Tuesday, November 06, 2012

I Voted Today... for Tim Pawlenty

I voted today…  for Tim Pawlenty. I know a lot of you, after reading that, have already decided that I am an idiot. Perhaps I am. From what I understand, in the state of Tennessee, where I live and where I voted, the votes of those whose names were not on the ballot were not even tallied. And Pawlenty’s name was not on the ballot. That means, from the perspective of some, that my vote meant absolutely nothing. I have taken that into consideration, and thought long and hard about it, but at the end of day came to the conclusion that, at least, by way of this blog, and by Facebook, and Twitter, I can tell people about my vote and the reasons that led me to vote the way I did. That, from what I have been able to sort out, is a better stewardship of my time and efforts than not voting at all.

Now, with that in mind, let me try to explain as succinctly as I know how the thought process that went into my decision.

First and foremost, in all my life, and in all the decisions I make, I am a Christian. My loyalty to Jesus and to the gospel trumps all other loyalties in my life. Having said that, though, I am conscious there are some political questions that are clearer from a biblical perspective than others. In this post, which I wrote shortly after the election four years ago, I spell out a basic outline of my political views from what I consider to be a biblically informed perspective: http://sbcimpact.org/2008/11/11/morality-politics-and-a-broken-heart.

Even so, I am aware that many may be in basic agreement with what I wrote there and end up on opposite sides of me when it comes time to cast their ballot. What I wrote there has more to do with general principles than with specific strategies for putting those principles into practice. A lot of those potential strategies, on whatever side you take, are complex, and while I have given a fair amount of time and effort toward trying to understand them (reading articles, listening to debates, etc.), I freely confess that a good grasp of the ins and outs of a number of them is beyond my pay-grade.

In trying to better understand the views of the various candidates and the degree to which they may or may not coincide with my own, in addition to reading from their own propaganda outlets, I have used several of the online “choose-a-candidate” sites I have discovered. Recently, I found two that were pretty thorough, and seem to me to do a good job of objectively presenting the issues and giving an opportunity to register the comparative weight you, as the voter, attribute to each issue. These are http://www.selectsmart.com/president/ and http://graphics.wsj.com/votecompass/?mg=inert-wsj. There are others, but these are the ones I used most recently.

At the end of one of these it presents a graph that shows your own overall political tendencies according to the answers you give on the questionnaire. The graph is divided into four quadrants, according to the voter’s degree of agreement with what are determined to be socially liberal or conservative positions, and fiscally liberal or conservative positions. When I took this test, and when I have taken similar tests in the past, I have consistently scored in the socially conservative/fiscally liberal quadrant. I know, I know, a lot of you are thinking by now that all the suspicions you had that I may be an idiot are now totally confirmed. But, as best as I have been able to sort out the issues, that is where these tests show my views to lie.

The ironic thing about it is that particular quadrant is the one quadrant of the four in which there is no announced presidential candidate—whether among Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, or any of the various other third-party or independent candidates—whose overall views also fall into that general classification. Not one!

Some tests told me that, among the various candidates, my views are closest to those of Romney, and some closest to those of Obama, but with whatever candidate, the correspondence of overall agreement was always fairly low.

Given all that, I have been faced with a dilemma. I decided a long time ago I would never vote for a candidate who is not clearly pro-life. Thus, for me, Obama has been out of the question from the get-go. At the same time, though, there are a number of matters that have caused me to be reluctant to back Romney. Other than the fact that I disagree with him on a significant number of specific political issues, I do not like the idea that he is a Mormon, and the potential influence a Romney presidency may have on the spread of the Mormon false gospel around the world. I am very concerned that political support for Romney has led some evangelicals to publicly water down their defense of the gospel. I do not like the fact that, when given an opportunity to do so, Romney has not disassociated himself with the blatantly racist views propagated in the Book of Mormon, nor with the racist historical legacy of his religious heritage. I do not like the fact that he has a demonstrated history of waffling on the issues of abortion and the sanctity of marriage. Last and not least, I cannot get away from the lingering feeling that he is the candidate that most clearly represents the interests of the wealthy and big business, when the Bible teaches that, as a general rule, as believers, it is the rich who are most often opposed to the interests of the gospel:

James 2:5–7. “Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?”—(along with a whole bunch of other passages I could pull out if you need me to).

I am not saying it is a sin to be rich, nor that there is no such thing as a godly, compassionate, generous rich person. I am saying, though, that, as I read the Bible, the general tenor of its overall message cuts against the interests of the rich and in favor of those of the poor. I do not believe in liberation theology. I believe the central message of the gospel has to do specifically with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, and with the spiritual salvation He bought for us at Calvary, and the eternal state of our souls. But, as I read it, when it comes time for us as Christians to decide how we use our influence in this world to love and serve those around us as a result of the life transformation the gospel brings about in our hearts, it seems the Bible would caution us more against the danger of falling in the trap of siding with the rich than in that of siding with the poor.

One other factor in my decision is that I do not, as a general rule, like the two-party system. I believe it systematically eliminates the possibility of someone with views similar to mine from even being considered as a viable candidate. It forces Christians to choose between the supposed “lesser of two evils.” For this reason, all things being equal, in this election, I would have voted for a third-party candidate.

Why, then, did I choose to write in Pawlenty, a registered Republican? I searched and searched and searched. I read the platforms of the various announced third-party candidates. But, in the end, I could not find one that came any closer to my own views on the issues than either Romney or Obama. It seems that practically all the third parties out there are driven by some extreme agenda or another, and my own views on the issues are actually more moderate—with the notable exception of abortion, on which I am pretty hard-line pro-life.

Actually, from what I have been able to gather, Pawlenty’s fiscal positions are a bit to the right of those of Romney, and, as a result, further away from my own. That made it hard for me to decide. I thought about the possibility of writing in Huckabee as well. But, having watched and listened to Pawlenty on several occasions, I have been impressed with his overall demeanor and even-handed approach. He comes across to me as a Christian gentleman, and as a reasonable and open-minded public servant. On the social and moral issues I rate as highest priority, he appears to be in basic agreement with my own views. And he actually did declare himself as a candidate in the Republican primary, so I know there is some degree of interest and willingness on his part to serve as President. And, even with some of his positions on especially fiscal issues that are not in line with my own, he is at least closer to my positions than any of the third-party candidates I have been able to find.

Another factor that led me to seriously consider the possibility of voting for Romney is the hope that somehow that vote might have a positive influence toward saving the lives of unborn children. I am still hopeful, if Romney wins, and if he has the opportunity to appoint new Supreme Court justices, that Roe vs. Wade may eventually be overturned, and that in some states abortion may be outlawed and some mothers may as a result be dissuaded from making the tragic decision to abort their babies. I am hopeful he will follow through with his promise to reinstate the Mexico City Policy through administrative means.

In the end, though, since I live in Tennessee, and the electoral votes of Tennessee have been de facto wrapped up a long time ago, I decided I could make more of a statement by voting for someone other than Romney than I could by voting for him. My vote is, essentially, a vote for the future. Thabiti Anyabwile sums up my thoughts on this well here: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabitianyabwile/2012/10/23/are-christian-voters-soldiers-entangled-in-civilian-affairs.

So, there you have it. You may well not agree with me. That is fine. We live in a free country, and for that I am grateful. And I am open to being shown how, in one way or another, my perspective may be mistaken.

In the meantime, I realize that, in the overall scheme of things, gospel faithfulness is much more important than political correctness. I also remain hopeful for a future in which, to some limited degree, the two might be able to coincide more than they do now in the United States of America. I do pray, as God, through Jeremiah, directed the captives of Judah to seek for the peace of Babylon (Jeremiah 29:4–7), for the peace and prosperity of our country. I pray for justice for the oppressed of the world. I pray for freedom to proclaim the gospel. But, at the end of the day, when all is done and told,

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the Solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.