Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Robertson and Giuliani: The Evangelical Election Year Crisis

Well, its official! By his official endorsement of Rudolph Giuliani, televangelist Pat Robertson tells American evangelicals it is worth voting for a candidate who favors the murder of unborn children in lieu of the fact that his position on fighting terrorism means the continued existence of a nation that murders unborn children.

Make no mistake, in some evangelical circles, nationalism now trumps truth, which means that evangelicalism as we know it no longer exists!

Others have already spoken eloquently and prophetically to this issue; chief among them Russ Moore, who in a recent radio program rightly contends that the abortion issue is important enough to withdraw one's support of a candidate. But many are stating that this politically-charged endorsement is appropriate. AFter all, Rudy seems at present to be the only candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton in a general election. Giuliani himself has recently been hawking himself on Christian conservatives by encouraging them to think of him as an "80% ally" as opposed to a "20% opponent."

So the question remains: is it ever appropriate to cast a vote for a pro-abortion candidate? Should evangelicals resort to "single-issue voting" and subsequently risk losing elections to lesser candidates? Such a question was the focus of the gubernatorial elections in my state of Maryland last year. Personally, I went into the voting booth with this issue heavy on my mind. I didn't want the present governor to take office. He would raise my taxes, forward a secularist agenda, and expand the influence of government over the nuclear family. In the end, the realization that neither gubernatorial candidate respected human life enough to grow a backbone with regard to abortion meant I was forced by conscience to abstain from voting for a governor in Maryland.

Friends questioned my judgement in this matter. After all, wouldn't more votes for Robert Erhlich have assured a government friendly toward evangelicals? Is the issue of abortion really that important?

To answer this question, we must back up from the trees a bit to see the proverbial forest. Are there single issues that would automatically disqualify a candidate from serving in public office? For a tangible example, let's assume that five year's from now, in the 2012 election, evangelicals have another "darling" candidate. Let's assume this candidate has a strong pro-family record, and takes positions that are, overall, largely attractive to Christian conservatives. But there is one caveat with this candidate: he believes our nation should re-institute slavery.

Tell me, would you dare vote for such a candidate?

In the end, the problem with a racist candidate is essentially the same as that of a pro-choice candidate. Both groups are categorically denying personhood to an entire class of people. The former bases this denial on the degree of pigmentaion in the skin; the latter on how far one has progressed through the birth canal. The result, however, is the same: a group of people created in the image and likeness of God are being defined as less than such.

To be sure, being "pro-life" by itself does not neccesarily qualify one to hold public office. However, being "pro-choice" by itself fundamentally disqualifies one from serving. Practically speaking, this means that in the event of a Clinton-Giuliani contest in the general election, Americans would have no qualified candidate for which to vote.

Countering this argument, Robertson contends that there is a more important issue than Giuliani's pro-choice position, and that is national security. We should elect a candidate who will protect us from the "bloodlust" of Islamic terrorists. But is the "bloodlust" of abortion providers any less of a threat to our national identity? Apart from a philosophically fundamental belief in the sacredness of human life, our "security" will only serve to protect a house of cards.

Of course, the emphasis of nationalism over truth began years ago, when evangelicals decided to prostitute themselves out to the Republican party rather than seeking to influence both parties with principles of righteousness. The end result is seen in this year's presidential candidates. Truth is, if Rudy Giuliani is the best candidate Christian conservatives can see fit to support, then perhaps our nation deserves a Hillary Clinton presidency.


Kerri said...

Phenomenally worded! I'm going to insist this blog be required reading for the handful of those I know who are willing to compromise God made lives for other issues. Thank you.

pha said...

I find it difficult to comprehend why someone would vote for a candidate whose position on the Constitution is unclear or incorrect simply because that person is against gay marriage or abortion or some other conservative issue. I have become so weary of my brothers and sisters taking to the polls with their votes concentrated for/against a few Evangelical hot button issues. I would pose the following questions to my fellow believers: would you vote for a candidate that shares the same moral values as yourself and even proclaims Christianity in the public sphere but fully supports a system/form of socialism or believes that the government has a Constitutional right to control a woman's reproductive organs? If Mrs. Clinton came to saving faith in Christ but held the same political principles, would you support her? Would you stand behind a leader who proclaimed the Kingdom but wanted to expand the Welfare program? These are difficult questions that must be struggled with if we wish to be both Christians and Americans.

Joel Rainey said...

Wow, you have managed to address a plethora of issues in a very short paragraph. As I said in my post, being pro-life by itself does not neccesarily make one qualified to hold public office. However, being "pro-choice" in my mind, automatically disqualifies one to lead. Without a fundamental understanding of the right to life, every other issue will also be misunderstood, and likely, mishandled.

Regarding Mrs. Clinton, I believe if she became a believer and began to embrace the sanctity of life, that change would affect other issues, which means we would eventually see quite a bit of change in her approach to a range of policy issues.

Honestly, I'm finding it difficult to respond "point by point" to everything you address. Therefore, in an effort to prevent us from "talking past each other," I will simply answer the hypothetical question you put forth:

Personally, I strongly disagree with Clinton on a number of issues, including health care, taxes, etc. But if she became pro-life, and the primaries revealed Giuliani as her opponent, I would cast my vote for Hillary Clinton as president. The abortion issue is so fundamental to every other issue (chief among which are the constitutional understandings to which you refer), I believe it is that important.

Ryan Strother said...

Great post Joel! I wasn't familiar with the positions of the presidential candidates. I haven't gotten much into it yet.

As I read the post and comments, I keep thinking- are there some "sins" (abortion, which I am pro-life) that are worse than others that would make them weigh heavier into the election? How do Christians discern the different positions held by politicians?

Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:15- "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst."

How can someone be the worst of sinners? Are our sins ranked in order of best to worst?

I think political issues are very much related to an individual's ethics in the way we perceive them. Is it okay to side with one politician over one issue like abortion, when they hold positions on other issues that are Scripturally wrong?

I realize there will not be a perfect candidate. There will not be a perfect person to vote for a perfect candidate. But how do we discern which issues are larger than others when we vote for certain candidates?

Joel Rainey said...


Thanks for stopping in!

You ask some good questions, all of which require every faithful follower of Jesus to think hard about. First of all, you are correct that our Christian faith should inform and influence how we think, work, play, speak, etc. And of course, our faith will inform, to a great extent, how we vote, as so many theological issues cross over into areas that in our culture also have a political side.

At the same time, there are plenty of political views out there that the Scriptures are silent about. For example, I'm personally about as anti-gun-control as you can get. But I must also admit that the Scriptures do not address this issue. In addition, aside from the Biblical command to pay to Caesar what we owe him, there is no particular instruction, or "Biblical model" of a tax policy.

Of course, alongside issues like these are those issues to which Scripture does speak . . .clearly. Among these are the sanctity of life, the foundational nature of marriage to any healthy civilization, and (I believe) freedom of religion.

Fleshed out, that means that if my allegiance is first to Christ, then my personal "Libertarian-Republican" political leanings must take a back seat to my faith. It means I must recognize, as you say, that there are no perfect politicians. Simultaneously, it means that I must recognize elements in all political parties that are both redemptive, and caustic.

The point of my post was to say that one of those political issues that should also take a back seat to truth is "nationalism." It isn't just that Robertson is supporting a "pro-choice" candidate. It is that by his endorsement, he has stated that he believes national security is more important than the sanctity of life.

I've probably not even come close to answering many of your questions. Maybe lunch sometime? :)

ryan strother said...

Eating is in scripture. Lunch sounds great! Let me know when you're in town and free.