Should Evangelicals be Single Issue Voters?

On Monday, I posted some thoughts and a great link to an article about why Evangelicals shouldn’t vote for Trump. This is something I am adamant about, and I am not alone. Now, this isn’t to say that Evangelicals can’t vote for Trump – but please, please do not call him the Christian candidate. If you like assault rifles, say that is why you are voting for him. If you are rich and want your taxes cut, say that is why. If you really think he will build an actual wall and believe this matters, vote for him. Just do not make the claim that he is the moral candidate.

All that to say, Mrs. MMT also posted the same article on her Facebook page. The results were, sadly, not all that surprising. Of course, there were some that questioned whether she was a believer or ‘knew the gospel,’ but most basically the questions came down to abortion.

So, buckle in, I’m about to write about something I never wanted to have to do before, but I feel compelled to. Actually, let’s back up a second. Many people have written about being a single-issue voter, Kushiner even arguing that we are all technically single issue voters. So, I want to define what I mean when I say single-issue voter. Burk rightly, I think, points out that single-issue voting doesn’t mean that one point makes someone qualified to be president, it means only that taking a certain position disqualifies you. I think that is an important distinction. Also, I agree that everyone is technically a single-issue voter, so for that sake, let’s say we are only talking about the major ‘wedge’ issues – abortion, gay marriage, gun control, etc.

Abortion is clearly the big one for Evangelicals. As I said, Mrs. MMT found out the hard way, that it is almost the only thing people think about in this election. It is frustrating for a lot of reasons that people go there. First of all, the point of the main article was that Trump is not the option. Mostly, though, as I will explain later, we really shouldn’t be single-issue voters.

Alright, back to abortion. There are a few things to say about it as an issue. First, will a Trump presidency make an impact? Second, what would a Clinton presidency do? Third, how should we think about abortion as Evangelicals? Finally, should we limit pro-life to only abortions?

What would Trump do? My thought is nothing. I feel he will have roughly zero impact on abortion. He has been adamantly pro-choice his whole life. He claims to have changed his mind. I remain skeptical. Even if he has, I expect him to be as about as faithful to his claims as he has been to people named Mrs. Trump (I stole that line, but forget the source). I believe Bush was strong pro-life, and even he was unable to affect anything.

Clinton will do nothing for the legality of abortions. If anything, opportunities for abortion may expand. However, she does want to expand healthcare access. Currently, the US has one of the highest abortion rates in the Western world. Throughout the world, there is a correlation between universal healthcare and lower abortion rates. So it is possible that indirectly, a pro-choice candidate may decrease the abortion rate.

Besides healthcare, it’s also possible that some of her proposed social policies could lower the rate. Programs like expanded child care tax credits, maternity leave, sick leave, raising the minimum wage, and other assistance to the poor. We know that roughly 50% of abortions are by women who make below the poverty line (just over $11K) and another 25% between the poverty line and 200% of the poverty line. So, generally speaking, about 75% of all abortions are by women who make $22K or less. To me, that is a clear indication that poverty impacts women’s decisions.

Now, I have a good friend who I’ve known for almost 30 years, a strong believer who is actually working on his master’s in apologetics (follower of this blog, too), who righty points out that people who get abortions don’t do so because they are poor, but because they are sinful. This is true, abortion is clearly a sin, and it is our own sinful nature that causes us to sin. However, I think we have to go a step further and examine the sin. What is the heart of the sinner, why are they acting the way they do? I do not think that someone wakes up one day and says, “Hey, I’d really like to murder a baby today.”

No, I think they are afraid, maybe they are selfish, maybe they don’t want to lose their job. There is certainly the issue of economic security. Sadly, some people who have been interviewed have stated they were afraid they couldn’t feed their current children if they had another mouth to feed. None of these things excuse what they did. People are still choosing to end a life. But they aren’t ending a life for the sake of ending a life. There are other issues. These other issues are where Christians and public policy can help.

So, that is part of how I think Evangelicals should view the issue. The other part is the reality that the issue is just not going away. Maybe it’s because I’m young(ish) and was born almost a decade after Roe v. Wade, but I view the legal aspect as a battle we’ve already lost. I’ve lived my entire life under the legality of abortion. So, that could be biasing my view. However, we’ve had three republican presidents since 1980, serving a total of 20 years, and none have done anything. As it is, the country is only becoming more socially liberal, and I just don’t see us repealing it. In that case, I believe it is incumbent on us to do everything we can to minimize the number that will occur. Because they will continue, and this is true whether or not they are legal.

Finally, is being anti-abortion all there is to being pro-life? I believe pro-life includes at least two other aspects. First, war. And I believe Clinton is actually more hawkish than Trump, so we’ll call that a draw. Second, the death penalty, since killing people is clearly not pro-life. I’m a small government guy, so it has always baffled me that so many of the libertarians/republicans I know support giving the state the power to kill (and this could be a whole other post).

I suppose you could also make the argument that we could throw gun control in there, too. Many, many, people die every year from ‘accidents’, but much like abortion, I don’t think gun rights are going anywhere, with the possible exception of assault rifles.

So, which one really is the more pro-life candidate when looking more broadly at life? Probably a draw at best, since both candidates certainly have mixed views and records. That leads me to my larger point. I do not think we should be single-issue voters. Is it really wise to ignore so many issues in one person, for a single position the other person holds?

Trump has proposed banning an entire religious group. He has advocated war crimes. He certainly isn’t a family values guy. He either does not believe he has sinned or disagrees with the need to repent. Where do we draw the line?

It is also problematic to try to decide which issue is the most important. That is essentially what you are doing by being single issue. Is abortion the most important problem in our country? Can you make a Biblical argument that it should be the one and only qualifier to not vote for someone? I do not think you can. So, for me, I try to look at the multitude of issues, which maybe I’ll write more about later, but I should probably wrap this up, as I do have a few more things to say.

Granted, I do believe this would be a different conversation if abortion were not already legal. I could never, in good conscience, vote for someone advocating changing the law from illegal to legal. Because that can make an impact, that can change things. If you vote for someone who claims they will keep something legal that is already legal, there is no change. But as I said above, this is the world we live in. This law already exists, and it’s highly likely to NOT be going anywhere. As such, we can only try to reduce them.

Some may argue that I am simply accepting the culture, being conformed by the world as it is. I completely disagree. If I were engaging in some loose cultural Christianity, I’d probably just go ahead and support abortion. But I don’t. I’m pro-life. As I said, I think we should do every possible thing we can to prevent as many as possible, so that we can save as many children as possible. I do not see that as a cultural compromise.

However, in some senses, everyone is shaped by culture. As I said above, I do think the battle of legality is over and lost, but the war to save children is not. That’s why I advocate for things such as what is listed above – overcoming evil with good. So, I’m admitting my worldview has been shaped, to an extent, by my life, but I don’t think it’s any different than a previous generation having their views shaped by the moral majority and Christian right, who put tax rates up there on par with abortion in importance.

Let me wrap up by, again, pointing out that I want to be critical of Trump. This is not the same thing, in any way, shape, or form, as supporting abortion. I am pro-life, to the fullest extent. I do not think voting for either Trump or Clinton will have any impact on this. I do think Trump is the more morally repugnant of the two. What about third party? Well, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein both support abortion rights, so those options aren’t particularly attractive. Obviously, I’m not going to just skip voting. So, what does that leave?

I’d love to hear from anyone who has any thoughts on this issue. Please leave your thoughts in the comments or email me. If someone wants to write a longer response to me, I’d be happy to publish it here. It would also be great to hear from anyone who is a single-issue voter (that issue being abortion) and who plans to vote for Trump. I’d be really interested in hearing why you think he is the right/more or Evangelical/Christian choice. I welcome any feedback; however, I reiterate that I am pro-life and in no way support abortion, so if your only response is to tell me abortion is wrong, I am going to drop the ban hammer on you.

Book Review: Seeking Refuge

Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis – by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens, Issam Dr. Smeir

This is my second review of an advanced copy, so that’s pretty cool. I received this about a month ago through NetGalley, but didn’t get a chance to read it until about two weeks ago.

This book comes out next Tuesday. Go buy it, or pre-order it today. Right now, Amazon has it for less than $9. With all the good info you get at that price, it made me almost upgrade my rating.

My Rating – Put it on your list

Level – short, easy. A quick read, but I’m also going to add compelling, especially as you read the personal stories.

My Thoughts/Summary Mix
This is an important and timely book. I think two overarching themes of the refugee crisis often go overlooked. First, the authors make a great case (because they use the Bible) that we should accept refugees. If you are unaware, there are a great many verses related to refugees, strangers and foreigners. Most come from the OT, but, of course, the issue can be fairly easily summed up with – Love your neighbor. Second, the missionary opportunity. You have the opportunity to have people from all over the world, right in your neighborhood, or at least a short drive away. Even more inspiring, many of the refugees would like to go back home. There is no shortage of stories in this book about refugees who became Christians and then went back to spread the Gospel. Continue reading

Book Review: How Would Jesus Vote?

I’m excited to post my first advanced review of a book. The book goes on sale May 17th, so check out my review and then go buy it (from the link below). It is a must read for anyone interested in current political issues.

How Would Jesus Vote?: Do Your Political Views Really Align With The Bible? by Darrell L. Bock

My Rating – Must Read

Level – Fairly Easy, moderate in length

Summary
The book seeks to look at broad topics in American politics and see what we can determine about them from the Bible. Bock does this mostly by listing verses and how they can apply. Along with an intro and concluding chapter, he writes 13 chapters:

  1. Principals that built America – interesting chapter on the point of religious freedom as the founders saw it.
  2. Loving your neighbor – obviously a major point for Jesus, not only was it the second greatest commandment, but gave us the famous story of the Good Samaritan. Bock points to this idea as our starting point for looking at issues the way Jesus would.
  3. Big or Small Government – brief overview of the pros and cons of each. The best take away is more his point that we needed to realize we can’t have everything and need thoughtfully seek a balance.
  4. Economics of Poverty – he continues the balance idea from the previous chapter and extends it to balancing helping the poor and personal responsibility.
  5. Health Care – this is a tough topic, as there is nothing in the Bible about healthcare. He does a great job pointing out the massive failures of our current system, but doesn’t really say much as to how Jesus or we should vote about it.
  6. Immigration – you really forget how much about immigration there is in the Bible, especially the OT. This seems to be an ancient problem that has affected most societies. Due to this, he takes a stronger stance in this chapter as to which way we should vote and consider this issue.
  7. Gun Control – similar to the health care discussion, there isn’t much in the Bible about guns, as, you know, they didn’t exist yet. He summarizes the horrible impact of our gun violence, but isn’t willing to go as far as saying we should vote to curtail it.
  8. Foreign Policy and Globalization – this chapter explores National Interest or Common Good, the latter being international good. Not much from the Bible here either, but interesting overall and a good general analysis of how the issue impacts America.
  9. War and Peace – looked at the ideas of ‘Just’ War or Pacifism, tracing the concept of a ‘Just’ War (as in justified) to Augustine and the idea of Pacifism to the Bible. Not many policy implications outside of war as a means of last resort, and some questions regarding whether preemptive war counts as justified.
  10. Race – great chapter to take on this issue. Walks a nice line between looking at race and realizing there are real differences and problems as well as clear historical issues, all while reminding us to look past race in the sense that all are created in God’s image as well as tying everything back to ‘loving your neighbor’. He also calls on Christians to care about these issues and to acknowledge there is an issue.
  11. Education – obviously an important topic that is not discussed as much as it should be in our society, but again it felt more like some of the other chapters where he points out how poorly we are doing without really taking up one policy or another.
  12. The Family – one of the stronger chapters as far as policy goes, there are two aspects focused on in this chapter. One is the problem of single parent households and the other is gay marriage. He points to the damage and disadvantages of growing up in a single parent household and focuses on how Christians should seek to strengthen families. He views gay marriage as unbiblical with clear scriptural proofs, but then seems to tie it to the family issue, without discussing the fact that a child could be brought up in a two parent household this way.
  13. Abortion – pretty clear here. He never points to an exact time in which life begins, admitting that we really don’t know. However, it is certainly sooner than 12 weeks. Most Christians will not find anything new in this chapter, but it is a compelling reminder of the issue, nonetheless.

My Thoughts
My only disappointment in this book is he never really states how he thinks Jesus would vote. He usually has a heading at the end of each chapter that asks what would Jesus have to say but never goes as far as picking a side on many of the issues or even alluding to which party may be better than the other on a particular topic. That likely has to do more with the title the editors gave the book than what Bock intended to do.

This is a very important book for people curious as to how their faith should interact with politics, especially in our current political climate where each side, at different times, claims Christ and disparages the other party as the unbelievers. People should take the time to read through the issues and really think about the verses listed.

They Sell…the Needy for a Pair of Sandals

6Thus says the LORD:

“For three transgressions of Israel,
and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,
because they sell the righteous for silver,
and the needy for a pair of sandals—
7those who trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth
and turn aside the way of the afflicted;

-Amos 2:6-7a

We have here, God stating that he will not relent in his punishment of Israel for, among other reason, their treatment of the poor and needy. The Israelites valued, whether literally or metaphorically, the needy as worth less than only a pair of sandals.

Meanwhile in America, a new study shows that men in the top 1% of income live up to 15 years longer than those in the bottom 1%. It’s not even that our rich have super long life expediencies, it’s that our poor can only expect to live as long as some of the worst off in third world countries. There are myriad reasons for this, none of which are defensible, that I won’t get into.

Only Nine Percent – The percentage of American Christians surveyed who say that faith impacts their view of lending practices. To be fair, 23% say they haven’t thought about it. Still, that means only one in eight whom have considered the issue, let their faith influence them. I think most Christians would say that faith should influence all decisions and views on public policy practices.

In fact, on thinking about it, 86% said they thought regulators should limit the amount of interest charged. With 55% saying that the maximum charge should be 18%. In reality, the typical charge is about 400%. This is another reminder of how expensive it is to be poor in America.

These are things that American Evangelicals should take seriously and considered with a Biblical view. If we do indeed consider ourselves to be a Christian nation, like Israel was a chosen nation, then we have a long way to go in addressing issues that God felt were series enough to being destruction.

Failing to love

Hey, look at this, I’m actually posting again like I said I would. Of course, it’s not Monday, but oh well. I hope to get something out once a week (or so (ish)). I was originally thinking about writing up something about the Supreme Court ruling from yesterday, but instead I will just a link an article (here is another, about different group’s view on abortion).

I will say a few quick things about it. One, I’m not really sure what to do with it. Hobby Lobby seems sincere in their belief that certain types of birth control are paramount to abortion, as they are willing to provide other types of BC. Part of the argument gets down to when is something abortion, when is it not. I don’t really know enough about it to fairly comment, though that does seem to be the point of Plan B. I think balancing religious beliefs and implement universal public policy is incredibly difficult. As a supporter of ACA, I don’t like seeing aspects stripped away, but on the other hand, I don’t want people to be forced to provide what they see as abortions. The whole ‘slippery slope’ argument in either direction or question of when life begins is a discussion for another post (or never).

What I want to try and write about now is something pertaining to the abortion discussion and the broader implication for Christian and their reactions in the public realm. Every few weeks or so, a few other theology nerds and I get together to discuss, argue and debate. Our topic last night was abortion (coincidently with the SCOTUS ruling). I don’t want to get into the specifics of the abortion debate, at least not yet, but I do want to bring up something that came about tangentially to it and something I see as a big problem with American Evangelicals/Fundamentalist.

That problem is the complete lack of love and mercy. We were discussing what we should do, as Christians, realizing that Roe v Wade will not be overturned. One thing I support is more birth control access or even providing them in schools. This is controversial in some circles, because people think it means we are condoning the action. My view is that the action is happening, regardless, and that even the seemingly act of condoning sex outside of marriage is better than someone having an abortion. Now, this is something I could go on and go into a lot of other detail about, but I’m trying to stay on point. I kind of moved the conversation from there to other morality issues like giving clean needles to heroin addicts as a form of ministry.

Again, one of the guys in the group (probably the only true fundamentalist of us) was just adamantly opposed to this. His reason being, for the most part, that not only are we condoning and accepting these bad actions, but we removing the consequences of those actions. I’m trying to be fair and not misrepresent him, but I believe his point was they deserve punishment and we shouldn’t do anything to ameliorate that.

Y’all, that’s not love. That’s not mercy. That is not justice. Who are we to judge? Are these people not ‘the least’? It is incumbent on us as Christians to take care of the widows, the orphans and those imprison. Honestly, this is why we are viewed so lowly in society. We don’t serve people, we condemn them. We stand on the street corners, yelling and pointing, letting others know whom is and whom is not going to Hell. We see a strung out junkie and say this is what you get for your life choices. Just like Christ did right? No, he said whoever has not sinned, cast the first stone and he offered another sinner Living Water.

I’m not suggesting some sort of moral relativism here, but we can accept people without affirming their actions. We  should do good, even for those who do evil. At the very least, that shows Love. Either way, that is a much better option that ostracizing those who need Him most.