Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Does Presidential Character Matter?

Twenty-four years ago, the slogan that put Bill Clinton in the White House was, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  I.e., despite other concerns, including the personal character and beliefs of the candidates running, the one issue that should override all others is the need to elect the best candidate to maintain and improve the American economy.  Enough voters were convinced by this rhetorical ploy to elect Mr. Clinton.

Now, six election cycles later, Americans are again faced with a critical decision.  And we are once more bombarded with rhetoric that could well be framed as, “It’s immigration, stupid,”  “It’s climate change, stupid,” or “It’s financial fairness, stupid.”  That is, a candidate’s character is again deemphasized in favor of his views on certain other political issues.

If we evaluate the election from a biblical perspective, character must rise to the top in terms of God’s order of priorities.  Romans chapter 13 declares that civil authorities are to serve as “God’s ministers” to enforce right and wrong by controlling law-breakers and protecting the innocent.  Right and wrong, good and evil, are valuations that civil government must make and enforce.  But this begs the obvious question: who determines what is good and must be protected and what is evil and must be punished?

For those who adhere to the authority of the Bible, the clear answer is that civil government must reflect God’s view on the controversial moral issues of the day.  It should not be the barometer of fickle public opinion.  Rather, the timeless and unchanging standard of Scripture should inform the decision-making of government leaders in their assessment of how to enforce right and wrong.

So, when you enter the voting booth in this primary season, your principal concern should be: which candidate’s character best reflects the truth of Scripture and therefore puts him/her in the best position to enforce legal standards that mirror God’s eternal law?  Proverbs 29:2 captures the essence of the matter: “When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice; but when the wicked rules, the people groan.”

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