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How should I decide?

September 8, 2012

We’ve had an interesting e-mail discussion floating around our church for the past few days.  It all started when Pastor Ken forwarded to the church e-mail group a thoughtful article on whether or not an evangelical should vote for a Mormon.  E-mails from the group have gone back and forth expressing a variety of opinions.

As is the always case at Trinity Community, a vigorous but polite debate ensured on the subject.  I frankly feel our church discussions could be good examples to the political discourse in general on disagreeing without being disagreeable.  We quite often differ on political and cultural issues but rarely do so in an angry way.

So, should an evangelical vote for a Mormon?  I’ve decided to courageously say I don’t know.  In general I am a supporter of the “good pilot theory.”  If I am flying on a plane in distress I’d rather have a good pilot than a good Christian at the controls.  I can’t imagine myself saying in a hypothetical emergency “I’ll land us!  I don’t know the first thing about flying a plane but I am a strong believer and I am sure God will guide me.”  With that theory in mind I’d tend to value competence over theology when choosing a President or, for that matter, a plumber.

But just how important is it that we are in comfortable theological agreement with our President?  How big does a theological difference need to be before I can’t in good conscience give that person my vote?  Am I comfortable denying my vote to a person with whom I agree on 90% of the issues because that missing 10% is important?  What if, when I withhold my vote, I end up helping the guy with whom I disagree 90% of the time?  These are tough questions.

Over the years I’ve voted for presidential candidates quite a bit.  Sometimes those I’ve voted for have ended up being exactly what I had hoped for.  Sometimes those who I did not vote for ended up being exactly what I feared too.  But sometimes the reverse has been true; those I didn’t like have pleasantly surprised me and those I favored disappointed.  Oddly enough, the two times I explicitly used the professed evangelical beliefs of a candidate in casting my vote I ended up disappointed in their presidential performance. 

So how do I decide?  I think it starts with humility.  Frankly, I really don’t know anything about either Obama or Romney.  All I know is how wonderful they, and their supporters, say they are and/or how awful they and their supporters say the other guy would be.  Apparently both stand ready to create several million jobs, which is a good thing, but I’ve not been able to be clear about how either plans to actually do that.  In the end, I have to admit I am guessing.

For me the answer to this question goes back to the good pilot theory.  Where does this pilot intend to fly this plane?  If we lay aside the platitudes about a shining and prosperous future of peace and harmony, what course does he actually want to chart to that rosy future?  While it is possible that a theological disagreement could be so huge that I could not vote for a man (or woman!) I don’t really see that happening.  I plan to take my best guess and wait and see, confident that God will not be shocked by the result, whatever it may be.

In the meantime, if this issue really troubles you I’d like to point out that as of this morning 417,055 people have signed a pledge to vote for Jesus.  You can see the current tally here.

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