Monday, March 14, 2016

Faith in the Voting Booth, by Leith Anderson and Galen Carey

Have you ever seen the "Christian voters guides"?  Usually it's laid out in chart form, comparing candidates' stances on a variety of issues important to Christians (at least it reflects the guide's publisher's perception of what Christians are supposed to care about).  If you're looking for something like that, keep looking.  This book isn't it.  Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Galen Carey, vice president, government relations, of the NAE, have written Faith in the Voting Booth: Practical Wisdom for Voting Well.

If you know anything about the NAE, or about evangelicals in general, you won't be surprised to hear that these guys are not left wingers.  But if you make assumptions about what they, as evangelicals, have to say be voting and political issues, you may be a bit surprised.

Anderson and Carey start out with the basics.  I mean really basic.  How to vote, how to register, where to go to vote, etc.  These chapters seemed almost childish, but the statistics tell us that among Western democracies, voter turnout in the U.S. is inexcusably low.  So there are plenty of people for whom a remedial education on the voting process is necessary!

Most of the book is taken up with a variety of issues.  The authors discuss each from a Christian, biblical perspective, not in a dogmatic way but in a way that encourages asking lots of questions and, especially, reading lots of scripture.  They express their dismay that Christians, when surveyed, reveal that they get guidance on political issues from non-scriptural sources much more than from scripture.

Anderson and Carey make it clear that their faith is in God, first and foremost, and that service to Him takes precedent above all else, no matter the country or party in power.  However, they display a high faith in government as well, specifically in the role government can and should play in our lives.  There are passive roles: "it can establish laws and resources that contribute to healthy families and support strong marriages."  And there are more active roles: "While charity is crucial, we also need the government to step in and fulfill its responsibility to care for the poor."  They make good arguments on both counts, but won't make libertarian readers happy with their conclusions.

On winning and losing, Anderson and Carey are eminently practical.  They don't come out and say it doesn't matter who wins an election; clearly it matters who is writing, enforcing, and interpreting our laws.  But, they point out that "just as the promises of a candidate often remain unfulfilled, so too the doom and gloom predicted if the other side wins often does not materialize."  Campaign rhetoric is only rhetoric, and governing is much more difficult than campaigning.

So what is a Christian to do?  On the one hand, Anderson and Carey provide a nice package of questions to ask as we consider who we vote for.  The problem is, there is no one who will have all the right answers.  So we hold our noses and vote for the least bad candidate.  (That's my view, not necessarily theirs.)  More than that, we vote and participate in the political, electoral process as "an act of faithful stewardship of our citizenship."  Further, in our care for our neighbors, for creation, and for our families, and in our civil discourse, we demonstrate the gospel of Christ in our lives, as we pray with Jesus, "your kingdom come, your will be done."

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!

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