Friday, October 29, 2010

Here's a vote for a Christian voice
April 2006

By Paul Viggiano

After six months of regular church attendance, the atheist/attorney finally called for an appointment. I was thrilled! Was there a transformation? Had the Lord touched his heart? People come to church for all sorts of reasons. Why had he been coming so consistently? I was more than happy to meet with him; a bit curious, too.

He sat across from me in my study. He had listened to me for hours. Now I would listen to him. A thinker, he had pondered Christianity, but there were roadblocks. He voiced them.

"Why do Christians insist," he asked, "on forcing their political and ethical beliefs upon others?" I hadn't anticipated this question. He just didn't understand why something as personal and intimate as one's faith, had to spill over into politics. After all, faith is so holy and politics is so ... political.

I'd heard this before.

As a Christian, I am often bombarded by some undefined segment of our culture chastising me for seeking to "force" my beliefs on others and, as a March 15 letter to the editor asserts, "insist that they live by morality."

There seems to be legitimate confusion and even frustration. Here's my explanation:

I asked my lawyer/friend if he thought I should vote. He said I should. To him, voting was serious business. People ought to vote! Good Americans vote! But isn't it logically necessary that, in the very act of voting, one is seeking to force his beliefs upon everyone who is voting against whatever he is voting for? (You may wish to read that sentence again ... I'll wait.)

It doesn't seem consistent to tell me I should vote and then tell me that I shouldn't seek to force my beliefs upon others. That is exactly what voting does.

Walk with me into the booth:

The propositions and candidates stare at me from the confusing little punch-card booklet. Vote "Yes" vote "No" vote for "ME!" It seems I have some decisions to make. Should marriage be only between a man and a woman? Should it be illegal to terminate babies prior to birth? Should murderers be put to death? Should creation be taught in schools? Should the Pledge of Allegiance include some reference to God?

These decisions lie before us. Can you hear the question begging? When we vote, whose beliefs should we be seeking to force upon others? I believe the reasonable and conscientious vote to all of the above should be "Yes." It's someone else's belief that the vote be "No." Either way, somebody is seeking to force his beliefs on somebody else. In a society where people vote, this is simply unavoidable.

Since voters necessarily seek to force their beliefs upon others, it would appear that the actual objection is against those who have a religious genesis for their system of ethics and beliefs. People don't want religion forced upon them. If by saying this people mean they don't want to be forced to attend church against their will, I say "Amen."

But people fail to understand that Christianity is a world view. My faith is not like my health club or butcher who I visit and then forget about when I move on to a different category in my life. My faith informs every aspect of my life, including politics.

Why is it appropriate for certain people to vote in a manner consistent with what they learned from their parents or tabloids or sit-coms, but it is inappropriate for me to vote in a manner consistent with what I've learned from reading sacred scripture? After all, I think the scriptures are the zenith of truth and wisdom.

Why does the origin of my ideals somehow disqualify them (or me) from playing a part in the public arena? Why are the teachings of Moses and the Apostle Paul considered unacceptable influences in the venue of civic conscience, while the sentiments of Reiner, Moore and Penn are deemed admissible? It seems hardly fair to disqualify my opinion because you don't like its origin.

My attorney/friend's confusion was assuaged. I'm not sure if he was convinced. But if he wasn't, it's not because there was no reasonable answer to his question.

People should vote in a manner consistent with their highest beliefs. The Christian source for the highest ideals is the Bible. It trumps all human wisdom. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart," the Proverbs teach, "and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." That includes politics.


  1. I once had an atheist visitor. He was the husband of a member. I lament that I didn't seem to win him over, but the interesting comment he made to me was, "I listen to you closer than most of your members." And later I observed that he did. Perhaps I contributed to the fierseness of his damnation, or maybe I planted a seed or two that germinated into life at a later point in his life. I pray it may have been the latter.

  2. "fierceness" (I'm embarrassed)