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Can a Christian vote for Barack Obama?

I voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 election instead of voting for the ticket of McCain and Palin. 

At the time, I did not understand the division and caustic nature of the upcoming 2012 election. My guess is that neither did you. The economic disaster that was 2007-2008 had not yet been thoroughly investigated and the nation had not seen the gridlock of partisan politics to the degree that the early 2010 deficit talks and subsequent supercommittee debacle produced. I was also particularly unprepared for the rather pointed, sometimes hateful, rhetoric that would flow from the more conservative ranks about the President of the United States. Let’s, though, move closer to home.

I have had relatives, Christian co-workers, and social conservatives question my faith, question whether I believe the Bible to be relevant, and question my intellect for the past few years. I have been told that I could not call myself a Christian and vote for Obama.  I have been called a socialist, a liberal, and a host of other more colorful things, all by professing Christians. With another election coming up in 2012 and with President Obama again on the ticket, I am struck with this thought: now what happens if I vote for Obama again?

I have watched many of the Republican debates and the party itself is divided over many conservative issues, but united on its desire to blame Obama, label Obama, and distance themselves from Obama. To some, he’s a socialist, to others, he’s too friendly to Muslims. To some, he’s the reason for the economic decline, to others, he’s the reason we have higher than expected unemployment. For the Christian, though, can we embrace the fact that Obama too shares many Christian values that need promotion and preservation? These values include compassion for the poor and marginalized, hospitality for the immigrant, and promotion of public service and volunteerism.

With that said, Obama has been upsetting to Catholics, evangelicals, and a host of Christian groups for the same reason he’s been upsetting to his own party and to the left—people are simply unsure where he stands on some things. He has disappointed virtually every segment of the population at some point. But, is this really new to politics or the Presidency? Mitt Romney claims to be a lifelong businessman, but has been running for President for the entire 21st century. Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann were hopefuls at one time and now, even Rick Santorum can articulate some consistently Christian views, but they have proven to be poor politicians on the national stage and have great difficulty rallying support that isn’t ‘preaching to the proverbial choir,’. And we’re voting for a national leader, not simply an ideological champion, right? 

Frankly, the Congress itself has the lowest approval rating in modern history and no one who votes regularly and follows the news shows signs of admiration for either group of senators or representatives. In fact, some of the incompetency is simply surprising and mind-boggling. 

And perhaps, this is the true dilemma of the upcoming election. What can a President do with such an incompetent Congress? That’s a lengthy discussion for another day.

Let’s return to this simple question: Can a Christian vote for Barack Obama in 2012? Must a Christian voter only support a vocally pro-life ticket even if that ticket does nothing to reverse abortion on demand? Republicans have had majorities more than once since Roe v. Wade and have collectively done nothing to repeal the law, but when given the chance to weigh in on health care legislation every candidate promises to repeal ‘Obamacare’ on day one of their administration. Isn’t this inconsistent?

Let me put the question differently. Why is the party that supports the NRA, increased military spending, decreased economic regulation, and harsher immigration policy still the party most publicly associated with Christians? Have we reduced the Christian vote down to simply views on homosexual marriage and abortion only? Can we at least insert the Biblical command to ‘welcome the stranger,’ and the call to be peacemakers and peaceful people who ‘turn the other cheek’ in to the discussion?

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not a Democrat either. I am a person who has voted for leaders of both parties. I voted for George W. Bush to defeat Al Gore, but I have also attended a fundraiser for Bill Clinton’s Foundation in San Francisco (and that last part of the sentence really drove my evangelical friends whacky—you try throwing  ‘support, Bill Clinton, and San Francisco’ in the same sentence at a dinner party with lifelong Republicans, who attend church, sometime and see what happens). 

Maybe the answer lies somewhere deeper. After all, Christians are ‘citizens of heaven’ and are considered members of a Kingdom, that is ushering in a new way of doing life. Maybe both parties are wrong and the question isn’t whether a Christian can vote for Obama, but the question is more this one: can a Christian put grace above religion; peace above war; Kingdom of God over democracy of man? 

Does Obama hold some views and practice some things that are upsetting to Biblically astute Christians? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Does Obama hold some views and practice some things that are obviously Christian and friendly to Biblically astute people? Again, the answer is yes.

So, can a Christian vote for Obama? I will answer a resounding—sure, maybe, it’s possible. Just be careful about how you articulate such a vote in the fellowship hall over coffee. 

So, who will I vote for in 2012? I don’t know yet, there’s still some time yet to decide.

-bo

Comments

Hi Bo, I grew up among evangelical Christians and was once one myself. Now I am far removed, and scarce are my encounters with evangelical Christians. Scarce also are my encounters with Republicans. I would therefore like to pose to you a related question:

As a follower of Jesus, what considerations strike you as counting in favor of the Republican Party over the Democratic Party in U.S. politics?

If I can interest you in discussing this question, I would only suggest that you answer it from your own point of view (as opposed to providing explanations for why other Christians seem to favor the Republican party. I also can formulate answers of that sort. What interests me is dialogue with someone who can discuss his own reasons for these sorts of views).

(If it might help to entice you into this discussion, I am also be willing to provide you with more information about my own background and perspective.)

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Very interesting and thought-provoking piece. I posted a response to it at http://pastorniles.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/current-affairs-can-a-christ...
if you care to check it out.
God's peace as you continue to wrestle with important topics.

Let me try to take the two replies one at a time and see where this goes.

First, Ancius. If I understand your question correctly, I need to correct the perception that I favor Republican over Democrat or one party over another. Two recent books make compelling arguments from Republican writers to take conservative/right of center policies seriously. Both Michael Gerson's 'City of Man' and Wayne Grudem's 'Politics According to the Bible' make compelling cases. I am challenged by both pieces.
I am also challenged by the example of Wilberforce historically, who broke with some of his own party over his career on some issues of social policy. Personally, this is a journey for me, which this particular piece is part of. I come from a family where my dad's job was saved by unions on more than one occasion and where corporate outsourcing has virtually decimated my hometown. So, as a Christian, I am seeking to understand how to integrate a Biblical understanding of grace with public policy with any eye to the common good. I am a work in progress here, but I see Christians on both sides of the aisle.

Patrick

I saw your link and I don't disagree with the small army of 'straw men' I have created. This is a blog limited by space and this hopefully sparked conversation (ie: it is Conversant Life) I did, though, respond in part to actual phone calls and political pieces I have received in the mail recently whose rhetoric surprises me (some from faith based groups). Reminded me of Phil Yancey's observations early in his 'What's so Amazing About Grace?' book. Yes, ideology and a person should match, but I guess my question in this seems to also be in the area of the actual job. Presidential campaigns are also lengthy job interviews and I wonder if we ever get to the discussion of whether or not a certain candidate can rally people, get some things done, work diligently with others, etc....or does finding someone who agrees with certain viewpoints settle the matter? Again, I am processing this because what's 'christian' is often the 'how' as much as it is the substance of views. A Christian who is a 'chef' probably cooks chicken cordon bleu similarly to many unbelievers, but 'how' he leads his kitchen staff sets him apart. I wonder if there's a place for the 'how' as well as the 'what'. Thanks for engaging....you've given me some good things to chew on.

I'm refreshed that there are people as yourself who actually give deep thought on their vote. I find myself is the same situation. Dare I say I have done some praying on the subject. I have my answer. I am voting for the person with integrity, truth, and the well being of our nation's people engraved in his soul. I'm voting for a man of peace as well as one who can take a stand when needed. I'm voting for a man that can relate to the the regular, honest hard working family. The reason President Obama has such a difficult time achieving the intended goals is because he is not getting the cooperation of our elected officials (The good old boyz club). It seems to me most of them are in the pockets of corporate America. For example, the pipeline issue. Yes it will create jobs but it comes with risk. Not to mention that oil is slated to become part of the world market and not reserved for use here in the US. The republicans and democrats have used the social security money as a slush fund in the past. The US postal service has been bridled in 2006 with a mandate to cover retirement far into the future. There is enough to cover the next 70 years as it stands. I'm sure this bill had to have been lobbied by companies like UPS and Fedex to help crush our US postal service. The US postal service is not subsidized by the federal government. They are self sufficient. So when it comes to voting for our leader the answer is clear to me. As a Christian I can only tell a person abortion is wrong and against Gods will, but not in every circumstance. The past bill's presented are black and white with no exceptions. As an American I should not be able to impose my deep rooted beliefs on others. Even God gave us freedom of choice. If a person believes killing an unborn child is not wrong and our law lets them get away with that, then those involved will have to answer to God. So will the Republican officials who had control over the house and senate and did nothing about it. Why was it not an issue then? I believe that we have been lied to for so long we can't see the truth when it comes along. Frankly I don't trust Romney. He seems to be telling me what I want to hear, without substance. Where as President Obama lays out the facts and analyzes the situation before making a decision. It may not be what I want to hear but it's based on logic, fact and reality. He is more for the people where Romney is another corporate puppet. Like war over oil, fracking without concern or responsibility for the effect on the earths crust or pollution of aquifers, building a pipeline based on immediate bottom line results rather than give due diligence to long term effects on people, property and our wildlife. It took a long time for our country to get so bad, and don't forget our President did not create these problems. They were seeded log before he took office. To me there is only one intelligent choice in November. By the way, for anyone reading this, It's Mr. President or President Obama. Anything else is disrespectful.

thanks for your thoughtfulness.

I agree with the need for increased civility and respect for the office as well. I wonder sometimes what came first, the overwhelming feeling that we're facing significant challenges as a country or the decrease in civility? Hopefully, we'll turn a few corners soon.

Bo, a relevant bible text reads: For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth. John 4:24

The key word here is truth and my own paraphrasing of this verse would be, talk is cheap. Most nominal Christians, when it comes to voting, just go with the flow. Whatever is the soup dejour, that's to whom their ballot goes for. Of course, for someone who takes his relationship with Jesus seriously, what really counts is to whom, if anyone, Christ wants him to vote for.

Barring some apparition or voice from heaven, one can only go by what he sees and hears and compare that with what Jesus said through his written words.

Not to give a too long of a reply, no present candidate stands for everything I read in my bible. So you either vote for none or pick the closest one. Without going into more complex areas (the economy, foreign affairs... etc) it boils down to 4 major areas that can affect present and future Americans and that has unequivocal guidance in the bible.

1.Abortion (Thou shall not kill)
2.Family Values (Government attempt to remove God from society, Endorsement of any type of “family structure” and lifestyle other than what God established.. etc.)
3.Loving and caring for the poor
4.Loving and caring for the “strangers in the land”

From my very simplistic view, using the 4 points above, and with much generalization, it is a tie between Democrats and Republicans. I can either chose what are the most important areas among the 4 points, or do what I am inclined to do this year, vote for none and be true to my belief.

Tim Silva

I resonate with your four points a bit and find that I also tend to resonate with your observation that it's a relative tie between parties. I wonder why a third party didn't arise this year?

Is it better for a Christian to vote Mormon? Why wouldn't a Christian vote for the only Christian candidate in the race??

interesting question and will be equally interesting to watch how it plays out in the coming months....

I'll preface this by saying that I am a libertarian-leaning Christian and I, like you, find flaws in both candidates and parties. Our involvement in society, however, cannot be limited to voting for the right candidate. As you so rightly stated, "Maybe both parties are wrong and the question isn’t whether a Christian can vote for Obama, but the question is more this one: can a Christian put grace above religion; peace above war; Kingdom of God over democracy of man?"

Not only can we do these things, I believe sincerely that this is why Jesus was sent here in the first place, and is prerequisite to being called a Christian. The old Testament Israelites struggled mightily with this concept, beginning in 1st Samuel chapter 8, and their adherence to flawed secular leaders led to their eventual conquest and exile. The Pharisees (and much of the Jewish population at large) in Jesus' time rejected his teachings, believing still that their savior would come in the form of yet another secular David-like king. Even today, many (but not all) Christians that insist upon our support of the nation of Israel do so on this same flawed premise--that our government must act in lieu of God.

At the end of the day, we Christians need to realize that God's laws and truths are not legislated and enforced by any man we elect or allow to rule over us. They are revealed to us in ways that may be subtle and hard to understand at times, but through prayer, scripture, and faith, they can be much more easily understood than any law passed by congress. Our government allows sinful behavior, but does it mandate it? What can we as Christians do to improve our society without banging our heads into the wall every 4 years when the candidates we vote for don't live up to expectations? Christian organizations don't want to pay for contraceptives or abortions, which I fully understand, but what are they doing outside of the obviously ineffective means of government that will bring about the ends they seek?

Modern political discourse focuses on democracy and the relationship between people and politics. It is thought of as the way we "choose government officials and make decisions about public policy" -Tax Tiger

I guess so. There ars Christian who likes Obama and there are thsoe who don't like him. Voting Obama is not about religion.

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I have a confession to make: I'm a Christian and I like Barak Obama. Kyle Leon

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Some ideas simply keep me up at night. And the exchange of ideas keeps me energized during the day. Between coffee and sleep aids, ideas have consequences.


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