Last week I had an opportunity to participate in a small panel of Evangelical voters for CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 ahead of the South Carolina Republican presidential primary. It was a cool experience.
In my only comment that made it into the segment, I said that Evangelicals are not looking for a Pastor-in-Chief. There’s an idea out there that an Evangelical will vote for someone simply because that person professes faith in Jesus and quotes the Bible in his commercials.
But the premise is reductionistic.
It is wonderful to see faith in a candidate. But faith alone does not make someone a good fit to be the leader of a country.
If you were having surgery, would you rather have a doctor who went out of his way to tell you about his faith, but barely got out of medical school? Or would you rather have the best surgeon out there?
Does a candidate’s faith matter at all?
Don’t get me wrong. All else being equal, I’d prefer to have a believer in office. And there’s no doubt that someone who operates from the framework of a Christian worldview will (should) arrive at good conclusions on moral issues.
The line of reasoning I’m laying out here has been used by some to endorse Donald Trump. So let me be clear on one other point:
Character counts. While we shouldn’t be focused on theological purity in evaluating candidates for high office, we absolutely should take into account the character of a candidate:
- How does he carry himself? Does he have the appropriate personal dignity and attitude to serve in high office?
- How does he treat others? Does he seem to prefer serving or being served? (Humility is a wonderful virtue, but rarely seen in a politician. That said, some politicians are clearly more interested in personal aggrandizement than others).
- Is she honest? Can you trust what she says?
- What kind of campaign does he/she run? That might be a good look into what kind of administration one would run if elected.
More could be said, but you get the gist.
While good character does not qualify a candidate for high office, its lack should disqualify him or her.
I fear in our current politics this point is lost by many Evangelicals (and others).
As an Evangelical voter, I’m not looking for a Pastor-in-Chief or some kind of political-spiritual leader to bring revival. I’m looking for a person of integrity, conviction, and compassion.