restoring our biblical and constitutional foundations


Republican Group Think

Karl Hofmann

In November 1992, I was a disenfranchised college sophomore who would have rather watched flies walk across the wall than vote in a presidential election.  I was not a Christian then, but remember distinctly that it was the first time I had heard of someone running for president who wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican.  The last time a third party candidate had run was in 1980, when John B. Anderson ran on the independent ticket against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.  I was eight in 1980 and blissfully ignorant of politics.  In my senior year of high school, May 17, 1990, I registered for selective services and to vote during my lunch period.  I registered Republican because my father was a Republican.

Two years later in 1992, my first opportunity to vote in a presidential election arrived, and I was not even remotely interested.  But I remember being struck by Ross Perot, with all of his charts and pointer wavings.  I was fairly sure he did not know enough to be qualified for president, but there was something attractive about having a choice.  Clinton, of course, was not a choice; I was a Republican after all.

I remember having a conversation with my father before the election of 1992, where I told him that if I voted, it would be for Perot.  He said, “A vote for Perot is a vote for Clinton.”  So I didn’t vote.  It turns out he was right.  Being fully a product of my Gen-X, postmodern, bumper-sticker peer group, I didn’t really care.  Being unregenerate, I felt justified in not caring.

In June of 1996 the Lord saved me.  My infancy in the Lord kept me busy with the elementary teachings of Christ (Hebrew 6:1-2).  When November 1996 came along, again I did not vote.  So much was changing in my life so quickly that politics seemed like the least important thing in the world.  I was going to heaven and I needed to tell other people about Jesus–that was all that mattered.  Who was Bob Dole anyway?

By November 2000 I had come to understand that my spiritual family was more Republican than my natural one.  Politics, it seemed, was a very important subject to Christians around election time.  I learned that Christians should vote for the candidate who was Republican… and pro-life, pro-family, anti-gay-rights, etc. if possible.  Pragmatism was the rule: in the event that a candidate didn’t pass muster on all the principle issues, voting Republican was still the bottom line Christian responsibility.  Being fully a product of my radical conversion, I could not see how such pragmatic thinking had anything to do with the gospel, so again I did not vote.

The decision not to vote afforded me some objectivity in watching many in Christ sweat such a close victory.  I was astounded at how much corporate prayer I saw, on the front end, that God would give us a Christian president, and on the back end thanking him for the victory against the forces of evil.  One would have thought the Kingdom had come.

In light of the closeness of the 2000 election, some of my Christian brothers asked me if I had voted (there was no doubt in their mind about whom I would have voted for).  When I told them that I wasn’t informed enough on the issues and that someone’s profession of faith was not a litmus test for me, I was soundly rebuked with, “You could at least have voted Republican.”  Feeling a little defensive, I proceeded to deconstruct this proposition.  I learned a number of things from that exercise: they didn’t have a clue what they were supporting; I didn’t have a clue what I was tearing down; and finally and most importantly, neither position was acceptably Christian.

The events of the past four years, coupled with the growth that God has granted in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, have brought me to a better understanding of what it means to live as a heavenly citizen during my pilgrimage on earth.  I have learned that principle counts, always, and in every situation, that the gospel applies to everything that I do, whether I eat or drink or vote.  Without exception, I can and must conduct myself with a view to communicating the glory of the Father through Jesus Christ.

For the Christian and politics, this means voting for a man who represents two non-negotiable platforms: a Judeo-Christian understanding of morality and justice; and a commitment to the constitutional form of government established by our Founders.  I have found few disagreements in principle with Christians concerning the first platform.  Regarding the second, most people are largely ignorant of the theological rationale for a constitutional form of government – I know I was until recently. 

What is most disturbing to me, however, is not the ignorance I see among evangelicals concerning things political (ignorance can be remedied with information), but the abject pragmatism that seems to be fueling the coziness between Christians and the GOP.

To be sure, this is all symptomatic of a much larger problem in the American church.  It is instructive to deconstruct a bit of the pragmatism I’ve encountered recently.  When telling people that I’m voting for the Constitution Party’s presidential candidate Michael Peroutka, on more than one occasion I have been challenged with something like, “A vote for anyone else besides Bush is a vote of Kerry and Kerry is a much worse choice than Bush.”  The philosophy behind such a statement is biblically flawed on two accounts:

·        Firstly, it declares something about the future that God has not said.  Anyway you cut it – probability, statistics, common sense – in matters that touch upon principle, the Lord requires complete trust in Him for the future.  Whenever we make decisions in the present based upon what we think will happen in the future rather than what God says (referring to how we should glorify Him), we are operating in the flesh and fearing something besides God.  If, in your conscience, voting for the president is not a matter of principle, than you either have a much stronger conscience than mine (in which case there is not much I could say about this issue that would perturb you), or you are in error.  Even a decision not to vote is one of principle and a right that can be faithfully exercised if there is no qualified candidate to vote for.  Those who object to this, saying that doing something is always better than doing nothing, must remember that politics cannot solve man’s problems – that is not its job.

·        Secondly, to say that it is better to have the lesser of two evils betrays a lack of confidence in God’s providence, and elevates the ends over the principled means.  Again, God is responsible for the outcome; we must be faithful in the process.  I must be as clear as possible on this point, so I will change the adjectives:  Voting for the better of two “goods” and ignoring the “best” candidate because of the pragmatism of statistical hope, is faithless.  No one would have chosen Jesus based upon this logic; this is the logic of Gamaliel (Acts 5:33-43). Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

If you are like I was eight years ago, a child in the Lord and ignorant of a Christian’s responsibility in politics, it is better for you not to vote than to be caught up in group‑think.  If you are no longer a child in the Lord, part of pressing on to completion requires that you take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ in order that you might no longer be tossed to and fro by the group-think that has taken so much of American Christianity captive.  A last minute, uncritical, pragmatic decision, is not a Christian option.

In my humble opinion Michael Peroutka best exemplifies the principles and plans that a Christian ought to consider when voting for the president of the United States.  I have not found anything in his platform that I disagree with politically or biblically.  I cannot say the same for the present administration on either count.  We are currently free to disagree–this is certainly no test of fellowship.  But I do believe voting in a principled and informed way is part of living as a citizen of heaven, shining as a light in this crooked and twisted generation, while walking around as temporary citizens of the United States.

July 16, 2004

Karl Hofmann is a Christian, husband, father, church member, and seminary student, currently living in Raleigh, NC.  He may be reached for comment at here.

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