hearing from the people, but rather upon protecting its current power and platforms. This is why those elected generally do the same things as their predecessors, regardless of what was said during the debates...it is why, for example, in 2008 we had one candidate defending Gitmo and one opposing it, and yet here we are after the opposer won two terms and Gitmo is unchanged.
If I start with Russell Moore's strong argument that we should vote, but cannot support a corrupt candidate; and combine this with the reality that voting for a candidate also means supporting their party's platform (for in all practical matters this is what is always the result), then this means we must analyze whether either party can pass the four "moral tests" for Christian candidates which I lay out above.
So...can they? Let's see.
Test 1: Preserving and caring for nature.
Preserving and caring for nature is a requirement from Genesis 1 and part of the Adamic Covenant. It is our duty as Christians to help create a better environment, something which some politicians do not do.
Good examples of this are abundant in the Republican Party for example. (Largely, in my opinion, due to the fact that they are heavily financed by the Chamber of Commerce and Big Oil lobbies--both of which are top 5 lobby groups.)
This results in the GOP as a party being almost always opposed to any regulation of company emissions, auto emissions, and attempting to battle climate change.
Now, let me be clear: we, the consumers, are the true villains here. We want to consume everything, and conveniently; as such, corporations provide a supply for what we demand, and expect to make a profit. So anything which gets in the way of that profit--like, for example, alternative energy, ethical treatment of animals, or pollution reduction--is cast aside as "anti-jobs" or "anti-business."
The practical result is that many politicians support policies which actively and consistently harm the environment, and we as Christians are in fact charged to govern and protect said Creation in Genesis 1--and they make this a party platform, so anyone in their party who is elected, in effect, is often arm-twisted into voting in this way..
Test 2: Opposing Murder in All Forms.
Pro-choice is the worst offender here, as abortion accounts for about 10 Holocausts-worth of baby deaths so far according to the Guttmacher Institute statistics. Human life, depending on your interpretation of Scripture, either begins with conception or the heartbeat...thus in the conservative case (heartbeat), there have been at least 58 million murders in the US alone. This is generally speaking a Democratic position.
In addition, under Obama's presidency, we have seen drone strikes become a common and horrific method of warfare, which frequently results in accidental murder of non-combatants, such as the killing of 42 in a Doctors Without Borders hospital.
Nearly approaching abortion in terms of evil, it was a Democratic president who dropped two atomic bombs, killing approximately 250,000 people, of whom 92% were innocent civilians. If we are to be honest and objective, this ranks among the worst war crimes in history from a Christian viewpoint, based on the insanely high percentage of non-combatants killed.
The Republicans are not free of this category either, though. It is generally speaking Republicans who engage in preemptive wars--that is, "fight the war there before it comes here", which in most Christian scholarship throughout history is never justifiable. We saw this most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, under George W Bush's administration.
Likewise, the Republicans are generally speaking very pro-death penalty, which can only be Biblically defended for Gentiles in the case of murder ...but the GOP is willing to apply the principle in much wider cases.
We simply as Christians cannot ignore one basic fact: both of our major political parties actively pursue policies which are, under Biblical definition, murder.
Test 3: Religious Liberty
Although some would disagree, I think both parties pass on this one.
Sure, the Republicans tend to be a bit too anti-Muslim for my tastes, and the Democrats too anti-Christian, but I have traveled the world and can tell you that even the extremes in America are still exceptionally tolerant compared to most of the world.
We don't have much to complain on here.
Test 4: Social Justice
Neither party has clean hands in social justice, either.
It was the Democratic party who voted unanimously against emancipating slaves and against the Civil Rights Act. It is the Democrats who back abortion, which disproportionately affects minorities--and whose founder outspokenly saw abortion as a benefit for eugenics, "thinning out the herd" of "undesirables" who just so happen, coincidentally, to be not white. Also, it is generally the Democratic party who opposes faith-based programs, even if they are aimed at the same goals. Basically if your social justice also includes handing out Bibles, many Democratic politicians aren't interested.
Meanwhile, it is the Republican party who generally hampers attempts at expanding welfare or healthcare for the poor, is discriminatory against minorities today, wants a wall on the "brown" border (Mexico) but not on the "white" border (Canada), and fights harshly to defend tax breaks for the wealthy.
In addition, both parties have cooperated together to create a bloated and labyrinthine government with systems which--although great at perpetuating their own power--are nonetheless disproportionately unfair to minorities and the poor (regardless of race).
The Moral Dilemma
So the moral dilemma, then, is that any vote you cast continues the power of a Party which has a long and thorough history of opposing Biblical values.
I find, then, that just as Moore concluded with regard to candidates, I cannot in good conscience continue to support either party with my votes, unless the party platforms agree to change in these key areas.
In other words -
- Until the GOP says publicly and demonstrates with actions that they will become more dovish on war, more compassionate on capital punishment, and take better care of the environment...then I cannot support their candidates.
- Until the Democratic Party says publicly and demonstrates with actions that they will eliminate abortions, and will end horrific practices in their past (and current) like drone strikes and use of weapons of mass destruction...then I cannot support their candidates.
- Until BOTH parties start taking social justice seriously (neither ignoring it as the GOP nor paying ineffective lip-service to it as the Democratic Party)...then I cannot support their candidates.
So my subconclusions are:
- As a citizen, I owe it to my country to vote (as Moore argued, changing my mind).
- I cannot in general support the Republican or Democratic Parties.
- Going back several decades, there has not been a Republican or Democrat since Reagan for whom I should have voted, and even Reagan had some caveats.
- As long as the two-party system remains in place, the likelihood of having a party follow these four moral rules is negligible.
- The Libertarian Party is the most likely party (on the ballot in 49 states) to be able to break the two-party system.
Which leads me to my overall conclusion, and how I will vote in this election and going forward.
From now on, I will actively oppose both the Republican and Democratic parties and their mutual protection of the two-party system, which continues to limit our choices.
Thus, my final conclusions:
- I will vote in every election.
- I will always vote for a third-party candidate--never again for a Republican or Democrat until their parties change their anti-Christian platforms
- If an acceptable third-party candidate is unavailable I will write in a choice.
It is a folly to believe the lie of the current powers, which is that given two terrible choices, we should pick the less terrible. The better option is to cast your vote in a way that might make meaningful change in the long-term by creating more choices than only those two.
So if you wonder where I stand, for all intents and purposes going forward, I am an Independent voter who will support any third-party which is likely to break the two-party corruption of our current government; if I also find the only available third-party candidates morally repugnant, then I will do my duty as a citizen and write in a politican as my vote who could actually do the job.
I recommend that you do the same.