When Americans go to the voting booth on November 8, 2016, we are facing a choice like we have never seen before in our history. As people of faith in our country, it is the responsibility of Christians to be a light reflecting the value system Christ brought to earth into our nation.
In order to be that light, we need to know what the Bible teaches about the issues we will be deciding in that voting booth. We also need to know how the American government and political system works. If we do not learn these things for ourselves, then we will never be more than pawns being manipulated by the people who we let tell us what to think.
As Jesus famously taught,
“If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
Which Policies are Most Biblical?
We have seen in the previous posts that most policy issues are not a matter of standing for biblical values. They are usually an attempt to find the best practical solution to meeting a goal we hold in common.
A typical example of a policy that is an important choice but not a moral choice is: “Should we cut taxes to stimulate the economy or should we invest in infrastructure projects that put people to work?” People have strong feelings on both sides. We need to educate ourselves about how the economy works to make the best decisions. But either answer is equally biblical.
Some policy issues, on the other hand, do raise clear questions of what values we want to uphold as a nation. A Christian who is a citizen of the United States must decide when any of these issues rises to the level where a stand must be taken. It becomes much more difficult when neither of the candidates or parties fully supports the values we feel are most important to uphold. In those cases, we must compromise and make the best decision possible to move forward.
In either case, there are usually no clear-cut answers. We must each decide for ourselves and then vote.
Biblical Values in Public Policy
The following table presents representative policy issues being debated in 2016 for each of the nine key biblical issues discussed in Day-9. As it will be in the voting booth, no answers are given. As a personal exercise, fill in for yourself the policy positions of each party on these issues. Then answer for yourself what biblical principles apply to each.
This is what we must do for all of the important issues in any election. You must learn for yourself how each party would address the issues that are important to you. You must decide for yourself what biblical values to apply in deciding which policy approach you should vote for.
|Property Rights||Natural gas exploration using Fracking|
|Poverty & Social Welfare||Tax-funded social welfare benefits|
|Immigration||Accepting additional refugees from the Syrian Civil War|
|Wages & Working Conditions||Raising the minimum wage to a living wage|
|Excessive Interest on Loans||Consumer Financial Protection Bureau|
|Justice||Racial Profiling in Stop & Frisk policing|
|The Environment||Measures to address Global Warming|
Shift to the Right in American Politics
The positions of both parties on these issues have shifted dramatically in my lifetime. As late as the George HW Bush administration, in the 1990s, Republicans largely agreed with Democrats on most of these issues. There was a fairly broad consensus about the goals we were trying to accomplish. The difference was in approach. Democrats favored more top-down regulatory approaches. Republicans favored more bottom-up, market-based approaches.
My personal favorite example is the approach to Environmental Regulation pioneered by the George HW Bush Administration called emission trading credits. This is my favorite because I was working in the field at the time. The big environmental issue of the day was Acid Rain. Both Democrats and Republicans believed Government needed to take the lead in solving this problem. The Democrats followed an approach to regulation called, “Command and Control.” This approach had failed badly at controlling Acid Rain, which came from the emissions of old power plants. The Bush Administration changed the rules to allow power plants to trade emission credits in a free market. As long as the overall level of pollution went down, they could let the free market decide which power plants reduced the most. This policy was so successful that Acid Rain was ended within five years.
There was similar consensus and debate on the best approaches to most of these issues. The major exceptions are abortion, where the two parties never agreed, and same-sex marriage, where Democrats have only recently begun to support it.
Under Bill Clinton, the Democrats accepted many of the Republican market-based approaches to public policy. Emission Trading Credits is now the Democratic policy for controlling air pollution. It has been renamed, “Cap and Trade”. Similarly, Democrats now support Republican ideas of welfare reform and tax cuts to stimulate the economy. As the Democrats moved to the center, the Republicans moved farther and farther to the Right.
With the 2000 election of George W. Bush, a new movement of Neo-Conservatives took control of the Republican Party. The Neo-Conservative movement opposes compromise of any kind. Their Conservative principles are based in Jeffersonian Democracy and Laisse Faire Economic Theory. The guiding principle is to limit government involvement and let the free market decide most issues without any intervention or assistance from Government. Government itself is seen as the problem. This has led to extreme positions on the Republican side of the table above.
|Five Ways Democrats Have Moved to the Center|
|I was working as a policy analyst and completing my Master’s degree in Public Policy during the last two years of the George HW Bush and the first two years of the Bill Clinton presidencies. As a Conservative Republican, I focused my studies on the innovative policy initiatives coming out of the Republican Party at the time.
In 1994, when I had just finished my degree, Republicans took control of both the Senate and House of Representatives, halfway through Bill Clinton’s first term in office. In response, Bill Clinton accepted most of the Republican innovations I had been studying. I remember thinking that we had entered a golden age in American politics. The Democrats had just raised their hands in surrender and embraced the Republicans’ best ideas. I was expecting both sides to work together, and I would begin my career at the start of the greatest time in American politics. I was sorely mistaken.
The following is a list of five major Republican policy initiatives that the Democrats started supporting in the 1990s and still do today. These are the type of issues that were being debated in presidential debates in the 1980s and 90s. The Democrats opposed all of them. The Republicans supported them.
Shift to the Right in Evangelical Christian Politics
How Christians vote in America has also changed dramatically in my lifetime. The terms “Evangelical Christian” and “Born Again Christian” first became an important part of presidential politics in the 1976 election between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter was the first presidential candidate to declare himself a Born-Again Christian. In fact, he would sneak out and secretly hold bible study meetings at a local church while he was president. Before the 1976 election, Evangelical Christians were evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans. Jimmy Carter’s sincere faith and strong Christian values brought Evangelical Christians to the voting booths for the Democratic candidate.
In 1980, Ronald Reagan won over the Evangelical Christian vote. In the 36 years since that time, Evangelical Christians have largely voted for Republican candidates. In 2000, a new generation of “Neo-Conservative” politicians took control of the Republican Party. Their policies are significantly to the Right of Ronald Reagan or George HW Bush. Since the Neo-Conservatives took control of the party, the Republicans have dramatically shifted their voting to oppose most government action of any kind. Evangelical Christians have largely gone along with them, not noticing the change.
Neo-Conservative Republican politicians have been more vigilant to pass legislation opposing abortion and in alignment with the “family values” agenda items on Evangelical voter guides. In return, Evangelical leaders have been vigilant to endorse the other policies of their Neo-Conservative political allies. Policies that had never been considered a part of the religious agenda before have become central to Evangelical leaders who are vocal on political issues. Most notably the issues of taxation, gun ownership, environmental regulation and healthcare reform. The Neo-Conservative positions on these issues are promoted vigorously and emotionally as if they are gospel truth and the salvation of our country depends on it. However, none of those positions are based on scripture.
An important question for a Christian going to the voting booth in 2016 is: “Has the quest for purity of Neo-Conservative principles in the last 16 years led the Republican Party to undermine biblical values in our country?”
As with deciding which policies are best for America, there are no easy answers to deciding which policies are most biblical. Every Christian must study and make that decision for themselves. The freedoms we cherish depend on each and every one of us doing so. That is the American way.
Day 10: America is Great Because America is Good
Day 9: Nine Biblical Principles in Public Policy
Day 8: Two Things Americans Should Never Do
Day 7: Ten Key Issues in American Politics
Day 6: Which Side Should Christians Take?
Day 5: Of the People, By the People, For the People
Day 4: Which Policies are Most Biblical?
Day 3: Clinton vs. Trump in 2016
Day 2: A Vision for America
Day 1: My American Story
Election Day: VOTE!