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July 29, 2008


During my seminary experience - in which you were such a huge and influential part - we were always challenged to enter into their world, that is the world of the text, the world of the audience, or in the case of this post, the situation that Paul was addressing in Crete. I found myself saying, as I read, "you've done it again," and by "again" I mean convicting me of my lack of understanding (and therefore possible misapplication) of the bible. Wonderful insights into Titus and spot on application to our world today. I have a good friend who shamelessly admits that he is a "one-issue" voter, meaning he will not ever under any circumstances vote for a candidate who is pro-abortion. Do you think this is legit? How should I counsel if it's not? Now I must hesitantly anticipate your comment to my most recent post.

I have two comments which are really more questions...just not phrased or punctuated that way:

1) when I read 1 Timothy 2 to pray for the kings and authorities, I read it this way: "pray for the authorities so that they stay the hell out of the way and allow the church to work unhindered" - not "pray for the authorities so that they do what is right". I understand that is certainly my presuppositions coming through - ie: a secular govt cannot rightly administer justice because it has no concept of right - therefore the best we can hope for in a secular world is that it[the govt] doesn't interfere with the church's work.

2) This goes back to an email I fired off to a group of friends a couple weeks ago (I think inspired by John Piper's gun control stance). On one side I certainly see living at peace with the authorities and slandering no one. I think you can take that stance and be totally legit - praying for guys like Hitler and Stalin and Mao as they murder millions of people. I think you can make a strong Biblical argument for never physically fighting wars and submitting even to the most evil men. But I think you can also make a strong argument that if some dude is abusing his power, there is certainly a reason to take him down - which almost requires not "living at peace with all men". The conclusion of that email as will be the conclusion of this comment is that I have no idea how to balance those two ideals. I just know if I come home and find some dude raping my wife, it will be awfully hard to "to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men."

Linc, thanks for your thoughts. No, I don't think single-issue voting is wise. I think that we've learned since 1973 that a sea change in public opinion has to occur before abortion can be eliminated. Logically, if a person doesn't support the rights of the unborn (the weakest in society) maybe I shouldn't expect them to work for justice for anybody else. But life doesn't follow logic. In fact, such-and-such a candidate who believes abortion should remain legal may have more impact in lowering abortions by furthering policies that make abortion seem less necessary than so-and-so candidate whose sole purpose for serving in office is legislatively overturning it. Thanks again. Reggie

Dan, thanks for your questions not phrased as such. Here's my best shot, on the fly:

1) I do think it's a person's presupposition and not the text of 1Tm 2 itself that would have someone merely praying that the state not interfere in the church's work. Humans can't help it that they are made in the image of God. Humans can't help but create societies that reflect to some extent God's character and the dignity with which and for which God created them, whether they know it or not. To the extent that doesn't happen there will be sheer murderous barbarism; to the extent it does happen, there will be a measure of civility and social justice. By all means, pray that you have a government that does not hinder the church's work. But also pray for a government that -- whether knowing why it does so or not -- creates a climate in which justice and self-control flourish.

2) I agree with you that Paul's injunction to "live at peace with all men" is situation-specific, and cannot be woodenly applied. Titus 3:1-2 and Rom 13:1-7 are injunctions for life under the best case scenario. In Rom 12:18, Paul himself provides further nuance: "If possible, as far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all." That means: if the government tells me to disobey God, I must disobey the government (Acts 4:19-20). It also means that when when I am confronted with a person who is doing violence to another person, my job becomes protecting the innocent (Prov 24:10-12).

I know those aren't complete answers, but I think they head in the right direction. Thanks again. Reggie

I may be the good friend to whom Linc refers. I have called myself a single-issue voter, but what I mean by that is this: I think that most people are probably single issue voters in a sense. By that, I mean that I’m guessing we all have an issue that would automatically eliminate a candidate. I hesitate to use a hypothetical scenario or example from history, but I think such examples would abound. In a similar vain, I’m a single-issue voter in the sense that I am committed to never voting for a pro-choice candidate. That doesn’t mean it’s the only issue that I care about or that I think the solution to that problem is merely political. And it certainly doesn’t mean that I’ll vote for any pro-life candidate who requests my vote. It only means that I see that issue as large enough to be a single-issue eliminator. I’m asking honestly: do you also think that position is unwise?

Honestly, in spite of all the nuances I've heard, I can't get around that isue being the single biggest moral issue on our lifetimes. I feel so unsophisticated saying and even thinking that. I don't want to be a black-or-white, dogmatic, simplistic dude. Nevertheless, I'd be lying if I said I don't think we're blinded to how horrific it is for us to consider people who are open to defending abortion. I simply cannot stop feeling that way.

Alex, I am close to being in sync with you ... I pretty much see a pro-abortion stance as disqualifying too ... but life is strange, and sometimes there are happy inconsistencies in the way people actually behave ... it's possible (as I indicate in my comment back to Linc) that the politician I agree with in principle is not actually able to help the cause and a politician I disagree with in principle shapes governmental policy in such a way as to make the situation a better one. I think it's a matter, as Jesus put it (though I'm pulling the phrase from its specific context) of, "wisdom being vindicated by her children" (Lk 7:35). Thanks for your thoughts ... much to ponder.

Dr. Kidd -

Thanks for the kind and helpful response. Another question I have, if you don't mind, is this: how much do you weigh the faith of potential candidates? If a candidate is secular or Mormon or something else other than Christian, does that factor in significantly for you? Any thoughts are appreciated.

It's all relevant. The hard thing is that the filtering system that stands between any candidate and me is so dense, I don't know how to interpret information about their faith.

There's a YouTube video out there right now that has my friend Joel Hunter (pastor of Northland, A Church Distributed; and featured in Frances Fitzgerald's June 30 New Yorker article as her prime example of "The New Evangelicals") asking Hillary Clinton a question about how values shape her decision-making. Joel is one of the most penetrating Christian thinkers I know, but the setting totally allows her to go into politician-speak on him. You leave with absolutely no idea what she really believes and how her beliefs affect her policy-positions.

We've seen Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton (don't believe it? ask Tony Campolo), and George W. Bush, all of whom claim some sort of evangelical/born-again experience and perspective. And it's hard to find a consistent thread of impact of their faith on their policies. It's pretty frustrating.

I've almost (note: *almost*!) come to conclude I have to discount or ignore the question of a candidates personal faith and just try to weed through the policy statements: who is most likely to create a climate in which faith, justice, and self-control can flourish?

Maybe you've got a better approach, Alex ... or maybe some other citizens of Commongrounds Nation have better wisdom to offer.


Dr. Kidd - Very well put and helpful. Thank you for your time and helpful insight. By the way, awesome book (With One Voice) and awesome piece on Jackie Robinson! Keep up the great work!

Reggie, Linc and company,
I just posted a short article I wrote on abortion on my blog at www.lindydavidson.net. Rather than going into it all here, it was easier to do it there. This being said, I'm with you Reggie. I remember one day in class one of our Canadian friends saying that we were eventually going to have to pick a new issue because the day would come when a pro-life candidate wouldn't be on the ballot. I have something else I'm working on that flips this whole concept of abortion being a Republican issue. The people who get the credit, at least, for civil rights justice are the Democrats. (in recent history, that is) What if all the pro-life people became Democrats and then started strong-arming their candidates to consider the other side? I know, it's totally upside-down. Sometimes the way up is the way down though.

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