Leading up to Election Day on November 8, iAt will be sharing more articles providing different perspectives on specific presidential candidates, as well as thoughts on voting for the first time and why one contributor has decided not to vote for a presidential candidate. Come back to iAt regularly for more insights on exploring the implications of Christ’s presence in all facets of life.
As Donald Trump has demonstrated that he’s unqualified even to teach a Sunday School class, millions of those who want their Christian faith to guide their political choices are wondering if they should vote for Hillary Clinton. I’m a Christian and a pastor, also privileged to have served as General Secretary of my denomination, the Reformed Church in America, for 17 years. Before becoming a pastor, I worked as the Legislative Assistant to Senator Mark O. Hatfield of Oregon, an evangelical Republican. And I’m voting for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Here’s why.
For many Christians, especially several of my evangelical and Catholic friends, this discussion begins and abruptly ends over the question of abortion. So, let’s start there. The inflamed rhetoric of “pro-life vs. pro-choice” has replaced the serious issues involved with simplistic slogans on both sides. The basic question is this: at what exact point does a fertilized egg have the full status of independent personhood, deserving complete legal protection, apart from the life of the mother?
We have no social, political, or even theological consensus in our society over the answer to that question. Given that reality, one can hold to his or her personal convictions as a Christian, but believe that a reasonable space must be protected for women to make that weighty moral discernment according to their own best guidance, rather than have government impose a sectarian answer. That’s not perfect, but it respects individual conscience around a matter of sharp moral disagreement that remains unresolved in society.
But this polarized debate often ignores significant common ground around the goal of reducing abortions. What makes abortions mostly likely are poverty and lack of access to health care and contraceptive measures. When policies provide for pre- and post-natal care, family leave, women’s health, and alleviation of poverty, abortion decreases. That’s why abortion rates climbed under the Republican Administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, decreased under President Bill Clinton, and have reached the lowest point in 40 years under President Obama. Hillary Clinton will continue those policies. So if you’re “pro-life,” you have solid reasons justifying your vote for Hillary.
The other main reason given by Christians reluctant to vote for Secretary Clinton, and shared by 60% of all voters, is that she can’t be trusted. That’s serious. Trust must be earned; it can’t just be requested. And it comes when a person does what she or he says they will do.
Let’s recognize two things here. First, during her career in public service, Hillary Clinton has made mistakes. Second, for about two decades, adversaries have spent millions of dollars in relentless public campaigns to undermine her credibility. Over that time, many people have grown to hate Hillary Clinton without even knowing why.
Today, three phrases are shouted— “Benghazi”, “e-mails”, “Clinton Foundation”—which are met with Pavlovian responses of “lies” or “lock her up.” But go beneath the partisan vendettas on social media and look at the investigative reporting that’s been done. In summary, here’s what I find:
Benghazi: a terrible personal tragedy and bureaucratic failure which Hillary’s adversaries turned into what even Colin Powell termed a “witch-hunt.”
The personal e-mail server: a poorly thought through, pragmatic attempt to get efficient, non-classified communication for her as Secretary of State all on one personal device, and improvised haphazardly by staff. The tiny number of “classified” emails which inadvertently got into the system were of no proven detrimental consequence.
Clinton Foundation: despite the confluence of money and power, which never looks good, no quid pro quo of funds given to this charitable Foundation as a means of influencing official U.S. policy has ever been discovered. Meanwhile, critics conveniently neglect the enormous good work of the Foundation, affirmed in all objective evaluations.
I have no desire to canonize Hillary Clinton. She has her flaws, as do I. But if you actually read Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, instead of reading about them, you discover a tireless, hard-working person trying to get her job done, with staff strategizing about how to navigate political challenges to reach their objectives. As First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has tried let her actions demonstrate the goals she believes in. She’s proven to be experienced, committed and very effective in doing so. So I trust her as President to do what she says, finding ways to move the nation toward shared goals.
But are her goals consistent with the values that Christians would seek in a President? My answer is yes, in these five critical areas:
Caring for children and the vulnerable in society
The Bible instructs us to judge the justice of a society by how it treats those who are most disadvantaged and on its margins. From the start of her career out of law school, Hillary Rodham Clinton has been focused on the welfare of children, the disabled, and the poor. Her efforts significantly expanded health care for children, and her platform includes strong commitments and specific plans to alleviate poverty, give every child the opportunity for health and well-being, and protect those whom society easily forgets.
36 times in the Old Testament alone, God’s people are commanded to care for the foreigner and the stranger in their land. In this election, it’s hard for Christians to find a more compelling biblical litmus test for judging Presidential candidates than their attitudes and commitments toward immigrants. Unlike her opponent, Hillary Clinton has exemplified a stance of Christian hospitality toward immigrants, and a commitment to comprehensive immigration reform. Appropriate security checks are part of her plans, but Hillary’s stance toward foreigners and strangers resonate with biblical expectations.
The alarming concentration of wealth in the U.S. with those who are the very most economically privileged, and the gap from our poorest citizens, would earn the swift and powerful denunciation from any of the Bible’s prophets. Hillary’s plan to raise taxes on the nation’s most wealthy in order to support measures that strengthen the overall economic well-being of society is a step in the right moral direction. Pursing economic justice, and addressing disparities of wealth and poverty, is a biblical refrain found from Genesis to Revelation, and understood by Hillary Clinton.
Caring for Creation
“The earth is the Lord’s,” declares the Psalmist. The duty and calling of Christians to preserve and protect the gift of God’s creation is now embraced across denominational lines, from the National Association of Evangelicals to Pope Francis. Climate change is the most severe threat. Instead of denying this, Hillary Clinton has a fundamental commitment to policies that address climate change and build a renewable energy future. That’s a minimum step toward preserving, rather than polluting and depleting, God’s gifts, intended to sustain all creation for God’s glory.
Racism and Criminal Justice Reform
In the New Testament, breaking down barriers of race is seen as a primary test of the Gospel’s power to bring about social transformation, communicating God’s desire for humanity. This political campaign has exposed the harsh, enduring realities of racism in our society. While her opponent manipulates racial fears, Hillary has identified the reality of implicit racial bias. Further, she advocates criminal justice reform to address the ugly reality that the U.S., with 5% of the world population, has 25% of its prisoners, who are disproportionately people of color.
Many more issues are at stake in this election, and on some questions I’m not in agreement with Hillary Clinton. I’ve prioritized these five, however, because of their unquestionable relevance to any Christian desiring to have their vote informed by Biblical values.
Finally, Christians often want to know what a candidate for President personally believes about faith. For some, this makes all the difference. Hillary was asked that question at a town hall in Knoxville, Iowa during the primary election. Her spontaneous answer was revealing.
“I am a person of faith. I am a Christian. I am a Methodist,” Hillary shared. “My study of the Bible, my many conversations with people of faith, has led me to believe that the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all your might and to love your neighbor as yourself…(and) there is so much more in the Bible about taking care of the poor, visiting prisoners, taking in the stranger, creating opportunities for others to be lifted up.”
As she continued, Hillary got more personal. “…I am by no means a perfect person, I will certainly confess that to one and all, but I feel the continuing urge to try to do better, to try to be kinder, to try to be more loving, even with people who are quite harsh.”
I can also get more personal. I went to high school with Hillary Rodham in Park Ridge, Illinois. We served together on student council, and she became President of her youth group at First United Methodist Church. She was smart, responsible, and like John Wesley, wanted to make a difference for good in society. What was true then remains true today.
In October, Hillary spoke on gospel radio in Florida, ending by saying, “Do not grow weary in doing good.” She was quoting from Galatians 6:6, a verse she certainly learned at her Methodist Church. And while said to voters, I’m sure she’s repeated it countless times to herself. It describes Hillary’s journey, who through all she has endured and experienced, has not grown weary in doing good. That’s what she’ll do as President, and why, as a Christian and a pastor, I support her, and encourage other Christians to do the same.