Saturday, October 25, 2008

All the Evangelist's Men

Much has been said in the previous couple threads about the benefits of having a Christian president. Are there benefits to being represented by a believer, and if so, what are they?

On one level the question is irrelevant and impossible to answer. The reason for this is that America has never had an unbelieving president, so given the historical non-existence of the alternative, we just can't know how good we've had it all these years. I mean, if the only version of The Office you've seen in the American one, then you're in no position to judge whether it is better than the original British version (it's not).

Now I know what you're thinking: "Hold on a second! Are you honestly claiming that all of our presidents have been Christians?" Well, not exactly. But I am claiming that they have all made that claim. "But," you say, "don't you think they're just saying that to get elected?" Probably, at least in the case of some. But that's my point: I have no access to the Book of Life, let alone the jurisdiction over the hearts of all people who claim to trust in Jesus, so as far as I am concerned, the question is moot. Now if McCain or Obama wanted to join Exile Presbyterian Church, then I would do some prodding and render a judgment. But even then, it still often boils down to accepting a person's credible profession in the absence of evidence to the contrary.

"Aha!" you exclaim. "So you admit that we can judge the tree by its fruit." Well, yes, but that's not as easy as it sounds, especially for those of us who are not God. The fact of the matter is that both candidates will pursue policies that I, as a Christian, consider wrong. I can conclude from this that neither candidate is a Christian since they pursue what I consider to be non-Christian policies, but then I am elevating my own opinions about very complex matters to the level of "Thus saith the Lord." On the other hand, I can just reduce the whole election to one or two hot-button issues and decide things based on those. I realize that lots of people do this, and I don't want to begrudge anyone their right to be a one-issue voter.

A third option, however, is to admit that there are a host of issues involved in this election, all of which have some moral aspect to them, all of which are filtered through our theological premises, and most of which are not addressed directly in Scripture. Furthermore, the disagreements surrounding the really major issues are often not over morality (on which both sides often agree) but over factual matters. For example, a pro-choicer will rarely murder her two year-old because he costs too much to feed. This is because she thinks it is wrong to kill defenseless human persons. Then why does she think that a mother should have the right to an abortion? Well, for the same reason that you think you should have the right to have your appendix removed. In other words, the disagreement is not between one person who thinks that unjustified homicide is wrong and another who thinks it's right, but between one person who thinks that abortion is unjustified homicide and another who doesn't.

My point is simply that we need to tone down the sanctimony a smidge. This does not mean we should stop fighting against abortion or seeking to persuade others that the fetus is a real human person with a soul. But it does demand that we think more critically than to assume that the will of God will be served by the election of one candidate and thwarted by the election of the other.