Statement Regarding Biblical Issues in the 2004 Elections, October 2004
Crosswalk.com editor’s note: While we may choose to disagree on certain matters of public policy, or support different political parties, the fact remains that we as Christians have an objective standard of truth – the Bible — to base our decisions on. No matter how complex or contemporary the debate might be, the Bible speaks to it. That’s why it’s critical to spend time understanding what the Bible says about the important issues of today – and the 2004 elections. The following statement – recently prepared and endorsed by more than 70 Christian leaders (click here for list of names) — is presented for the thoughtful consideration of all who are interested in how the Bible might speak to ethical issues in the current political contests.
1. Supreme Court justices: People may not consider the appointment of Supreme Court Justices to be an ethical issue, but it clearly is now because several of the Court’s decisions have imposed on our nation new policies with significant ethical and religious ramifications.
A slim majority of our current Supreme Court — and lower courts which follow their example — have gone beyond their Constitutionally-defined task of interpreting laws passed by Congress and state legislatures, and have in effect created new “laws” that have never been passed by any elected body. By this process they have imposed on “the people” decrees that allow abortionists to murder unborn babies (contrary to Exodus 20:13 and Romans 13:9, “you shall not murder”), protect pornographers who poison the minds of children and adults (contrary to Exodus 20:17, “You shall not covet … your neighbor’s wife; see also Matt. 5:28), that redefine marriage to include homosexual couples (thus giving governmental encouragement to actions that Romans 1:26-28 says are morally wrong), and that banish prayer, God’s name and God’s laws from public places (thus prohibiting free exercise of religion, and violating Romans 13:3 which says that government should be “not a terror to good conduct, but to bad”). In taking to itself the right to decree such policies, the Supreme Court has seriously distorted the system of “checks and balances” intended by the Constitution between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government.
It is unlikely that any elected body such as a city council, state legislature, or the U.S. Congress, would have decreed policies like those mentioned above, for such groups are accountable to the will of the people. Not so the Supreme Court, which is appointed for life. And democratically-elected members of Congress and state legislatures are helpless to change those Court-mandated policies unless the makeup of the Court is changed. We believe the ethical choice is a President and U.S. Senate committed to appointing judges who will follow the original intent of the Constitution — interpret law, not create it; enforce the will of the people, not thwart it — rather than candidates who have often voted to block such judges in votes in the Senate.
2. Defense against terrorists: A fundamental responsibility of government is to “punish those who do evil” (1 Pet. 2:14) and thus to protect its citizens. We now face a unique challenge, because terrorists who will sacrifice their own lives in killing others cannot be deterred by the usual threat of punishing a criminal after he commits a crime. While Jesus instructed individuals not to seek personal revenge but to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39), the Bible instructs that governments are responsible to “bear the sword” (Rom. 13:4) and use force to oppose violent evil. We believe the ethical choice is support for a candidate who will pursue terrorists and, when necessary, use force to stop them before they strike us; not for a candidate who only promises to respond if we are attacked again.
3. Abortion: The Bible views the unborn child as a human person who should be protected, since David said to God, “You knitted me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13; see also Psalm 51:5; 139:13; Luke 1:44), and strong penalties were imposed for endangering or harming the life of an unborn child (Exodus 21:22-23). We believe the ethical choice is for candidates who believe government should give protection to the lives of unborn children, and not for those who assert that people have a right to murder their unborn children.
4. Homosexual marriage: The Bible views marriage as between one man and one woman, for “a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24; Eph. 5:31). Because our courts have shown a troubling tendency to overturn the laws that have already been passed concerning marriage, we believe the ethical choice is for candidates who support a Constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
5. Embryonic stem cell research: Creating more human embryos for the purpose of harvesting their stem cells is contrary to the command, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). There is a logical and superior alternative: using adult stem cells for medical research, because this does not destroy the life of the adult whose cells are used. We believe the ethical choice is for a candidate who has decided he will not allow government funds to be spent to create more human embryos just to take their stem cells.
6. Natural resources: God put human beings on the earth to “subdue it” and to “have dominion” over the animals (Gen. 1:28). We value the beauty of the natural world which God created, and we believe that we are called to be responsible stewards who protect God’s creation while we use it wisely and also seek to safeguard its usefulness for future generations. The Bible does not view “untouched nature” as the ideal state of the earth, but expects human beings to develop and use the earth’s resources wisely for mankind’s needs (Gen. 1:28; 2:15; 9:3; 1 Tim. 4:4). In fact, we believe that public policy based on the idealism of “untouched nature” hinders wise development of the earth’s resources and thus contributes to famine, starvation, disease, and death among the poor. We believe the ethical choice is for candidates who will allow resources to be developed and used wisely, rather than for candidates indebted to environmental theories that oppose nearly all economic development in our nation and around the world.
7. Should Christians speak out and try to influence our nation on these issues? God’s people in the Bible often addressed ethical issues with their governmental rulers. Daniel told the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar to practice “righteousness” and to show “mercy to the oppressed” (Dan. 4:27); several Old Testament prophets speak to foreign nations about their sins (Isaiah 13-23; Ezekiel 25-32, Amos 1-2, Obadiah (to Edom), Jonah (to Nineveh), Nahum (to Nineveh), Habakkuk 2, Zephaniah 2); and Paul spoke to the Roman governor Felix “about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” (Acts 24:25).
As Christian leaders, we agree that the primary message of the New Testament is the good news about salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. But the primary message is not the entire message, and another significant part of the New Testament provides instruction regarding how people should live. In addition to the issues already mentioned, the Bible also teaches us about the types of laws and regulations governments should pursue and enforce.
The laws of a nation have a significant influence on that nation’s moral climate, for good or for ill. This is because laws can either restrain evil or encourage it, and because laws also have a teaching function as they inform people about what a government thinks to be right and wrong conduct.
Therefore we urge pastors and Bible study leaders to teach on these crucial ethical issues facing our nation. We urge all Christians to remember their moral obligation to learn about the candidates’ positions, to be informed, and to vote. We urge all Christians to pray that truthful speech and right conduct on both sides would prevail in this election. We also encourage Christians to consider doing even more for the good of our nation, such as giving time or money, or talking to friends and neighbors, or even serving in office themselves. Such influence for good on the direction of our country is one important way of fulfilling Jesus’ command, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:19).