The first presidential campaign I covered as a journalist was Nixon vs. Humphrey in 1968. I was an atheist, so the candidates’ religious viewpoints didn’t matter much to me. I didn’t care that Richard Nixon was a Quaker or that Hubert Humphrey was a Congregationalist. I didn’t believe in God, so what they believed about an imaginary being didn’t register as having any importance. The main thing I cared about personally and professionally was what each candidate planned to do about the Vietnam War. The war was winding up, not down, and was killing and maiming thousands of Americans, costing billions of tax dollars, and dividing our nation.
The last presidential campaign I covered as a journalist was McCain vs. Obama in 2008. Interestingly, I cared personally and professionally about two other wars that were killing and maiming thousands of Americans, costing billions of tax dollars, and dividing our nation. However, there was something else I cared about. The candidates’ religious viewpoints did matter to me in the 2008 election, and they matter to me this year as well. What changed between 1968 and 2012? I became a Christian and learned what it means to care about my country as a citizen and as a child of God.
Apologetics is defending one’s spiritual faith publicly. There’s probably nothing more public than a presidential election. It’s all we’ve heard about for the past year-and-a-half. Election day is finally here and we’ll all know what’s next very soon. The question for Christians and non-Christians is what role spiritual beliefs should play in the campaign.
If people were just physical beings with no spiritual life, apologetics would be trivial at best. However, if people are spiritual beings as well as physical beings then apologetics takes on a much larger role. If there is a God and He created the heavens and the earth and He holds leaders and citizens responsible for their actions, then apologetics plays a huge role in elections.
If we believe God exists and holds us accountable to Him for everything we do, how can we possibly think that something as important as a presidential election doesn’t have a spiritual side? Of course it does, unless you don’t believe in God.
Recent national polls in the United States have shown that the majority of Americans believe in God. What they believe about God differs, but they acknowledge that there is a God and that God holds people accountable in some way for their actions. Will God hold His people accountable for whether they voted and how they voted in presidential elections? What do you think?
This is where apologetics plays an important role. Christians in the early days of the Church didn’t have the opportunity to vote. Most were part of the Roman Empire and had to deal with a series of emperors who often disliked Christians and persectued them. What was the apologetics of that time concerning a Christian’s responsibility to God about government?
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” Romans 13:1-7
Submission to governing authorities is the highest statement of the Christian relationship to government. Why? Because there is no authority except from God, “and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Paul goes on to write,”Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” Judgment comes from a position of accountability. If we’re not accountable to God for our response to governing authorities, then why does Paul write that Christians who resist the authority resist the “ordinance of God”? Why would God allow those who resist to “bring judgment on themselves”? There’s a lot more here than meets the eye.
One of the “old” creeds of journalism was that journalists were to be independent of any political affiliation and never demonstrate support for any candidate in any way. The reason for that, as was explained to me by college professors and my first news director, was that citizens of a free society needed to be assured that the men and women who brought them the news every day were objective and unaffected by political influence. Unfortunately, that is an old creed. Modern journalism is obviously subjective and greatly affected by political influence. Hence, one of the reasons for such a deep divide among citizens in our country.
Another reason for the divide is that Christians are no longer using apologetics in the normal avenues of their lives. We have become so politically “correct” that we are just about spiritually useless in American society. Our country, the United States of America, was developed as a nation where people could worship God without fear of interference by government. Many Christians saw the great American experiment as a wonderful opportunity to preach the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ and defend the Christian faith wherever an answer was needed. What became of that great spiritual experiment? Where are the apologists today?
God has given His people a great opportunity to not only “be subject to the governing authorities,” but actually become part of nominating, campaigning for and electing members of the governing authorities. That’s a gift not given to many Christians during the past 2,000 years. So, what are we doing with that gift? We are wasting it. Are we not speaking out because we are afraid? Afraid of what? We have the freedom, at least for now, to talk openly about our faith, and that includes “defending” our faith.
So, what should we defend in this current presidential election? How about the sacredness of human life? Does God have anything to say about that? What does He say about the killing of unborn children? What does God expect Christians to say about it? What about marriage? Since God created the marriage relationship, what do you think He would say about changing it from man and woman to man-man or woman-woman? What do you think God expects Christians to say about it? What about character? Does God have anything to say about character? Does that matter in leadership? If it does, should the character of a candidate affect the way we vote? Should it matter whether a candidate tells the truth or lies?
I’ve been a journalist most of my adult life and have never “told” people who they should elect. In every campaign I covered during 40 years I told people as much as I could about the candidates, what they believed, how they had voted on issues in the past, how they said they would vote on important issues in the future, and what we could learn about their character. How can we know someone’s real character? Does it come from what they tell us about their character? Or does it come from what they do because of their character? As Jesus said so well, “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:16)
Character is a major part of the Christian faith. God is very clear about what He expects in the character of the people He allows to lead nations. He is also clear about the responsibility of His people in responding to governing authorities. Christians have a responsibility to use clear Biblical apologetics in every part of their lives – including electing the President of the United States. Speak out and vote. May God help us all.