Saturday, March 31, 2007

Does "Character" Matter

When voting for political figures, how much does character matter? Is it more important, for example, than a candidate's policy prescriptions? Moreover, what do we do with someone like Mitt Romney? Is it proper for Christians to vote for Romney, a step that would lead to greater legitimizing of Mormonism? Luther famously said that he would rather be governed by a Turk who understood justice than a Christian who did not. What does that mean?

Some Evangelical leaders are beginning to weigh-in on the matter. On the Albert Mohler Show, Russell Moore and Richard Land discussed 2008 and had some particularly harsh words for Rudy Giuliani. Land, on this occasion at least, took a principled stand, arguing that in a Giuliani-Clinton contest, Christians should look elsewhere. "Some would stay home, and I would counsel them not to do that. They need to go and vote. They can always not vote in that race. I would go and vote, and I would vote for congressmen and I would vote for state senator and state representative, I would vote for U.S. senator, I would vote for governor. But I would not vote in the presidential race," said Land.

Land further went on to say that even as Giuliani promises to nominate strict constructionists to the federal bench that there is no reason to believe him. "How can we believe him?" Land asked. "He promised ... two wives that he would love, honor and cherish and be faithful only unto her until 'death us do part.' And twice he lied to his wife -- twice. He broke his marital vows. That gets to the basic issue of trust, the basic issue of character."

Meanwhile, James Dobson has entered the fray. He has publicly criticized Fred Thompson (who conservatives indeed should be wary of) while calling Newt Gingrich the "brightest guy out there" and "the most articulate politician on the scene today." If Mr. Dobson can support the likes of Gingrich, he is not to be taken seriously. Gingrich is preaching a "Christian America" line on Faux News and in his latest book, but he is a corrupt serial adulterer and voracious warmonger who himself saw fit to stay out of the jungles of southeast Asia when his number was being called.

So what do we do? Well, first we cannot ignore politics. Like it or not, to ignore politics is to separate ourselves from responsibility, and the abdication of responsibility separates us from God. However, we must not worship at the altar of politics. We cannot become "political Christians." Judgment begins in the house of the Lord, and it is clear as Christians we must first clean up our homes and churches before bringing the light and leaven of the Christ into the public sphere.

Upon entering the public sphere, we must behave like a holy nation and a kingdom of priests, not a voting bloc. Being joined at the hip to a political party, the current state of the "Religious Right," is a recipe for disaster.

Finally, we must recognize that character does matter. What drives a man and shapes his worldview is fundamental to knowing who he is and how he thinks. As Rushdoony said, "Where there is moral disintegration, there is no assurance that an elected candidate will maintain a professed position."

Rushdoony continues: "The number of elected conservatives who have switched sides is legion; they crumbled under pressure and under the temptations of power. There is thus little assurance that an election will gain any results, if there is no assured faith and character in the elected man. And politics cannot produce character. Christianity must. The decline of faith is a decline of character and a decline of character is the forerunner of political decay and collapse. Christianity has an obligation to train a people in the fundamentals of God's grace and law and to make them active and able champions of true political liberty and order."

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