I hesitate to write this today, but at the same time there is no better day than today. I have been thinking a lot the past few days about what it means to be a Christian and to be involved in American politics - and not just what it means if you work in politics, but what it means to simply walk into a voting booth every two years (or, in some cases, every four). What does it mean to be a Christian and vote Democrat? Republican? Third Party? Understand that in no way am I saying that if you're a real Christian you can't be any one of those things. Voting as a Christian I think has far more to do with positions on the issues than party identification.
So which are the important issues? The short answer is that all issues are important in some way. But the ones that I find myself thinking about in every election are the ones I will dig into here.
First, abortion has to be addressed. All life is precious in God's eyes, regardless of the circumstances under which it began. As Christians, we are called to respect life and to protect it. In the United States, our ability to protect life is embedded in our right (and responsibility) to vote. In some cases, that means voting for a candidate who supports a rape exception because the alternative is someone who wants abortion legal through all nine months. I personally don't agree with the rape/incest exception - it accomplishes nothing beyond allowing one victim the choice to create a second, and there is neither healing nor justice in that. But particularly in the case of this Presidential election, we are faced with a choice between Mitt Romney (who supports a rape exception) and Barack Obama (who has previously referred to an unplanned pregnancy as "a punishment," who voted against the "Born Alive Act," and who championed a law that violates the religious freedom of people morally opposed to abortion by forcing them to provide coverage for birth control and abortifacient drugs). In a perfect world, there would be a candidate who believed what I do. In the absence of that, I will take the man who will at least support most measures designed to protect life. I believe it is our job as Christians to ensure that the highest office in our nation not be inhabited by a man who so blatantly disrespects the precious gift of life.
I know that some of you are already thinking this: but abortion is only one issue of many. That's true. But abortion is one of the biggest social issues in America today (same sex marriage being the other main social issue) and it is one that has been railroaded to the forefront by the likes of Sandra Fluke, Congressman Todd Akin, and others. And here's why it is so danged important: it is not only a social issue. Because the federal government (i.e. you and every other taxpayer in the country) funds organizations like Planned Parenthood, every abortion performed by Planned Parenthood is, in some small part, paid for by you. Because of the policies of the Obama Administration, the religious liberties of organizations such as the Catholic Church are being overrun by laws designed to make federal funding for abortion services more readily available. And the upshot is really this: if you claim to value life and you vote for a politician (on any level) who does not, you make the rather damning statement that you value the other things that politician stands for (such as economic strategies or social programs) more than you truly value life.
When it comes to other social programs - such as welfare, food stamps, the now infamous "Obama phone," Medicare, etc - there is a temptation for many Christians to support such programs and their ever swelling bureaucracies because the Bible tells us that we should care for those less fortunate. But the Bible calls us each as individuals and as church bodies to care for those less fortunate. Nowhere does it say "Give to the government so that they can do unto others for you."
Does that mean that it's wrong for the government to help people? Of course not. But the government has no money with which to help people unless it first collects money via taxes. Social programs in this country exist because the government already takes money from some people and gives it to others. You may have heard of a system of government that worked like this before - it's called socialism. And you cannot advocate for socialism (even in small doses) by referencing a Bible that demands "he who does not work, neither shall he eat."
Not only that, but when we as Christians advocate such programs, we essentially demand that the government do our job (care for those less fortunate). The problem with that is it allows us to become complacent - if our taxes are already covering it, why should we then do more, right? But it also reduces the amount of help that actually reaches the less fortunate, since the government has to first pay the bureaucrats that run the program before they can finance the actual program itself. But if you buy a bag of groceries and take it to a food pantry, every cent goes where it is needed.
For me, voting as a Christian means that I am a conservative independent. Others may not reach the same conclusion. But I challenge you all to educate yourselves on the issues, and be sure that your candidates stand for the important things first.