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Thursday, May 24, 2012

God's 'Moral Imperative': A Voter's Guide

By Stephen Stone, President, RenewAmerica

This installment in our series on Mitt Romney and Mormonism takes a look at the moral imperative God requires of all voters. It's an imperative that has special relevance to those who wish to "do the right thing" this election.

Our analysis should be of particular interest to those who support Romney — a candidate whose liberal-socialistic record, and opportunistic, untruthful rhetoric, make voting for him problematic for moral conservatives this fall, notwithstanding the abhorrent record and rhetoric of Barack Hussein Obama, our nation's Muslim-leaning communist-in-chief.

We address our thoughts especially to Mitt's main political base: active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who stand almost unanimously with Romney in "sustaining and supporting" his pragmatic, immoral mischief, manipulation, and deceit.

We also address evangelical and other Christians who have deep reservations about voting for the "lesser of two evils" this election — in other words, Mitt — whom many consider a virtual stand-in for Obama, due to his hand in the creation of Obamacare, his enabling of pro-abortion policies as governor of Massachusetts (even after proclaiming himself "pro-life"), and his singlehanded imposition of same-sex marriage on his state, opening the door to gay marriage nationwide. (Click here, here, and here.)

As we proceed to discuss "voting as a moral obligation," our premise is that a moral citizen's only concern is to respect and obey the will of God, no matter the issue at hand, or the enticements, rationalizations, or self-serving arguments for doing otherwise.

This biblical premise has as much relevance to politics and civic obligations as any other area of life.


The Mormon church's official political philosophy

For the benefit of Mormons, let's start by quoting a verse from the LDS church's official canon. It's found in Section 134 — subtitled "A declaration of belief regarding government and laws in general."

The entire section itself, held by Mormons to be the word of God, reads much like a conservative political tract.

Verse 1 states,

    We believe that governments were instituted of God for the benefit of man; and that he holds men accountable for their acts in relation to them.... (emphasis added)
Many of us — including many Mormons — seem not to think of our vote, or our political support in behalf of a candidate, as something God will hold us accountable for. While most Americans believe that God will ultimately judge them, and will take into account the various details of their lives, they don't necessarily think of Him as commanding them to please Him at the ballot box.

They think it's their choice, their option, their prerogative — since they are the ones seeking to influence the outcome in a way that best suits them.

The idea that God cares profoundly about the way voters exercise their "franchise" as citizens doesn't cross some people's minds. They too easily forget who gave them the United States of America in the first place, through His providence (as the Founders attested), and thus the right — and responsibility — to vote in a way acceptable to Him.

Such a thoughtless attitude could be considered unduly prideful and unfaithful — not patriotic or pleasing to God.

It leaves the Creator of heaven and earth — and of our nation — out of the equation.

God's tests

It's fair to say that every election held in America is a test of our national character, as well as of each individual citizen's obedience to God. At issue is whether we're willing to follow the biblical admonition to —

    Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. (Prov. 3:5-6)
The next verse adds further guidance:

    Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil. (verse 7)
How this kind of faithfulness relates to citizenship is a paradox only those attuned to God's word appear to grasp. Yes, to be a good citizen, we should exercise our right and responsibility to vote; we should also get involved early in the political process, before others have made our choice for us.

But our nation itself, and our rights and freedoms, are dependent upon God for their continuance. Only if we please Him with our lives and our votes will He bring about his purposes for our nation, and thus the best outcomes possible. And that is the purpose of voting — not calculatedly counting the cost and casting our assent for outcomes we prefer or imagine, but seeking His will and expressing it at the ballot box, so we might remain a free nation sustained and supported by Him.

That's clear from both the Bible and the Mormon canon.

Just voting as we choose is not going to ensure good outcomes in any given election. We must vote with integrity, in harmony with God's truths, and He will carry the day — provided enough of us across America unite with prayerful hearts in seeking His will.

It's not about saving our country by ourselves, and never was. What a presumptuous, faithless idea.

Book of Mormon promise

In the LDS Book of Mormon, we find a recurring promise boldly declaring that if the inhabitants of America will "serve the God of [this] land, who is Jesus Christ," they will be "free from bondage, and from captivity, and from all other nations under heaven" — enjoying both personal and political liberty "forever." (See Ether 2:12, 8.)

The same passage calls America a "land of promise,...choice above all other lands, which the Lord God [has] preserved for a righteous people" — and says "whoso should possess this land of promise...should serve him, the true and only God, or they should be swept off when the fulness of his wrath should come upon them. (verses 7-8, emphasis mine)

The passage adds, "And the fulness of his wrath cometh upon them when they are ripened in iniquity." (verses 7-9, emphasis added)

These words reflect the assurance found in 2 Chronicles 7:14:
    If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (emphasis added)
Any "Mormon" worth his salt is aware of this doctrinal concept: that God will protect and preserve our nation if we but "serve" Him; otherwise we face His judgments.

Yet LDS members as a whole uncritically support Mitt's candidacy for president solely for the imagined benefit his election would bring the church — as though God sanctions Mitt's immoral political legacy. That legacy includes:
  • His distinction — according to one Catholic writer — as "the most pro-abortion candidate in history," measured by the effect of his policies.

  • His well-documented support for the gay agenda, illustrated by his egregious usurpation of power when he instituted same-sex marriage in Massachusetts with no requirement or authority to do so in 2004; his support for Obama's catastrophic dropping of "don't ask, don't tell" from our military (something Mitt has said he will not reverse); and his recent choice of prominent homosexual Richard Grenell as his national security and foreign policy spokesman, just for starters.

  • His imposition, through "Romneycare," of a socialistic "individual mandate" — which he successfully lobbied the Obama administration to adopt nationally when it undertook to model Obamacare on Mitt's healthcare plan.
In addition to Mitt's immoral political record is the fact that his platform has failed to make God or moral issues a central tenet of his presidential campaign. Would God honor someone determined to leave Him out of our national debate — by sparing our country simply because voters preferred him over similarly "godless" Barack Obama?

Heaven forbid such heretical thinking.

Mitt has done literally nothing to lead out this election (or in his life generally) in turning our morally-declining nation back to God, or toward increased faith in Him and His biblical teachings and promises. Quite the contrary. By Mitt's neglect of such God-centered moral concerns, he has led our country increasingly away from such things and toward the materialistic values at the heart of Marxist socialism — the notion that all important things come down to "economics," and to socialistic, forcible solutions to mankind's most basic ills, all at the exclusion of reliance on God, and respect for the Constitution-based liberty He gave us for the purpose of securing our divinely-endowed rights.

But it's his egregious institution of same-sex marriage in America — the result of an obvious lack of a moral core — that alone is sufficient reason for voters intent on "doing the right thing" to refuse to line up behind him on November 6.

To vote for Mitt is to assent to such a far-reaching, unconscionably evil deed as he committed by singlehandedly establishing gay marriage, as though it were nothing of consequence, when in reality it is arguably the most wicked and destructive discretionary action ever taken by an elected official in our nation's 230-year history — undermining the stability, and continuance, of Western Civilization itself.

A careful reading of the public record allows no other conclusion. That's why moral conservatives are in a quandary over Mitt's "presumptive" nomination, and the "choice between two evils" it represents.

Meanwhile, a larger issue is before us: What will a vote for Mitt mean to God? Specifically, what will it signify regarding our need as a nation to repent and submit ourselves to His will, not just in our lives, but on election day?

Let's look further into this dilemma.

A dose of reality

In our last discussion on Mitt and Mormonism, I suggested things are so dire for our country that voters' paramount duty this election is to humbly seek God's mercy and miraculous intervention for America — on the premise there's little other recourse if we hope to survive as a free people.

We've "squandered our birthright as a nation," we might say, to the point there may be no reliable "political" solutions left.

It's reasonable to say that any informed, Bible-believing citizen is aware that the justice of God demands we pay a heavy price for our rampant national immorality — with unmarried cohabitation now rivaling traditional marriage, promiscuous "social" sex increasingly the norm, abortion on demand our culture's diabolical solution to unwanted pregnancy, and gay relationships increasingly considered emotionally and physically "healthy"; with forcible theft of Americans' property and resources by socialistic government now generally accepted in the name of "fairness," "free" entitlements, and "social justice," no matter the burden on succeeding generations; with dishonesty, ends-justify-the-means "pragmatism," and lack of integrity the accepted norm in the halls of government and big business, and increasingly the norm in personal dealings (or there would be none of the other problems); with our republic's God-inspired Constitution — meant to preserve and protect our God-given rights — now routinely ignored by judges, legislators, executive officials, and the citizenry alike; and with God Himself increasingly banished from the public square.

All bode ill for our nation's future.

At the root of these and similar ills that mark our national malaise is failure to heed what the Laws of Nature and Nature's God require of all people who wish to remain free from servitude and independent: "firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence" (Declaration of Independence).

I should stress that this divine imperative is imposed on us by reality itself — not just by God's word.

The Laws of Nature, which define reality, demand that we obey and rely on Nature's God, the Creator of all things — which would include not only ourselves, but the natural environment in which He has placed us — if we are to live in harmony with reality.

To violate God's laws is to live at odds with nature — with what is "real." We see the consequences of such "unnatural" behavior all about us, as America — following the rebellious trends of a declining world — continues its downward spiral and increasingly estranges itself from God.

Paul describes the consequences of such violation of Natural Law in Romans 1. After stressing that "the just shall live by faith" if they are to attain the "righteousness of God" (verse 17) — and after noting that all persons are born with an innate, natural knowledge of God's existence and reality, and are thus "without excuse" when they "change the truth of God into a lie" and "worship the creature more than the creator" — Paul rehearses a list of serious sins for which we become "worthy of death," he says, stressing that "the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" (verses 20, 25, 32, and 18)

Among the serious transgressions he cites are changing the "natural use" of the body in ways that are "against nature" (homosexuality), and "being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness,...envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity,...backbiters, haters of God, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things," and so on — including behaving "without natural affection" (verses 26-27, 29-31).

Paul's point appears to be that disobeying God places us at enmity not only with Him, but with Natural Law, including His commandments, which are designed to help us live in harmony with His reality.

To save our nation, therefore, we must return once again to His good graces, as we did two centuries ago, and merit His merciful intervention, if we would be spared the dire calamities we appear headed for.

The convergence of the practical and the ideal

This unassailable truth brings us to a paradox regarding "reality" — and the futility of trying, on our own, to be wisely "practical" on the one hand, or duly "idealistic" on the other, using our own best judgment and effort.

In the political arena, we typically hear candidates, activists, and voters talk of the need to be "practical" in the final analysis of any issue, or of any election — and of course, practicality is vital in politics, as in all areas of life. We certainly want our leaders to have a handle on reality, and to be wise in their choices and positions; in fact, we demand it.

We ourselves, as voters, also need to be fully practical — not na├»ve or easily deceived — as we choose those who will represent us.

But we all know that practicality in politics is often stressed at the expense of principle — while at the same time those who profess to be principled are often perceived as unrealistic, dogmatic, or "too idealistic."

The often-heated contest between practicality and idealism leads many of us to seek to reconcile the two by not fully adopting either. Hence the political term "moderate" — someone lacking commitment who also tends to be uninformed. Jesus said he would "spew" those who are thus "lukewarm" out of his mouth (Rev. 3:16).

Such people are outside reality, and vacillate between right and wrong, good and evil, even apparent sanity and insanity according to mood, situation, and social pressure.

In the end, their behavior is self-destructive, as well as injurious to others.

To be fully in reality, and thus a source of strength to others, we need to be the opposite of "moderate" when it comes to good judgment, wisdom, integrity, and decency. Rather than superficially avoiding either practicality or idealism, we need to exhibit both, fully and completely, as God does.

This means that to live in reality, we must emulate God genuinely seeking to do His will, His way. Doing whatever God says is both the most idealistic thing we could do, and the most practical. Both "extremes" converge in Him.

"The Way"

God is the model for all human behavior — and without Him, we "can do nothing" (John 15:5). He is the standard of truth, and the epitome of reality. To the extent we succeed in emulating Him, in accordance with the pattern in His word, we are firmly grounded in that which is real.

This means He exemplifies what is best to do not just "ideally," but "practically."

As humans, we tend to get hung up over which of the two is more important: the ideal or the practical. To God, there's no real difference. They're the same thing, viewed from different angles, as long as they're centered in Him.

This fact is implicit in Jesus' description of Himself in John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." The way to do anything, to obtain the best outcome, to be in harmony with what is right and true, to live the kind of life that is centered in reality — and thus avoid self-deception, profound disappointment, loss of peace and happiness, and being the source of pain and suffering for others — is through Him, our Exemplar, who is also the source of all meaningful freedom.

Thus, the "way" to prudent citizenship is clear, as well as simple. Do whatever God wills, as best as we are able — relying alone on His wisdom, not our own — and we will ultimately do that which is both "ideal" in His eyes and most "realistic."

The more we ignore this simple moral imperative, and go our own way, thinking we know what is best more than God does, the more we find ourselves outside reality — accomplishing neither that which is ideal (or "right'), or that which is practical (or "good").

As an illustration, consider our salvation.

The most ideal thing we can ever do is to keep God's commandments, beginning with His invitation to submit our whole souls to Him and be transformed in our hearts, and thereby take upon us the "divine nature" (see 2 Pet. 1:4). At the same time, the most practical thing we can do — in terms of outcome and "realistic" behavior and benefit — is precisely the same thing, because it will result in the greatest good we could ever attain.

If we center ourselves in obeying God, as best as we are able, we are simultaneously being as idealistic and as practical as possible. To think otherwise, as we are inclined to do by virtue of our "human nature," is ultimately to do neither.

"Election fraud"

What all this means is that we commit "election fraud" — from God's perspective — if we vote according to our own wills and wits, and ignore the will and commandments of God. We need not blame others for the outcome of elections if we, ourselves, place voting our preference or hope above simply "doing the right thing," both at election time and in the months leading up to it in the campaign process.

So when you go into the voting booth, don't think of your own judgment, think of God's judgments — especially those in scripture about how nations can ideally and realistically ensure their freedom and continuance. Then "do the right thing" as your divine conscience bids — whatever you sense that to be. Ignore the sophistry of pundits, politicos, and publicans, and vote your heart, in truth and righteousness.

Bottom line

Since we began our discussion with the "lesser of two evils" dilemma posed this election by the "presumptive nomination" of morally-unstable flip-flopper Mitt Romney, let me offer my own candid view of how — both ideally and realistically to handle the situation as a voter.

By voting for Mitt, we are committing transgression, I believe, and thus hastening God's judgments upon our nation — just as those who vote for Obama this election will surely do.

We can rationalize voting for Mitt on the unproven assumption that doing so will hasten God's judgments a little less quickly than voting for Obama — even though Mitt's record of godless expediency, disregard for the traditional family (other than his own), furtherance of the gay agenda, enabling of public-funded abortion, socialistic interference with the free market, unlawful usurpation of authority, blatant dishonesty and deceit, and inordinate lust for power is surely an affront to God.

Will God bless us for willingly supporting the kind of godless narcissism embodied in Mitt that represents the most destructive tendencies and evils of our age?

I don't think so. Nor do others who understand who Mitt is and what he's done. Voting for a cardboard cut-out who is almost all image and no substance — and whose actual deeds and deceit disqualify him from the support of God-fearing voters — is morally wrong, and brings his supporters under God's condemnation, further estranging us as a nation from the source of our rights, freedoms, prosperity, and security.

Wait a minute! I just described Barack Obama, Mitt's post-racial political twin (whose manipulative, bullying approach to campaigning, we might add, is also similar to Mitt's own, an approach obviously borrowed by Mitt's advisers from Obama's 2008 playbook).

In the end, the unethical "practicality" voiced by Mitt's supporters — like all pragmatism — comes down to imagination; it's not real or true — just presumed, naively hoped for, or pridefully calculated.

Keep in mind, we have little control over the results of our vote, no matter who we vote for. Mitt's foolish dependence on self-serving, godless socialists to guide him and his policies toward elitist-dominated tyranny in America (and beyond) will prove just as disastrous in the end as Obama's deliberate dependence on self-serving godless socialists intent on taking our country down the path of global egalitarianism. The paths are much the same, as are the predictable outcomes.

The best we can do this historic election is to repent of our sins, humble ourselves before God, turn our hearts to Him in childlike faith, and trust the very future of our nation to Him — not to our own wisdom, or the wisdom of self-proclaimed political "saviors" who are out of touch with both reality and the American people.

The worst we can do is to bow to the control of power-seeking elites, cynically vote for the less evil candidate (which means knowingly voting for evil) — and meriting God's judgments for our lack of faith in Him, pragmatic self-worship, and assent to godless socialism.

As we weigh our options this election, we would do well to remember that "voting" takes many forms. We vote with our feet when we walk out of a rally full of pseudo-conservatives masquerading as moral Americans; we vote with our backsides when we refuse to attend such a rally in the first place; we vote with our mouths when we warn others of the dangers of demagogues who lie, deceive, and manipulate at such rallies; and we vote with our minds and hearts when we refuse to support such demagoguery — no matter any lemming-like inducement to do so.

Again, wait a minute! I just described a Mitt Romney event — or its Obama campaign equivalent, complete with feigned moral fervor.

As George Clooney was prone to say at critical junctures in O Brother, Where Art Thou: "We're in a tight spot!"

A proposed solution

Let's add to our list of voting methods one of the most obvious: we vote with our whole being when we refuse to support evil politicians and simply stay home, as many do, on election day. We can't deny that sitting out an election is actually a form of voting. It openly registers our disapproval of a now-corrupt process, and of the corrupt choices placed at our feet by corrupt elites who've gained control of the process — including a corrupt national and local media who've been allowed to define, limit, and all but dictate the process.

We all know the truth of that assessment. It's why so many people fail to "vote" in the customary way — or refuse to play the game given them by power-hungry special interests throughout the electoral process.

But let's add another way of voting — one fully consistent with moral principle:

We enter the voting booth, prayerfully and thoughtfully vote only for those candidates (or issues) we have sound reason to believe reflect God's will and teachings, and leave untouched those choices we cannot morally endorse, or which we have no strong opinion about (and hence don't feel comfortable "guessing" about).

In other words, we vote selectively — not feeling compelled to vote on everything before us, or to choose between two unworthy candidates foisted on us by corrupt elitists.

This method lets us fulfill our duty as citizens to influence, as best we can, the outcome of elections — in harmony with God's will and word — yet abstain from actively endorsing evil, which would make us complicit in that evil.

Bear in mind that voting means to express our support for someone. In contested races, at least, that's the only option available on the ballot. We're not asked if we oppose someone — only if we support someone. The only way to "oppose" someone is to vote "for" someone else.

Thus, nobody ever votes against anyone on election day (except in cases involving certain appointed officials who have no opponent, such as judges). In contested races, it's impossible to vote against someone, only for them.

It's an ingenious way — if you will — of gauging the moral character of all voters. Always, the act of voting in a contested race is to endorse someone, not "oppose" them.

Especially for "Mormons"

In our piece "What God says about Mormons," we cited a passage from the LDS Doctrine & Covenants that Mormons believe to be God's words regarding how to vote. It's in D&C 98, a section about the importance of upholding the Constitution.

It says,
    Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil. (verse 10, emphasis added)
Note that these words instruct citizens only to vote for honest, wise, good individuals — not against anyone. And of course, if a candidate fails to meet the required standard, he or she should be rejected.

I might add that the method of voting I propose above (which is the way I personally vote) allows each of us to deliberately assent to people and platforms we care about, know about, and feel right about — while avoiding moral accountability before God, and our fellow beings, for endorsing candidates we know in our hearts to be unacceptable.

Jesus said, "Let the dead bury their dead" (Luke 9:60). Similarly, we might say, let those people foolish enough to support evil go ahead and do so in the voting booth — but as for me (and hopefully, my house), "we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).

Try it, you may like it. You'll also feel less burden of guilt for voting in favor of the immoral direction our country is heading.

By the way, to make sure I have the best choices on election day, I also immerse myself heavily in the electoral process beforehand at every opportunity — as a local voting precinct chair, county delegate, state delegate, and publisher of a national Christian political journal, RenewAmerica.

That's how I sleep at night. I worry about those who see no moral conflict in voting for the "lesser of two evils."

In the meantime, how about we all go out and elect the best moral conservatives we can find for Congress — as we seek to retain the House and take back the Senate. That's something we can all do with principled enthusiasm.



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