iEthics: A Special Edition on the 2016 Election
I’ve learned through the years that it is not necessary for me to speak to every moral issue if others have already done so in good biblical fashion. The book of Proverbs states it well, ” . . . he who restrains his lips is wise” ( 10:19). The current tumultuous election cycle has tempted me to comment on the candidates, but others have already written well-reasoned and well-seasoned (Matthew 5:13) editorials on their qualifications (or lack thereof). Nevertheless, I have been asked by numerous people for my thoughts on how to make good and right moral choices on election day. So, t his special iEthics edition represents a first person blog of sorts–my personal thoughts on how I intend to arrive at good choices and vote on November 8. I hope that God is glorified and that you are blessed by what you read. ~LCA
Crawfishing and Politics
Politics is like crawfishing! This term has become my metaphor for the 2016 presidential election cycle. When I was a boy growing up in Houston we often had heavy rains that would flood the ditches on either side of an unpaved road near our house. My friends and I would gather up our plastic buckets and small goldfish nets and head to the ditches to go crawfishing! We’d start at one end of the 1/4-mile-long ditch and step carefully into the water in an effort not to stir up the silt and cloud our view. It did not take long to realize that the water became cloudy by our steps and by the “crawdads,” as we called them. They used their claws and legs as they swiftly scooted backwards to kick up the silt in order to keep us from seeing and netting them.
You no doubt understand my use of “crawfishing” as a metaphor for our upcoming national election because both voters and the candidates are “kicking up a lot of silt” and making it difficult to see clearly how to vote. Social media and coffee-break conversations have become pretty muddy. The presidential debates have hardly set the gold standard for civility either! Moral concerns abound this election year, so it will help Christians to chart a clear ethical path forward in the murky waters.
An Ethical Course of Action
First, nearly all voters take seriously the responsibility to cast their ballots for candidates that will serve the best interests of our nation on a wide range of social issues like poverty, healthcare, immigration, life rights for all (including the unborn), jobs, education, racial division, and religious freedom. These social issues are all rooted deeply in core ideals that people hold to be critical to living a flourishing life. Life, health, home, work and play, education, and faith are bedrock goods in which these issues are rooted. One may see readily how easy it is to become passionately engaged in a democratic election when any one of these values seems to be threatened. I believe a key first step in muddy waters includes stating clearly where one stands on these core goods and the issues that surround them. We call this a worldview. I’ve attached a worldview chart that I developed and use in my ethics classes at B. H. Carroll Theological Institute and conferences that will help you to articulate more clearly your beliefs on a range of core ideals.
Secondly, indeed no man is an island, and this means that we all have a personal narrative. We are a people with a history of deeply-held traditions. Each one of us holds customs and beliefs that have been passed down to us from generation to generation closely to us, and these have shaped our moral views about all of life, including elections. I am no different than you in this regard. In most cases these traditions are healthy and helpful. Nevertheless, perhaps we cannot see the 2016 political landscape clearly due to unquestioned biases that have been handed down to us. In other words, some of us put on the glasses of our traditions and never ask why the view is blurry. Truly, sometimes our beliefs and customs are not healthy (e.g. 19th century beliefs about slavery), so it becomes critically important for us to make sure that the lens of unhealthy tradition is not obscuring our view when making moral choices. This election, more than any that I can recall, has placed traditional politics before my eyes and begged me to look carefully to see whether my long-held political beliefs and customs are worth sustaining. There are many hot-button moral issues in this campaign that traditional party-politics-as-usual will not resolve: immigration, racial divisions, national and personal security, education and student-loan debt, and life for all, to name a few.
Next, Christians are to apply to moral choices the principles and norms that grow out of the character and actions of a Holy God; and, they are to behave accordingly (Exodus 34:6-7; cf. also Matthew 5:1-12 and Galatians 5:22-23). Love, justice, hope, cross-bearing (mercy), and new community all come to my mind when I am looking for clearness in the mire of moral uncertainty. My friends and I knew that when the water became muddy to look for the conical towers that the crawfish had made that led to their homes. Those “mud bugs” always raced there when things became uncertain. I have chosen in this election cycle of upheaval to follow the principles that I hold dear back to the Savior. He is my strong tower (Proverbs 18:10).
I may not know with certainty for whom to vote, but I do know with absolute certainty in whom to place my ultimate trust. He holds both government and citizens accountable (1 Peter 2:13-17). My goodness, he sustained his church when Rome sought to destroy it and his hand of protection is still strong and holds us (1 Peter 1:5).
Reason, Choose, and Reflect
Finally, we are all made in God’s image and, as such, we have the ability to reason, to make choices, and to reflect upon them once they are made. We also are encouraged to ask for wisdom and He is a God that gives liberally to all who ask, believing that He will answer (James 1:5). I am old enough to have voted in presidential elections for about four decades. I am also old enough to recall votes that I regret casting, so I reflect upon the steps that I took that led me to those poor decisions. I review my worldview (perhaps I held some beliefs in error), check for biases that might cloud my moral view, and reaffirm my key non-negotiables (biblical principles and norms). Sure, the choices I have to make this time are difficult, but that is not a good reason for me to stay home and refuse to vote. My mantra is reason well, make a choice, and reflect and grow (Matthew 5:48).
Oh, I have one last thought! I also take time prior to each new election to recall the previous doomsday prognostications that warned me of imminent doom if a particular candidate was elected. This seems to calm my nerves a bit because we are still here and God is still in control. You know, I never knew that crawfishing in a ditch could help me make moral choices, but that experience has helped me this election go-round. I hope it helps you too. See you at the voting booth!
[This article originally appeared in an email update from The Baptist Center for Global Concerns. The article is reprinted by permission of the author Dr. Larry Ashlock, Carroll Fellow and Director of the D.Min Program and Executive Director for The BCGC. The original article can be found here: https://conta.cc/2fa7wIC ]