Does the Faith of a Presidential Candidate Matter?

Three things to keep in mind.

As Americans, we are blessed with the privilege and responsibility to choose our leaders from among ourselves. Our leaders come from our neighborhoods, cities and states. Before they were our governors, senators or presidents, these individuals were our neighbors and our friends.

This makes the American election experience uniquely personal. Kings inherit and prime ministers are chosen by their peers, but presidents must shake their neighbors’ hands, and look voters in the eye.

This close connection between the governor and the governed can be stabilizing for the country, but it can also be dangerous. A president is destined to reflect values of his/her time in a way that is unlike other positions of leadership.

Christians are called to be in the world, but not of the world. That calling is full of complexity and tension as we straddle two different kingdoms. The eternal heavenly kingdom has our hearts, the earthly kingdom our bodies. And where one kingdom begins and the other ends has been debated pretty much constantly during the last 2,000 years.

As our nation changes, as we become more and more secular, candidates begin to reflect this reality. For the first time in living memory, we're facing a diversity of beliefs represented among the candidates running for president. Some are broadly Protestant, some Baptist, some Seventh Day Adventist, some Jewish, some Catholic, and at least one had no perceptible religious affiliation until he decided to run for office.

The president wields immense influence on the direction of the country and the mood of the people. This powerful position demands wisdom.

As Christians who are called to follow a heavenly Lord but also called on to vote for earthly leaders, how much should we demand of our candidates? To put it another way, does the faith of a presidential candidate matter?

Practically speaking the answer is, Yes. Poll after poll, election after election, the apparent presence of genuine faith among candidates has been consistently rewarded by the voters. A majority of Americans claim belief in God or a god, and contend that faith in that higher power is important to them, so any candidate who ignores this reality often does so at great risk to his or her national ambitions.

But beyond the practical and the political value, the faith a presidential candidate does matter. Now, this doesn’t mean you should vote for a candidate simply because he or she claims to follow a similar faith tradition to yours. But you should pay attention to what they believe—and how they live it out.

Here are three reasons the faith of a candidate matters:

Faith Matters Because of the Past

Whether you like to admit it or not, religious faith and specifically the Christian faith has played an indispensable role in the life of the United States from before its inception. I am not trying to paint the image that the founders were all Sunday school teachers, or that the first continental Congress was some kind of church meeting. But woven into the fabric of our laws and history are the threads of Christian virtue and providence.

The presidency is by intention, happenstance and providence a mold into which men and women of varying beliefs must conform, a heritage they must respect. Those who choose to break that mold have done so at great cost to their careers and great peril to the nation. Winston Churchill once said, "First of all, we need to learn that a nation that does not know its roots will die. Just like a tree. ... And secondly, leaders who will not affirm that foundation will not properly serve their nation.”

We should care about a candidate’s/president’s faith because the presence of faith has almost always been important.

We should not hate candidates simply because they do not possess our faith.

Faith Matters Because of Power

Regardless of cultural changes and social shifts, one thing stays the same: The presence of real power exercised by the president. The president wields immense influence on the direction of the country and the mood of the people. This powerful position demands wisdom.

You Might Also Like

As Christians, we know that true wisdom is not found in an appreciation of history or an application of political talent. Wisdom begins with a fear of the Lord, an appreciation of His power and our place beneath it. Our founding fathers designed a government to check and balance power, which mirrored the reality all leaders must recognize; that earthly power is temporary and limited.

Christian faith teaches that, according to Romans 13, leaders rise and fall only due to God’s permission. Presidents that fail to see their limited influence in relation to God’s power often abuse what little power they truly possess. It's telling that regardless of a president's faith going into the oval office, almost inevitably, he emerges oddly humbled and more deferential to the presence of God than when he started.

Faith Matters Because of the Person

Christians must recognize that candidates are not ideological abstractions to support or oppose, they are people who deserve our love and prayers. We should not hate candidates simply because they do not possess our faith. Knowing the joy and peace that faith in Christ brings should make us all the more compassionate to see those who profess no belief come to faith in Christ.

Believers may increasingly face the prospect of candidates who do not share their values, who may possess little to no indication of true faith in God or Christ. But we do little to affirm our own faith in Jesus Christ when we decry and ridicule His apparent absence in the lives of others. We may not always have a say in the faith of our candidates, and we may have little control over the faith of our leaders in the future. All we can do is affirm the worth of the faith we profess, by demonstrating its values of love, faith and hope to a watching world.

Top Comments

Elle

37

Elle commented…

It seems that the most vocally Christian candidates also oppose letting in refugees, have voted against the Violence Against Women act, support military measures in Syria that will result in a large number of civilian casualties, and seek to legislate morality. As a Christian, I cannot support these candidates.

Carlos Rodriguez

98

Carlos Rodriguez commented…

Which ever side you lean towards (left or right or just in-between) know this: Jesus IS the King of Kings. He rules and reigns supreme. And He got there through The Cross. He was given the name above all names because He died for His friends (and His enemies).

I pray with all my heart that we stop the silly pursuit of political power, of trying to change people’s hearts with bills and law and elections, of trying to force the concept of “Christian nations” instead of taking the love of Christ to ALL the peoples in ALL the nations.

Read more: www.happysonship.com/jesus-the-republican

7 Comments

theMKlife

5

theMKlife commented…

Although the bulk of the article presents relatively valid information and scriptural interpretation, the conclusion present some fallacies:

"But we do little to affirm our own faith in Jesus Christ when we decry and ridicule His apparent absence in the lives of others.

Fallacy: Too often, calling to attention a candidates moral failings, immoral acts or complete lack of concern for morality is labeled "ridicule" or even "hateful".

Truth: This is the voice of the godless PC crowd who refuses to be held accountable for their actions and tries to bully anyone who speaks truth. Simply berating a candidate on a personal level is not godly. But speaking the truth is our requirement.

"We may not always have a say in the faith of our candidates, and we may have little control over the faith of our leaders in the future."

Fallacy: We have no say? No control?

Truth: Every citizen of the USA (and illegals in California) always have a "say". How we go about it will likely determine whether others listen or not, but we always have a say. As to control, this is both right and wrong. History is replete with examples of individuals and small groups that have made enormous changes in their community, their culture and their country. No, we cannot "control" the faith of any other person. Even God choose not to. But we can say, write, post, call, picket, demonstrate, protest, visit and stand! Jesus stood against the hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees, calling them vipers and white-washed tombs. Jesus wasn't ridiculing them. He was exposing their hypocrisy.

David James Haisell

46

David James Haisell commented…

"prime ministers are chosen by their peers"

You do know that Canada, Australia, the UK, and other Commonwealth realms elect their prime ministers, right?

Jeffrey Krall

44

Jeffrey Krall commented…

I believe both sides bring an ordained perspective...choosing a side can be tricky at times...http://onelordonebody.com/2010/05/17/who-does-god-want-me-to-vote-for/

Ck Weaver

3

Ck Weaver commented…

One Jew and the rest some denomination of Christian. What is the problem? The only problem is if a person of some religion ran and governed to make their religious law equal to or above the law of the land. Christians over the last 50 to 100 years have ceded Biblical law to the state. That however doesn't exonerate Christians from living according to New Testament law. For example government law allows abortions, that doesn't mean all Christians should sanction abortion nor do they have the right to stop others from getting an abortion.
Live your life according to your belief, don't FORCE others to believe as you do.

Carlos Rodriguez

98

Carlos Rodriguez commented…

Which ever side you lean towards (left or right or just in-between) know this: Jesus IS the King of Kings. He rules and reigns supreme. And He got there through The Cross. He was given the name above all names because He died for His friends (and His enemies).

I pray with all my heart that we stop the silly pursuit of political power, of trying to change people’s hearts with bills and law and elections, of trying to force the concept of “Christian nations” instead of taking the love of Christ to ALL the peoples in ALL the nations.

Read more: www.happysonship.com/jesus-the-republican

Please log in or register to comment

Log In