Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Randy Alcorn on "Voting for the Lesser of Two Evils"

Some evangelicals use the phrase "voting for the lesser of two evils" when contemplating the upcoming presidential election.  Others in response claim that voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil and, therefore, should be avoided.  This reasoning is usually brought out to encourage Christians to vote for a third-party candidate.  Randy Alcorn, in a well written piece entitled Is It Wrong to Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils? Shouldn't We Instead Vote for a Third Party Candidate?, appropriately defends the voting for a less than ideal candidate who has a reasonable chance of winning.  Here are few snippets from his longer essay.
To begin with, I think there are radically different understandings of what a vote is. In this presidential election, what does your vote mean to you? Is it:
1) The expression of your highest hopes and ideals
2) An affirmation of doctrinal agreement
3) A statement to the world about your Christian convictions
4) An unqualified endorsement of a candidate’s character and wisdom
5) A means of protest against the established parties that have both failed miserably
6) A choice of the better of the only two viable candidates who remain, both of them very flawed, and one of whom will be president
Your answer to this question will largely determine your voting choices. Do you view voting like choosing a marriage partner? (Be extremely choosy.) Or like choosing a school or job? (Choose wisely, but know you can change schools or jobs.) Or like choosing a seat on the bus? (The best seats are already taken, but you choose the best alternative that’s left.)
What will you do in this election? Here are some options:
Drop site1) Abstain from voting because you are so disillusioned, and/or your citizenship is in Heaven, not earth.
2) Vote for a candidate you know has no chance of winning, but you’ll sleep better knowing you didn’t vote for the lesser of evils.
3) Vote for whichever one of the two electable candidates you believe will do the most good for the most people and inflict the least amount of harm; who will most uphold and least undermine our moral base and liberties.

I think Alcorn's best lines come when he states:
Probably a dozen commenters wrote, “Voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil.”
I understand the logic. I’ve used it. But there is another way to look at it: To vote for the lesser of evils is to vote for less evil.
Think about it. Don’t we want less evil? Doesn’t less evil mean more good? I’m voting for the greater good my children and grandchildren and this country will experience than if the only other viable choice were elected. (Please don’t write saying others were far better candidates and Christians should have supported them. The only point I’m making is, regardless of the reasons, none of them will win the election.) 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Theology and the Presidential Election

Dr. Brian Mattson has the text from a recent address he gave entitled: The Theological Stakes in the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election over at his website.  In his address Dr. Mattson discusses the theological ramifications that flow from either a President Obama win or a Governor Romney win.  He begins by laying out some framework from which to reason on this issue:
How does one go about probing the “theological” stakes of a presidential election, much less any other cultural event? Where do we start? I have developed my own rubric or framework for evaluating such things, and it begins with God. I lay this out in my bookPolitics & Evangelical Theology, and I will summarize it for you. At its root, I seek to ground our political evaluations in what God has told us about himself. For this is our preeminent creaturely task. Reformed theologians, particularly from the Dutch Neo-Calvinist tradition, call this “Thinking God’s thoughts after him.” For my taste, that is a bit narrowly intellectual for a general rule, with slightly too much emphasis on “thoughts” and “thinking.” My own version is simpler and more down-to-earth: As creatures made in the image and likeness of God, we must seek to love what God loves. Love comprehends more than just our intellects; it tells us not just of an object of apprehension, some nugget of truth we should know, but also an object of affection and desire. “Love” is a more well-rounded term than “thinking,” which is why I prefer “loving what God loves” to “thinking God’s thoughts after him.”
In and of himself, as the Triune being, God is love. If this is so, his revelation of himself has to be a revelation of what he loves. When it comes to the distinctly political questions facing our nation and culture, I find three of God’s loves particularly significant. God loves people. God loves prosperity. And God loves justice. In those three categories I believe I have captured all of the great relevant political questions of our time. That God loves people means something for issues of the dignity and value of human life and sexual well-being. That God loves prosperity means something for economics, wealth creation, and helping the poor. That God loves justice means something for our earthly systems of justice, foreign and domestic.
Dr. Mattson goes on to assess President Obama in relation to these categories of  people, prosperity, and justice.  His comments, although brief, are well worth reading.  In coming to assess Governor Romney the theological ramifications are also worth noting.  Dr. Mattson writes:
It is a happy coincidence that when it comes to public policy issues, the worldview of Mitt Romney contains substantial overlap with that of orthodox Christian teaching. This is partly due to the fact that Mormonism is a uniquely American folk-religion of the 19th century. The American values promoted by Joseph Smith were therefore 19th century American values, a time when human life, prosperity, and justice were far more informed by the Christian worldview than they are today.
Mitt Romney is therefore pro-life, pro-marriage (thankfully the 20th rather than 19th century Mormon version), pro-economic freedom, against partiality before the law and various race and class quotas, and he seems to believe in that old-fashioned distinction between good and evil. They do not seem for him to be relative terms.
But his election to the office of President presents its own set of theological problems, and I think it wise that we face them squarely. I have in mind this: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has wanted nothing more than to be culturally included as a respected and legitimate branch of orthodox Christendom, and having one of their own as the President of the United States will go a very long way to achieving this aim. This will present a theological and cultural challenge for orthodox Christianity, especially since we might, frankly, agree with a President Romney on many things.
As a Christian theologian I believe we must resist the mainstreaming of Mormonism. In other words, I believe we must join in common cause with Romney on many political issues, but the ground of our agreement needs to be kept crystal clear. There is, as I said, substantial overlap between the cultural views of Mormonism and orthodox Christianity. The word “overlap” suggests that we must not conflate the two. The theological ground for Mormonism’s views of people, prosperity, and justice is, frankly, the imagination of a 19th century religious fanatic who happened to land on some truthful things. The ground for orthodox Christianity’s views of people, prosperity, and justice is the Word of the Living, Triune God, revealed to us infallibly in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
I believe we need to resist the inexorable slide into “conventional wisdom.” Let me give an example. We can see already even in the conservative political movement a certain conventional wisdom that homosexuality is a perfectly legitimate lifestyle choice. Oh, yes, the National Review set might agree with us on the issue of the definition of marriage, but it is fast becoming conventional wisdom that opposing homosexual conduct itself is bigoted and beyond the pale. I foresee something similar with respect to Mormonism. With the election of Mitt Romney, Mormonism will be well on its way to becoming legitimate and sacrosanct, insulated from critique. It will soon be considered bigoted and out-of-bounds in polite society to oppose Mormonism as antithetical to orthodox Christianity. I do not know of an easy solution to this coming problem. But I do know we need to be able, as an aphorism has it, to walk and chew gum at the same time, maintaining our substantial overlapping agreement on many issues while simultaneously making clear our foundational theological divergences. If we fail to do this we will be damaging the true Church of Jesus Christ, inviting cultural confusion, and ultimately harming the message of the gospel. This will be the foremost theological consequence of a Romney presidency, and we must be prepared for it.
These are important words for evangelicals in the days ahead should Governor Romney be elected president.  Already the evangelical church is downplaying the differences between Mormonism and orthodox Christianity and this trend will only become more pronounced with a Romney presidency.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Sex Trafficking and Pornography

Benjamin Nolot has a good article on the connection between human sex trafficking and pornography entitled Who Buys Sex? Linking Porn and Human Trafficking.  Here is a portion of his thought:
When first considering human trafficking, it may not seem like the issue has anything to do with you or me. To us, human trafficking seems like a troubling issue that poor souls somewhere out there–somewhere far from here–are suffering from.
However, when we begin to ask the question “why?” when we consider human trafficking, we must look at our culture. What kind of culture is producing so many men who are eager to buy women and children for sex, contributing to a $32 billion per year human trafficking industry? I believe the answer is the kind of culture that produces and perpetuates a $100 billion per year pornography industry.
Of all the men we talked with who had purchased a woman or child for sex in prostitution, there wasn’t one who didn’t have a history of viewing pornography. The deviant behavior of men in our world is not simply pathological; it has been taught to them. The hyper-sexualization of this generation has awakened an unprecedented demand for illicit sex. When men pay to view sex, they aren’t too far from taking the step to buy sex.
Boys growing up in this culture form an objectified view of females at an early age. Ninety percent of them will view pornography between the ages of 8-16, with the average age of initial exposure being 11. When a young child’s fragile mind is exposed to the graphic images in pornography, it distorts his view of girls, sex, and relationships. He begins to see them as inanimate objects, devoid of humanity–a thing to be conquered instead of a person to love.
By the time many reach adulthood, they have been disinhibited by their exposure to the graphic images in pornography. Consequently, a man will only fantasize for so long before he begins to rise up and demand the living embodiment of his masturbation fantasy. The result is an entire generation of men who are mongering for sex and willing to pay for it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

George Weigel on Marriage and the State

Roman Catholic social commentator George Weigel had an interesting piece over at First Things which discusses the relationship between allowing same-sex marriage and a potentially totalitarian state.  Weigal comments:
Rightly understood, marriage is one of those social institutions that exist “prior” to the state: prior in terms of time (marriage existed before the state), and prior in terms of the deep truths embedded in the human condition. A just state thus recognizes the givenness of marriage and seeks to protect and nurture this basic social institution.

By contrast, a state that asserts the authority to redefine marriage has stepped beyond the boundaries of its competence. And if that boundary-crossing is set in constitutional or legal concrete, it opens up a Pandora’s box of undesirable results. For if the state can decree that two men or two women can make a marriage, why not one man and two women? Two women and two men? These are not paranoid fantasies; the case for polyandry and polygamy is now being mounted in prestigious law journals.

And if the state can define marriage by diktat, why not other basic human relationships, like the parent-child relationship, the doctor-patient relationship, the lawyer-client relationship, or the priest-penitent relationship? There is no principled reason why not. Thus gay marriage is another expression of that soft totalitarianism that Benedict XVI aptly calls the “dictatorship of relativism.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2012