Monday, November 12, 2007

The Pragmatism of Party Politics

Lately, there has been a bit of hullabaloo about the endorsement of presidential candidates by major Christian leaders. Related to this is a meeting of Mitt Romney with various faculty, staff, and alumni of Bob Jones University . My point here is not to criticize one particular decision but to think out loud about the mindset that we're locked into a two-party system where we seemingly always have to choose between the lesser of two evils. It seems to me that this is symptomatic of an overly pragmatic mindset.

Pragmatism is nothing new. From Machiavelli to much of the modern church growth movement, people have defended questionable choices by "the end justifies the means" or "never criticize what God is blessing." Of course, doing what works is not bad in and of itself. The problem is when we do "what works" to accomplish our goals in a way that violates biblical principles. To adapt one illustration I've heard, of course it's right to feed your family, but if you kill a man to rob him of his money so you can go buy food, you've obviously crossed a line.

Certainly, when we survey the landscape of the candidates, there is not much that appeals to those of us who are Christians. For many, a worst case scenario would be if we were left with Rudy and Hillary as the final candidates for the two major parties. If this happens, will many of the Christians who have assumed or defended voting either Republican or Democrat still do so? Will they still cast a vote for someone who supports abortion just because that candidate is considered the lesser of two evils?

Pragmatism may often utilize questionable methods to obtain a good goal. But I must wonder if many of us have the right goal. For many, the goal is to "beat Hillary" [unspoken implication, at least for some: at any cost]. But, why not vote with principle for a good reason? Why should we even consider compromise on a basic issue like abortion? Why not see the goal of our voting not as to beat Hillary but to honor the Lord? I have not done enough research to tentatively know who I will likely vote for in 2008. But one way I have tried to vote with principle is by voting for a third party in the last two presidential elections. I was not sufficiently satisfied with certain stands taken by the candidate many Christians voted for, but I was satisfied with the platform advanced by the Constitution Party (their website details some serious concerns about this upcoming election's major candidates). Did I think this would result in a win for them? No. Did I realize this might increase Al Gore's chances? Yes. But I could not cast my vote on those considerations alone. I had to ask myself if I could go to sleep with a clear conscience, believing I had pleased God with my vote. I had to be willing to lose to make the decision I thought would best honor Christ, who God has set up as the true King of all (Psalm 2:6).

While many of us have no desire to see Hillary in office, we must remember, that even if this happens, Christ still reigns. I do not pretend to have all these things figured out in how everyone should cast their vote. But, I think this much is clear: in our thinking about who holds the executive office of this country, let us submit in all things to the One God has set up as Lawgiver, Judge, and King. And that submission may mean forsaking pragmatism and being willing to lose an election in 2008 for the sake of acting as citizens of a heavenly kingdom.

HT: Ben Wright

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