Campaign USA 2008 – Moral Choices #1 – Priorities
The coming of God’s kingdom in a free society can be a messy affair – since we enjoy the wonderful freedom and moral obligation to vote. Morality – what we actually do – is about the dialog between the heart and the mind over the best thing to do. Ethics is the reasoned system we use to evaluate choices.
This post is the first in a series on the moral choices in picking a candidate. Beliefnet’s “God-0-meter” tracks the statements of U.S. candidates for president and rates them on a scale from secularist (we don’t need God or religion) to theocrat (God will run the country through our clergy.) The secularist and theocrat labels are unfortunate because they are so extreme in our political system that they seem comical.
Generally, the hot button moral issues are questions of individual sexual morality: abortion, homosexuality, gay marriage, sex education, condoms for HIV / AIDs prevention, U.S. funding for overseas birth control. Many believers focus on the abortion issue and want to make the procedure illegal once more. For the most part, these are efforts to make public policy reflect traditional personal Judaeo-Christian morality as it did in the mid-20th century.
Social issues are usually things such as prayer in the schools, creationism versus evolution, displaying the Ten Commandments in courtrooms, and religious displays in public spaces. Public funding for private religious schools by voucher payments garners a lot of support. These issues are actually questions of the relationship between faith communities and the government.
There is a movement to broaden the question of moral choices in public policy. “Covenant for a New America” is an effort led by Jim Wallace of Sojourner’s magazine to unite liberals and conservatives to “make overcoming poverty a non-partisan agenda. look at the very broad priorities of human dignity and freedom: poverty, health care, education, equality of opportunity, and economic development. Stewardship of creation in terms of protecting the environment and minimizing global warming is now being emphasized. This movement represents a return by Evangelicals to social reform issues that were a focus during the first half of the 20th century. Major liturgical churches, such as Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Presbyterians, are placing a renewed emphasis on social gospel issues.
How do you choose a candidate morally? If your candidate wants to outlaw abortion, prevent the legalization of gay marriage, and require every courtroom to display the Ten Commandments, is that a morally correct choice? What if your candidate gets into office and then cuts support services for mothers, including access to birth control, and women are again forced to risk their lives in illegal back street abortions? What if your candidate wants to outlaw the death penalty, increase social programs, and use more diplomacy than military force in international relations? Is it a moral choice to support that candidate if he or she also advocates birth control to prevent the need for abortion and allows the price of energy to stay high to encourage new energy saving technologies and reduce green house gas emissions?
The problem is that there is a broad spectrum of Christian values with a variety of applications to public policy.
In the following posts we will take a look at the leading U.S. presidential candidates against the backdrop of a broad moral spectrum.