Billy Graham entered the political fray last week with a Vote Biblical Values campaign. While not endorsing a specific candidate, he does provide some helpful voting tips:
I believe it is vitally important that we cast our ballots for candidates who base their decisions on biblical principles and support the nation of Israel. I urge you to vote for those who protect the sanctity of life and support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman. Vote for biblical values this November 6, and pray with me that America will remain one nation under God.
So, as Christians we have an obligation to vote for candidates who:
- base their decisions on biblical principles
- support the nation of Israel
- protect the sanctity of life
- support the biblical definition of marriage between a man and a woman
Apparently this list constitutes the core “biblical values” and unless the winning candidate falls in line with those positions, there’s a very real risk that America will have rejected God. Never mind that Romans 13.1 says that God (not us) establishes the government authorities. And never mind that Jesus himself (you know, the guy who founded Christianity) clearly laid out what the real biblical values are in Mat. 22.36-40. No, here Graham has helpfully provided the definitive list by which we should judge the candidates. Let’s take a look at these crucial values.
- What are biblical principles for decision making? Should we look to 1 Kings 3.16-28 when deciding maternity cases? Or Judges 6.36-40 when deciding whether or not to go to war in defense of Israel? Or should Matthew 5.39-42 be our guide for conducting foreign policy? Maybe instead of referencing vague “biblical principles,” we should base our decisions on good principles, period. The Bible isn’t the I Ching; it’s not a self-help book. Without clarifying what the “biblical principles” are, this statement amounts to nothing more than feel-good pandering to American Evangelicals.
- We should support the nation of Israel? Yes, we have a strategic interest in the Middle East, but why should the country of Israel be given special consideration? I thought that “there is no longer Jew or Gentile” (Gal. 3.28). I thought that “not all those who are descended from Israel are truly Israel” (Rom. 9.6). Furthermore, the religion of one presidential candidate has an understanding of “the nation of Israel” that would likely come as a shock to most Christians.
- Protecting “the sanctity of life” is a not-so-subtle reference to abortion (and possibly contraception, euthanasia and embryonic stem-cell research). I assume the reference is to human life, not life in general, or else we should be looking for a vegetarian candidate. But even with that clarification, the statement raises more questions than it answers: Is it the sanctity that needs protecting, or the life itself? When does life begin? What constitutes life? Does this include opposition to the death penalty? Does military action violate the sanctity of life? Is protecting human life truly a paramount moral obligation? These questions don’t have easy answers — pretending to offer those answers in the form of a pithy catch-phrase does nothing to engage with the complex moral issues.
- I’ve been searching the Bible for the biblical definition of marriage. Unfortunately, my Bible is more narrative than lexicon, but I’ve managed to come up with a few Biblical standards for marriage: polygamist (1 Kings 11.3), arranged (Gen. 24.1-4), levirate (Deut. 25.5-10), and between a rapist and his victim (Deut. 22.28-29). I have not heard any candidate espouse these biblical principles for marriage.
While I appreciate Billy Graham as a person and generally value what his ministry has accomplished over the years, this ad campaign is a serious misstep. It perpetuates unhelpful rhetoric and serves as little more than a thinly veiled endorsement of Mitt Romney — a candidate who, though not a Christian himself, Christians are supposed to vote for since they supposedly share the same set of “biblical values.” For a much better examination of Christian values in relation to the election, I suggest Miroslav Volf’s nuanced and thoughtful Values of a Public Faith.