The Common Good

Special Issue: Voting God's Politics

Sojomail - November 3, 2006


Hearts & Minds by Jim Wallis

Voting God’s Politics

For years, we have watched the proliferation of voter’s guides from the Religious Right that did all but actually endorse only right-wing Republican candidates. Before the 2004 election, their narrow list of “non-negotiables” included abortion, stem-cell harvesting, homosexual marriage, human cloning, and euthanasia. All the wider issues that the scriptures speak to were simply ignored. Never have we seen such a partisan use, abuse, and manipulation of religion. Well, those days are over, as many Christians, including a new generation of evangelicals, are demanding a broader and more biblical agenda - one that could challenge candidates on both sides of the aisle.

We have insisted that God is not a Republican or a Democrat, but we do believe there are principles and guidelines that should inform how we vote. This year, we have distributed more than 300,000 “Issues Guides,” which cover a broad range of Christian ethics and values that should inform our political decisions. You can still get a copy of the “Voting God's Politics Issues Guide.”

We have highlighted the following principles and policies as a critical framework to shape our perspective on public policy and political leadership, and the questions by which all candidates should be evaluated.

Compassion and Economic Justice

They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands (Isaiah 65:21-23).

God shows a special concern for those in poverty and acts in history to lift them up. The Bible teaches that societies should organize so that all members have genuine access to the resources needed to live a decent life and provide for those who are unable to care for themselves.

Does the candidate support measures that provide for family economic success and security by “making work work,” that promote fair and decent wages, that show a serious commitment to lifting children out of poverty, and support policies on aid, debt, and trade that would bring extreme global poverty to an end?

Peace and Restraint of Violence

They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:4). Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).

We face a major challenge of how to resolve conflicts, reduce violence, and defeat terrorism without endless war. War has become a first resort instead of the last resort. In a world full of terrorists, terrorist states, unilateralist superpowers, and weapons of mass destruction, we need practical alternatives to an endless cycle of violence.

Is the candidate committed to a serious plan for ending the war in Iraq, to joining a real national debate on how to remove American forces while seeking both security and peace for Iraq, to the elimination of nuclear weapons, to supporting security and freedom in the Middle East, and to strengthening international law to fight terrorism?

Consistent Ethic of Life

Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).

We believe that all life is a sacred gift from God, and that public policies should reflect a consistent ethic of life - and address all the places where human life is threatened. We believe abortion is always a moral tragedy, but how do we find real solutions for preventing unwanted pregnancies and supporting women caught in very difficult and desperate circumstances?

Does the candidate support policies that will dramatically reduce the number of abortions, end capital punishment, and stop genocide, especially in Darfur?

Racial Justice

There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

Full humanity and dignity are denied when people are discriminated against for ethnic or racial reasons, whether intentionally or due to systemic structures. Racism is a sin and undermines the integrity of a society.

Is the candidate committed to reversing and ending racial discrimination in all aspects of our society, especially in the criminal justice and education systems?

Human Rights, Dignity, and Gender Justice

So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

We recognize each human being as created in God’s image. We urge policies that both protect life and promote human dignity. On the issue of torture, for example, it really isn’t the terrorists and what they stand for; it is about us, and what we stand for. On immigration, how do we welcome the stranger, respect the law, and insure national security? And how do we combat the growing epidemic of sexual trafficking and virtual slavery?

Does the candidate support humane and holistic immigration policies and comprehensive immigration reform? Do they insist on policies that end torture, stop human trafficking, promote religious freedom, and protect women?

Strengthen Families and Renew Culture

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God (Romans 12:2).

Strong families are the essential foundation of a good society. A culture that promotes healthy families is necessary to raise our children with strong values. And parenting has become a countercultural activity in America. How do we find real solutions, and not just scapegoats?

Does the candidate support policies that strengthen marriage and families, restore integrity to our civic and business practices, and act to prevent violence in our society - especially the alarming incidence of domestic violence against women and children.

Good Stewardship of God’s Creation

God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good (Genesis 1:31). The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it (Psalm 24:1).

The earth and the fragile atmosphere that surrounds it are God’s good creation for the sustenance and enjoyment of all things. We support policies that protect creation from interests and activities that damage it. We believe global warming is a religious issue.

Does a candidate support protections to clean air and water, to reduce the dangerous emissions that cause global warming, to shift from our addiction to oil and fossil fuels to cleaner, safer, and more renewable energy sources? Do they support the transformation to conservation and new energy sources that could provide jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, help solve the Middle East crisis, and even reduce the threats of terrorism?

Next Tuesday, we will not establish the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is not on the ballot. But you can vote to strengthen the common good. There are important things at stake in this election, including many lives in the ongoing war in Iraq. This is an important election for our country, and I urge all Christians to take time this weekend to think and pray about their choices, evaluate candidates on all these issues, then go to the polls on Tuesday and vote.

And after we vote, no matter who wins, we must be at the doorstep of politicians the next day to hold them accountable to the issues that arise from a broad biblical agenda.


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