In this third article in my series on voting, I would like to address some of the thoughtful feedback I’ve received. If you haven’t read part 1 and part 2 of this series, I ask that you would. One thing that I dislike about publishing series of teachings is that inevitably, some readers read only part of what I’ve written on a particular subject, and then they judge my argument to be deficient in some way, not realizing that I’ve already addressed their objection in an earlier article.
Also, there is no need to be concerned that, because of three articles on the biblical rationale for Christians voting and voting morally, the ministry of Heaven’s Family is “turning political.” Heaven’s Family is and always will be focused on advancing Jesus’ kingdom. And if you’ve read my first article in this series (or Romans 13:1-7), you understand that the authority to vote is God-given. Voting morally is one of many things that Christians do to love their neighbors as themselves.
Finally, to U.S. readers, although the media is focused on the presidential election, remember that in November we have the opportunity to elect 435 U.S. representatives and 34 U.S. senators, not to mention many state and local legislators. Many of those races seem to be more clearly divided on moral issues than the presidential election, which as I’m writing this, and in my opinion, seems to be a choice between cancer and diabetes.
What follows are two objections I’ve received that I’ve not already directly addressed. Here’s the first one:
#1.) “Earthly governments can’t legislate morality. For that reason, it is silly to think that our votes can have any moral consequences.”
First, let’s make sure we understand that by the term “morality,” we are not speaking only of sexual morality, but as Webster’s defines the word: “Concern with the distinction between good and evil or right and wrong; right or good conduct.”
It is certainly true that no earthly government can magically make people inwardly moral. Only God can do that, and He limits Himself in that regard by granting us free will. People are only transformed inwardly, generally speaking, when they cooperate with God’s grace and respond to the gospel. And those transformed people don’t need outward restraints to keep them following a moral path. If you’ve experienced that transformation, you know that even if murder were legalized by the government, there is still no chance that you would become a murderer.
But those who have not been inwardly transformed often need external restraint. And that is one reason that God has established human governments (see Rom. 13:1-6). Human governments restrain evildoers (1) by enacting enforceable laws so that potential lawbreakers weigh the risk of being caught and punished, and (2) by punishing lawbreakers. If we didn’t have human government, there would be anarchy, an example of which we can read about in Judges 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”
Concerning the need for the external restraint of evil by means of law, Paul wrote:
…realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching… (1 Tim. 1:9-10).
Take note that Paul’s list of law-worthy sins is a list of moral issues. Obviously, earthly governments legislate morality when they enact laws against murder, kidnapping, perjury and so on. So much of legislation involves moral implications that one might almost say that earthly governments only legislate morality.
So let us lay aside the old cliche’ that “earthly governments can’t legislate morality.” They do, always have, and always will legislate morality.
And in democratic societies—where morality-legislating leaders are elected—the votes of the electorate obviously have moral consequences. This is inescapable. Our nation’s laws reflect the morality of the legislators who enacted them, and those legislators reflect the morality of the electorate.
Notice I did not say that in democratic societies the legislators reflect the morality of the people, because they don’t. Rather, they reflect the morality of those among the people who vote. If half the people don’t vote, the legislators only reflect the morality of half the country. Consequently, the laws reflect the morality of half the country.
And this is the tragedy of true Christians not voting. Their failure to vote helps promote immorality.
And this is the tragedy of the United States. As our culture slides further down the slope of immorality, millions of people who profess to be followers of Jesus comment, complain and cry about it, but they don’t do the one simple thing that could slow it down, maybe stop it, and potentially even turn it around. They don’t vote. They don’t use their God-granted authority (according to Romans 13:1-6) to at least attempt to do something about the moral slide. Worse, some are proud of not voting, boast about it, and imply that they are holier than the rest of us who do vote.
So let me sum up my argument by saying it a little differently: The fact that governments often legislate immorality proves that they legislate morality. In representative governments, voters ultimately determine the degree of morality or immorality that is legislated—by virtue of their power to elect their representatives. Moral citizens who don’t vote help promote immorality.
Even the immoral decisions made by unelected supreme court judges can’t be blamed only on them, as they were appointed by elected politicians. Indeed, the U.S. Supreme Court is a reflection of all U.S. citizens…except those who don’t vote. What might be different about our supreme court justices had all professing Christians historically voted and voted morally?
#2.) “I agree that Christians should vote, and that they should vote on moral grounds. In your second e-teaching, however, you focused on abortion as a single moral issue that should be used to determine whom we should and should not vote for. But there are other moral issues that voters should consider. We should not be just one-issue voters.”
I agree that there are other moral issues within the political arena to consider besides abortion. In reality, most every political issue is a moral issue. Immigration. Poverty. Discrimination. The protection of the freedoms of speech and religion. Health care. The national debt. Gun rights. The environment. Lobbying abuse. All of these issues carry moral implications, and people take sides on moral grounds.
But please allow me to put all of this in perspective to abortion. Let us imagine that a law was passed that legalized the parental killing of children of any age with Down’s Syndrome because it was determined that such children really aren’t human beings who possess constitutional rights, and they are a burden to their parents. So, since parents have the right to privacy, they should be permitted to legally kill their children of any age who have Down’s Syndrome in their homes.
And let us imagine that as a result, every year in the United States, one million children with Down’s Syndrome were being killed by their parents, and their remains tossed into garbage bins. One million! That’s 2,700 every day. And let us image that one of the most popular methods of killing children with Down’s Syndrome was by ripping their limbs from their bodies and crushing their skulls, because “science revealed” that Down’s Syndrome children actually don’t feel pain.
Such a law would instantly become a political issue, with the majority of people believing it to be morally wrong. All followers of Jesus would of course believe it would be morally wrong.
What then would you think of a professing Christian who says, “I’m opposed to the parental killing of one million children annually who have Down’s Syndrome, but there are other moral political issues. Thus I’m going to vote for a candidate who is in favor of the continued legalization of the parental killing of children with Down’s Syndrome, because that candidate wants to raise the minimum wage to help the poor”?
Such a Christian would be revealing that he or she perversely believes that the plight of low-wage workers should be of more concern than the plight of millions of Down’s Syndrome children who will be barbarically murdered.
My simple point is that the abortion issue eclipses all other moral issues. Candidates who get that one wrong seem unlikely to get other moral issues right. Candidates who get that one right give us some hope that they might get other moral issues right as well.
It is more than just a little bit hypocritical for candidates who are in favor of the legalization of the murder of the unborn to make claims about their high moral stand on other issues. To use a recent comparison that I read, such people are akin to “cannibals who obsess about table manners.” Their lives are a very strange contradiction. It seems so odd to hear some people claim they are, for example, opposed to discrimination, when they’ve classed one group of people as non-persons who have no right to life, who favor forcibly taking money from some and giving it to others via taxes, and who believe that people of faith and conscience should be forced to provide services that require them to violate their conscience or faith. Isn’t that discrimination against the unborn, people who have money, and people of conscience and faith?
Along these lines of being a “one-issue voter,” it is sometimes argued that other moral issues, such as poverty, are related to abortion, and thus by voting for candidates who are against poverty—even though they are pro-abortion—we can reduce abortion. More specifically, by raising the standard of living of poor women, fewer will allegedly abort their babies, as they would have less to worry about regarding how they would financially support their babies.
Even if raising the standard of living of poor women would reduce abortions (and I’m not saying it would), the premise of the argument assumes that pro-abortion candidates are more concerned about poverty than pro-life candidates, thus justifying what would otherwise be an immoral vote for an immoral candidate. If you ask the candidates, however, all of them will tell you they are concerned about poverty, but you will find that they disagree on the best ways to help the poor.
Some candidates want to help the poor by giving them free benefits, obviously paid for by others, as someone has to pay for every benefit. As pastor Adrian Rogers once said, “What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.” And although we all seem to accept it, that practice by governments amounts to theft of the Robin Hood variety, which everyone knows is still morally wrong. If you did it, you’d go to prison.
Interestingly, candidates who advocate more freebies for the poor often claim the moral high ground as “champions of the poor,” yet they are hoping to accomplish their moral ends by immoral means. First, they want to help the poor using stolen money. Second, with that stolen money they then destroy the initiative and dignity of the poor, create dependencies, encourage slothfulness, fuel crime and vice, and not only keep the poor permanently poor, but drag down the economy of the entire nation in the process. So in the end, it isn’t really even a case of an immoral means used to accomplish a moral end. It is an immoral means used to accomplish an immoral end.
Other candidates want to help the poor by removing barriers to businesses that keep them from thriving, because job opportunities are created by businesses. This is obvious. If the unemployment rate is 5%, the employment rate is 95%. Clearly, it is business that is keeping that 95% from all having no income and being poor. Business was the solution for the 95%. So it is obviously the best solution for the 5%. Many candidates understand that. So they want to help businesses thrive and offer them incentives to create more job opportunities.
Incidentally, concerning those among the unemployed who are unemployed because they don’t want to work (and whom the government often incentivizes to remain lazy), the Bible, the obvious authoritative book on morality, says that they should be left to starve (see 2 Thes. 3:10 if you don’t believe me). That helps motivate them to get back to work, and that is the moral thing to do to people who want to hold slaves, that is, who want others to work so that they don’t have to.
It seems strange to a simple person like me when pro-business candidates are labeled “anti-poor” since it is business, and business alone, that keeps everyone from being poor. Additionally, it is business that makes it possible for people to produce more than they consume so that they have money to serve those who are truly needy, that is, those who are unable to work, not those who are unwilling. (Of course we all understand that business unrestrained and unregulated can potentially exploit people. Which is why we have laws to restrain and regulate business.)
Finally, let me finish by addressing a matter that I already mentioned in passing above, that is, raising the minimum wage, something that might appear to be a moral means for helping the working poor. However, on a closer examination, it actually isn’t.
Of course, regardless of what a government dictates, the real minimum wage is always zero, because that is what people earn who are unemployed. And it is an unalterable law of economics that, when you artificially raise the price of something, it decreases the demand for it and creates a surplus. So raising the price of the lowest-paid workers decreases the demand for them as employers find more efficient uses of their capital (such as automated machines). Consequently, raising the minimum wage results in some low-wage workers losing their jobs and prevents others from being able to enter the work force. By helping some, others have to be hurt. That is not moral.
Of course, the lowest-wage workers who remain employed benefit from an increased minimum wage. But even that benefit is short-lived. When labor costs increase, employers pass that increase on to their customers, which of course includes customers who are among the lowest wage earners. Imagine what would happen to the price of McDonald’s hamburgers if McDonald’s had to pay all its workers twice as much. Of course, the price of burgers would go up for everyone, including those who are now earning a higher minimum wage.
Candidates who, claiming the moral high ground, advocate increasing the minimum wage “in order to help the working poor earn a living wage,” rarely mention the fact that of all American workers, only 2.6% earn the federal minimum wage. That means 97.4% earn more than the minimum wage, because the free market rewards skilled and experienced (that is, more valuable) labor.
Moreover, half of all minimum wage workers are ages 16-24, and 64% work part time. So minimum wage workers are typically young, single people who have just entered the work force, who only want to work part-time because they are going to school, and who may still live at home. They don’t need a wage that will support a family. The skills and experience they gain at those minimum wage jobs can help them qualify later for more skilled and higher-paying jobs, jobs that can make it possible for them to support a family.
Concerning heads of families who must have a higher income than the minimum wage, the honorable answer lies not in electing politicians who promise to take more from others to give more to them, but in them gaining skills that make them more valuable to employers (or so they can start their own businesses). That requires work, of course. But that is how most everyone who is earning more than minimum wage has done it.
In any case, it is safe to say that most minimum wage workers earn a minimum wage temporarily, and are on their way up and out. They should be thankful for the opportunity to earn money while they gain experience and skill that will make them more valuable and thus eligible for higher wages in the future. Raising the minimum wage, however, closes that door of opportunity for some. It is a fact that has been repeatedly proven all over the world.
In conclusion, what appears to be the moral thing is not always the moral thing. Helping one person by hurting another, what is known as discrimination, isn’t moral.
Thanks for any and all feedback. I read it all. — David