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August-September 2016


Relentless Parenting


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A father and son grapple with the challenges of voting as a believer...


All in the Family: A Christian's Guide to Voting

By Adam Harrison and Paul Harrison


Electing leaders is a special privilege, and most have not enjoyed this right. The disciples, the Apostle Paul, and the vast majority of Christians from days gone by never had this opportunity. So, this rare privilege of being involved in the democratic process should not be taken for granted. It is important for Christians because the Bible teaches we must submit to the powers that be (Romans 13:1). Early American revolutionaries may have said “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God,” but such an assertion is absent from Scripture.

Recognizing the importance of voting, however, and picking a candidate are two different things. The truth is, sometimes the choice is difficult and complex. Recently, my son Adam and I discussed some basic considerations when choosing a candidate.



Paul: Though we did not order this list by importance, this trait must be near the top. I mean, if you don’t have honesty, what do you have? Thomas Jefferson wrote to King George III: “The
whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.” Recent political history bears this out. The question “What does my personal life have to do with politics?” should have been put to bed
a long time ago. Lack of integrity in our leaders impacts us all.

Adam: I agree that honesty ranks right up there. Unfortunately, at this critical time in history, honesty and transparency are often missing in the political arena. A willingness to identify and address honestly the toughest issues we face is a necessary first step in attempting to fix them.


Christian Experience

Paul: You might think “Christian” would be included under “integrity/honesty,” but I separate it because some candidates who don’t know the Lord at least hold to a solid moral standard. Still,
I want to vote for a Christian. And I don’t mean a nominal believer. I mean the real deal, someone who holds Scripture to be authoritative, who sincerely prays and goes to church, and who aims at all the things Bible-believing people do. Such a candidate is hard to find, however.

London recently elected its first Muslim mayor, and, like it or not, the American melting pot has become so secular that our voting choices are limited.

Adam: Christians want everyone to know Christ, their president included, of course. But if forced to choose, I would rather have an atheist who upholds constitutional rights than a Christian who wants a monarchy. In other words, as it relates to politics, upholding values from the Constitution is more important than the candidate’s personal standing with God.



Paul: I want leaders who know what they’re doing. I want them to know about the economy and foreign policy, about education and poverty issues. I don’t want some hack grappling with how to avoid nuclear war.

Adam: Agreed. An appealing message and a willingness to confront issues are critical, but what good are they if the elected official can’t fix what’s wrong? I prefer a candidate with a track record of accomplishment, with particular savvy in their area(s) of expertise.



Paul: Speaking of nuclear war, I want someone in the Oval Office whose emotions are under control. Who wants a hothead interacting with Kim Jongun or Vladimir Putin? Scripture says,
“A soft answer turns away wrath.” After the President receives advice from many angles, it all comes down to his or her decision. I want a leader who will be measured and wise. A calm temperament might just save the world from nuclear catastrophe.

Adam: You absolutely don’t want a hothead with his finger on the button. Reckless behavior regarding nuclear war is an immediate disqualifier.



Paul: This is a tough one. It’s common sense to want experience in a candidate. Who wants to be a surgeon’s first patient? Yet, my attitude toward politicians, especially in relation to finances, has so soured over the years that I’m tempted to think a “newbie” is the way to go. I’m open to leadership experience not necessarily political experience.

Adam: Even a candidate new to the political scene needs experience from some meaningful position of responsibility. With that being said, fresh eyes help bring new ideas to the table.

Party Affiliation & Platform

Paul: I’m not going to say you should vote Republican . . . or Democrat. This nation has experienced Republicans of whom I was embarrassed and Democrats of whom I was proud and
vice versa. At the end of the day, I focus on the individual candidate, not solely on party affiliation.

Obviously, since the parties take positions on issues, and those stances are relatively stable, we
should expect a trend in our voting and a party prejudice springing from that trend, but that doesn’t mean party is the determining factor. I vote position, not necessarily party.

The platform issue naturally leads to a whole list of important political matters: social issues (abortion, gay marriage, gun control, care for the poor, education), economic issues, defense, and so forth. We’ll consider these issues later.

Adam: Voting based solely on party isn’t a quick fix to the decision process. The truth is that party platforms and ideology change over time. A better approach, as you indicate, is to vote for principles, not party. Otherwise you risk promoting positions that go against Christian beliefs.


Leadership Ability

Adam: If you can’t captain the ship, you’re not going to get much out of the crew, and the passengers will be none too pleased. A strong leader sets the tone, commands respect, and, therefore, gets the most out of people, inspiring and motivating them.

Paul: Politicians must be able to lead. While hopefully they won’t be cocky, they do need confidence in what they stand for and the ability to align others to their position.


A Major Complicating Factor

After considering these seven areas, we should do our best to elect someone who measures up
across the board. Unfortunately, all candidates are still imperfect. If we wait until we find the perfect one, we will never vote. This has always been the case.

During his work with the Continental Congress in 1774, surrounded by the likes of Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Witherspoon, and other great leaders, John Adams wrote: “We
have not men fit for the times; we are deficient in genius, in education, in travel, in fortune—in every thing; I feel unutterable anxiety—God grant us wisdom and fortitude!”

If Adams felt that way in his day, how should we feel? Of course, we voters have our own shortcomings, so we should cut our leaders some slack. John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1645, after being accused and later vindicated, addressed this very issue: “I entreat you to consider, that when you choose magistrates, you take them from among your selves, men subject unto like passions with yourselves. If you see our infirmities, reflect on your own, and you will not be so severe censurers of ours.”

Preachers, principals, plumbers, and, yes, politicians all have their faults. A good dose of humility will help us exercise patience with our leaders. It should also help us vote at times for those whose weaknesses are obvious. It is important to remember that voting for someone does not mean we approve of every facet of his or her beliefs and behavior.

We should be involved in politics even though it’s often a nasty business. When politicians fail, in disgust, some bail out on the political process. We must remember that government was established by God and is a good thing, even when misused. Martin Luther wrote:“The abuse of a thing does not make it bad, if it was good in itself. A golden chain is good, and it is not made worse by being worn around a whore’s neck.”

Government always fails to some degree, and we have always had to overlook shortcomings in our leaders. Unfortunately, as culture declines, these faults become more glaring.


Making a Decision

After we accept that all candidates are flawed, what principles should we employ in making voting decisions, especially when we don’t like what’s offered? If we must choose between two candidates, and both have glaring inadequacies, how can we decide?

Adam: When the voting choice is so unpalatable it makes us question the country’s collective sanity we must first ask how the candidate(s) became contenders. A candidate’s popularity
can only be attributable to how people respond to the person or to that person’s message.

We should consider, however, that a candidate’s popularity is not necessarily rooted in his person but his policies. Does anything about the platform challenge the status quo? Are his or her policies
fundamentally similar to the policies currently in place? What’s new? If there’s nothing new, then it isn’t the candidate’s platform turning heads. If the approach to issues is new, however, it indicates
that policies are the focus, and a voter may be willing to swallow much that is negative about the candidate to “shake things up.”

How much one can tolerate may depend on how fed up the voter has become with the status quo.
This is not to insinuate that a different position is necessarily better. Change warrants scrutiny. And it especially deserves even-handed evaluation because of humanity’s natural bias against change.
We must evaluate whether we can trust the person to keep his or her word, evaluate the particular political-socialcultural climate that led him or her to the ballot. We must recognize that voting is
the best course of action, and then carfully evaluate the policies of the candidates between whom you are deciding.

Government always fails to some degree, and we have always had to overlook shortcomings in
our leaders.

Paul: I think what you are saying, Adam, is that the best approach as a Christian voter is to look beyond the candidate’s personality, at least to some extent, and to analyze the positions behind the persona. While I would prefer not to overlook personality, I agree that issues do hold greater importance.

Of course, this doesn’t settle the matter. It merely pushes us to rate issues. Which are more important? Abortion or defense? Economics or leadership? Christian experience or competence? In
rating issues, we should recognize that everyone will not arrive at the same conclusions.

Differences exist even in the Christian community. I may say that abortion is the biggest issue, because we kill a million babies a year in the U.S. Someone else may think defense is more important, because if we can’t adequately deal with our enemies, voting won’t even matter when the mushroom cloud clears.

At root, these are subjective questions, not mathematical equations with demonstrably correct and incorrect answers. I am settled, however, on the issue of how Christian experience fits into the
equation. I think of this the same way I think about surgeons: I would rather have a competent pagan than an incompetent Christian. Yes, I would rather have a competent Christian, but if I have
to choose between the two, I choose competence.



So we are left with hard choices and no easy way to dodge them. We are convinced it is right to vote, even when choosing between flawed candidates. We believe issues should take preeminence
over personality and that a candidate’s positions should be evaluated regarding overall importance. We also accept the reality that good people will arrive at different answers.

One final but important point: as believers, our hope and confidence doesn’t depend ultimately on elections. We know Christ sits upon the throne, no matter who wins the election in November. Our faith is Christian, not Democrat or Republican or even American for that matter.

I love how the little book The Martydom of Polycarp ends. After describing how the great Christian minister was burned at the stake for his faith in A.D. 155, he states: “He was taken by Herod, Philip the Trallian being high priest, Statius Quadratus being proconsul, but Jesus Christ being King for ever, to whom be glory, honour, majesty, and an everlasting throne, from generation to generation. Amen.”

Amen indeed!


About the Writers: Adam Harrison (the son) is a proud husband and father. His past work experience includes management, material production, and customer service. He and his family currently reside in Madison, Alabama. Paul Harrison (the father), is pastors of Madison FWB Church in Madison, Alabama. He is creator of the Classic Sermon Index.




©2016 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists