Politics has long been known to be a dog-eat-dog venture, and there is typically, at any point and time, ample evidence to back up this maxim. This is certainly showcased once again in the case of Todd Akin, the Missouri Republican candidate for United States Senate who appeared on a local news program and tried to reason his pro-life position in the case of rape.
The Controversial Statement
The interviewer, having queried Mr. Akin on his strong pro-life stance asked a follow-up question:
“If an abortion could be considered in the case of a tubal pregnancy, or something like that, what about in the case of rape – should it be legal or not?”
Akin gives this response:
“Well you know, people always want to make that as one of those things – ‘Well how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question’ – It seems to me first of all from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare – if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. You know, I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment should be in the rapist, and not attacking the child.”
The Unilateral Response
A nationwide firestorm immediately erupted over the use of the term “legitimate rape” and the notion that somehow a woman’s body would prevent a pregnancy in such cases. Akin quickly apologized and ran a commercial acknowledging his incorrect wording and the fact that women can get pregnant as a result of rape. He closed the spot by asking for forgiveness. Despite this, even Republican lawmakers, with very few exceptions, called for or recommended that Akin drop out of the race. The common theme among Republicans was that such comments were so damaging that they would endanger the viability of the Missouri senate race, and therefore the ability of the Republicans to regain a majority in the senate.
A spokesmen for Mitt Romney’s campaign responded by saying,
“Governor Romney and Congressman Ryan disagree with Mr. Akin’s statement, and a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape.”
Romney later added,
“Todd Akin’s comments were offensive and wrong and he should very seriously consider what course would be in the best interest of our country. Today, his fellow Missourians urged him to step aside, and I think he should accept their counsel and exit the Senate race.”
Pragmatism Reigning Supreme
Rather than focus here on the validity or harm of Akin’s statements, I want to examine the reasoning behind the response which ensued. This incident is one microcosm among many which illuminates a particular mindset dominant within the political sphere. The mindset goes something like this: Where there is a higher objective or greater good in view, the lower objective or lesser good must be sacrificed. This idea is sometimes referred to as “situational ethics” or as the common phrase goes, “the ends justify the means”.
Understand that I am not addressing instances in which one makes a personal sacrifice for the greater good of others around him. This we rightly consider to be noble. I am speaking of ways in which one makes a decision to sacrifice another (or something belonging to another) for the greater good, or to suspend ethical or moral principles in order to obtain a desired result.
In the case of Todd Akin, the concern among fellow Republicans was not primarily what he meant by his comments or how such a view might affect his decision-making as a Senator. The primary concern was that the political damage was so heavy that he would presumably lose his race, and consequently, make it more difficult for Republicans to gain control of the Senate. The sincerity (or lack thereof) of his apology and plea for forgiveness was of no account, because now the “greater good” was in danger. The political powers that were supporting him before his interview immediately withdrew their funding and support because of the perceived political danger of continuing to back the suddenly unpopular candidate.
Christians Playing Politics
What’s the point of all this, you ask? My point is that I see most Christians behaving in the very same way. At this point it becomes more than an unfortunate reality and begins to challenge us to examine our personal worldview and decision-making. If Akin’s resignation meant that the Senate would be controlled by the Republicans after the next election, would you desire it – even if it meant the candidate who replaced him was not as staunchly pro-life and conservative? Which is more important to you – rigidly sticking to principles or the greater good?
Sadly, many Christians have been drawn into the “situational ethics” mentality. Most Christians I know are planning to vote for Mitt Romney for President in November. Yet Christians by in large do not view Romney as an “ideal” candidate or even a “desirable” candidate on his merits alone. However they all view Barack Obama as a much less desirable option, so Romney is the clear choice at the ballots. The line of reasoning is pretty consistent; a vote for anyone other than Romney is the same as a vote for Obama, so the responsible course of action is to vote for Romney. In other words, the ends (booting Obama out of office) justify the means (voting for a less-than-desirable candidate). We must all unite together for the greater good. This particular situation demands that we bite our lip and do the only thing we can to ensure that Obama does not gain another term in office — a.k.a., situational ethics.
Three Critiques of Candidate Romney
Sanctity of Life
Now let’s stop and think about this a bit. Did you take stock of the quote above from Romney’s campaign that said “a Romney-Ryan administration would not oppose abortion in instances of rape”? Let’s cut the fluff and excuses and just say it. Romney, although claiming to have switched to a pro-life position, is still firmly advocating murder when the situation causes too much emotional trauma (sound familiar?). So you’re willing to vote for someone who will apply situational ethics in order to justify putting to death innocent children.
Stability of Leadership
Romney is also well-known for changing his stance on key issues at “convenient” times. If you believe these changes of heart (also known as “flip-flops”) are not entirely sincere, then you have at best a person who is double-minded. James 1:8 tells us that such a man is unstable in all his ways (also see Hos. 7:11 & I Kin. 18:21). Even worse, you may have a person who is so lacking in principle and character that he is willing to systematically adjust his position on issues in whatever way is most politically expedient. This is known as the fear of man, and the Word tell us that the fear of man and not God brings a snare (Prov. 29:25 – also Prov. 1:7, 3:7, 9:10, 16:6). So you’re willing to vote for someone (to fill the office that demands more leadership than any other) who is unstable, and may very well be caught in a trap of his own making.
Source of Faith
If that’s not enough, then remember also that Romney is a Mormon. Not your every-day, run-of-the-mill Mormon either. He served as a church leader for 8 years in the 80s and 90s, responsible for oversight of a dozen LDS wards accounting for around 4000 members. He has a thorough understanding of the Mormon faith and is deeply committed to it. Let me remind you that the Mormon doctrine holds that Jesus was once a man like any one of us, and by means of a long period of good works and righteous behavior earned the right to become a “god” over His own “planet”. This planet (Earth) was given to Him by God the Father (who presumably also became a god in the same way). In addition, each of us can also become a god like Jesus or the Father, if we too are very very obedient and good for a nice long while. So you’re also willing to vote for a cultish blasphemer who holds to the doctrine of Satan himself (Gen. 3:5, Isa. 14:14)!
[Author’s Note: I will certainly admit that the question of how and for whom to vote in various cases is a very deep one, and that I certainly do not have the perfect answer for all the problems and difficulties which may arise. Each circumstance is different and may demand close consideration of candidates and Biblical principles which may apply. However, in the case of Romney, it seems clear that in most instances, the reasoning given for voting for him is overwhelmingly pragmatic, rather than principial, in nature. I certainly could not cast my vote for him with a clear conscience while seeking to act on principle.]
Pragmatism and the Bible
Many of you are probably still thinking to yourselves,
“Yes, all this about Romney may be true, but Obama is so much worse! Are we not obligated by stewardship and the good sense God gave us to use our vote to help remove the much more evil person from power?”
And this truly is the question. Does God expect us to prioritize our principles in order to achieve a much better result? Do certain situations demand that we tweak our ethics and make a decision for the greater good? Fortunately God is once again faithful and does not leave us destitute of a principle to guide us in such perplexing situations. Let’s briefly be reminded of a few scenarios in which we see the “situational ethics” or “the end justifies the means” being played out in Scripture.
Saul and the Philistines
First, let’s remember the incident with Saul, Samuel, and the Philistine army in I Samuel 13. The Philistines had gathered a huge army to fight against Israel, and the whole army of Israel was terrified, hiding in the rocks and hills and retreating rapidly (I Sam 13:5-7). Saul retreats to Gilgal and waits there an entire week for Samuel to arrive so that sacrifice and entreaty could be made to the Lord on Israel’s behalf (I Sam 13:8). Remember that only priests from the tribe of Levi were to offer sacrifices according to the law. When Samuel fails to show and his army is deserting him right and left, Saul decides that for the common good of the nation, he should offer the sacrifice himself and seek God’s favor (I Sam. 13:9). This was an extreme circumstance, and certainly in a case like this, one must do what is necessary even if it is outside of the norm, correct? Not according to the Scripture! Samuel comes and immediately condemns Saul for his disobedience (I Sam. 13:10-13). Because of this decision, the entire kingdom is ripped from Saul and his lineage (I Sam. 13:14)!
Uzzah and the Ark
Second, let’s examine the case of a priest named Uzzah in II Sam. 6. David desired to bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem from the house of Abinadab. They used a new cart to carry the ark, with Uzzah and Ahio manning it (II Sam. 6:3). Remember at this point that according to the law, the ark was to be carried with poles, and not to be touched. Along the way there was a grand celebration to the Lord, complete with joyful singing (II Sam. 6:5). As they reached a rough threshing floor, the ark began to shake and was in danger of falling, so Uzzah quickly reached out to keep it from falling (II Sam. 6:6). Certainly the intentions of Uzzah as well as David and the rest of the crowd were good. To have the ark fall, and perhaps even break would have been a great tragedy, and so Uzzah was acting in wisdom by prioritizing principles in this particular case, was he not? Evidently God didn’t see it that way, because He immediately struck Uzzah dead (II Sam. 6:7)! Note that later, when the ark is successfully transported to Jerusalem, it is being carried (II Sam. 6:13).
Abraham and the Egyptians
Lastly, consider the plight of Abraham as he traveled about with his wife (and half-sister) Sarah. In Genesis 12, there is a severe famine which leads Abraham to travel to Egypt (Gen. 12:10). Because Sarah was so beautiful, and because kings of other nations were well known to stock their harems with whomever they pleased, Abraham decides that in this particular situation, it would be wise to stretch the truth a little and hide the fact that Sarah was his wife. In so doing he would escape with his life (Gen. 12:13), and God would then be able to fulfill the promise He had given to him (Gen. 12:2). What resulted from this pragmatic little scheme? Pharaoh and his whole house were plagued because of it (Gen. 12:17), Abram’s sin was discovered (Gen. 12:18), and he was banished from Egypt in shame (Gen. 12:19-20)! Recall also that Abraham repeated this sin in Genesis 20, and it again caused nothing but trouble!
The Conclusion of the Matter
Time and again we see God’s displeasure with man when he tries to manipulate circumstances by using situational ethics. With politics, as in every sphere, God’s concern is not with us producing results for Him, but with our holiness (I Pet. 1:15-16)! When we fail to obey God’s Word or the principles found therein because we are trying to attain a certain result, we are in effect renouncing God’s sovereignty in the affairs of men and stepping in to “help God out” in areas which He evidently needs the assistance (Job 40:2, Rom. 9:20)!
God’s Word is clear that whatever any man does will always come under the sovereign governance of God (Prov. 19:21, 16:9, 21:30, Job 23:13, Isa. 14:24-27, 46:10, Eph. 1:11). This specifically includes the sphere of political leaders (Prov. 21:1, Dan. 4:35, Rom. 13:1). How aptly Solomon puts it, when, after searching out all things from man’s perspective and all the endeavors in which man can engage he says,
“The conclusion , when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (Ecc. 12:13).