I enjoy the intellectual stimulation I get from conversing with those with different perspectives and experiences from my own. One such group is a half dozen or so Roman Catholics who tolerate my Lutheran heresy once each month at our regular breakfast meetings. It must be their concept of affirmative action while I view it as mission work.
The discussion is wide ranging, usually involving a theological issue or two. I guess it is a sign of the times but the talk always reverts to the national political mess. While we are all politically conservative, there are distinctions to be drawn on most any issue.
Yet we all have political opinions informed by our Christian faith which makes it difficult if not impossible to separate these in some kind of ideological clean room. But why would we want to, which brings me to the question on the table last week: Should Christians make voting decisions based on their faith’s teaching on moral issues?
This question is getting a lot of media attention now as Joe Biden, a Roman Catholic, is trying to appeal to the important Catholic voting block while opposing his church’s teaching on human life issues such as abortion. I don’t envy his navigation of that minefield, especially after being refused the Eucharist at a South Carolina church last fall. Fellow Catholic Nancy Pelosi has mired herself in the same swamp.
The debate has been fueled, some would say exacerbated, by recent comments from a Wisconsin priest, James Altman, who publicly exhorted Catholics to vote their faith on the abortion issue. This means, of course, that nearly all Democrats are nolo contendere since that party has made it clear it is not open to pro-life candidates. Fr. Altman showed no reticence in pointing this out, a sin the left and its media cheerleaders won’t hesitate to pounce on as a violation of the separation of church and state doctrine once they realize the effect he is having on Catholic voters. Apparently, religious people must check their freedom of speech at the front door, as if the First Amendment should be viewed as “choose just one option from the menu.”
My church body, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, is every bit as pro-life as the Roman Catholics, so this political calculus affects me equally. We, my church leadership and many of us faithful in the pews, speak out on what we consider the essential moral issues of our day. Life issues such as abortion and euthanasia top this list, and recent challenges to First Amendment freedom of religion has risen to demand the same attention.
Yet our pastors do not use the pulpit to support or oppose specific candidates. Our weekly Prayer of the Church includes intercessions for the president and all elected officials, regardless of who they are. We are compelled by the Fourth Commandment to honor our leaders and we do, officially at least.
That does not constrain us at the ballot box, however. Lutheran congregations are highly democratic in polity, with the voting membership making the key decisions including electing our own pastors. Voting is a duty, both within our congregational assembly and in the public sphere.
Hence the question posited above: Should Christians vote their faith? The same question could be asked of Jews, Muslims and other faithful in America’s polyglot democracy.
I don’t doubt for a New York minute that more liberal fellowships are stressing progressive ideals and their political implications this November, those implications being that Donald Trump and the Republicans must be stopped.
The answer to the question is obvious: Of course one should vote his conscience, which, for Christians and others of faith, requires certain political issues to default to moral imperatives. For those of us who believe pre-born babies are human lives and not a matter of their mothers’ property rights, no economic or foreign-policy issue can rise above this.
If one is devout in his faith, then the normal political stratifications should not apply. It doesn’t matter how your demographic is supposed to think as determined by conventional progressive wisdom. It is your personal vote in the privacy of the booth and, in spite of what the identity-politics herd wishes to believe, you are not bound to a preordained behavior.
If certain issues are of utmost importance to you, then vote for the candidates who align with your conscience on those issues. That is the fundamental duty of enlightened citizenship in a representative democracy.
Mark Franke, an adjunct scholar and of the Indiana Policy Review and its book reviewer, is formerly an associate vice-chancellor at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Send comments to [email protected].