Voting for Less Evil

What would it take to get you to the polls tomorrow? Will you get out and vote or stay home waiting for the perfect candidate? I'm asking because I've just been reviewing a survey of voting by Christians in the 2000 election. And, even though I've seen the results before, I'm appalled at the apparent apathy by the very citizens who ought to be the most morally concerned citizens in our country. Among those identifying themselves as Christians, only 50 percent were registered to vote in 2000. Worse, only half of those Christians who were registered actually went to the polls. That means only one Christian in four voted! Meanwhile, some races were won by margins of only ninety votes. The voters in one congregation could have made the difference. So why don't Christians vote? Father Frank Pavone, co-founder of Priests for Life, answers that some religious leaders are telling people not to vote! He explains, "Some Christians feel it is more righteous not to vote when the slate of candidates isn't that great. They feel compromised, dirty, or even sinful by casting a ballot for someone with whom they disagree." But how long will you have to wait to find a candidate whose position is identical to yours on every issue? By that standard, would you even be able to vote for your spouse? Pavone continues, "When you are faced with two candidates, neither of whom is perfect, . . . but one of whom is clearly closer in his or her convictions to the Gospel than any other, it is perfectly legitimate to vote for the better one." Government is God's ordained instrument for restraining evil and sin. If one would do a better job, we're bound to vote for that person. But isn't that a vote for "the lesser of two evils"? No. Pavone replies, "One is choosing a good -- [that is] the reduction . . . of an existing evil." What some would call a vote for "the lesser of two evils" is really a vote to lessen evil. One of the most clear-cut examples is abortion. In numerous races, one candidate wants to maintain unrestricted access to abortion while the other is pro-abortion, but wants some restrictions. I prefer, of course, a pro-lifer with no reservations. But a vote for the candidate advocating restrictions is a vote for less evil. Yet if there is no candidate who promises to eliminate all abortions immediately -- a position not likely to pass in Congress anyhow -- some voters stay home on Election Day. The result? A candidate who could have moved the issue in the right direction loses by default, and the out-and-out pro-choicer wins -- not good. Father Pavone calls the vote "a practical exercise in leadership, by which we do our part to put people into office who can make some improvement in our country's policies . . . [n]obody is morally bound to what is impossible, and it is perfectly legitimate to recognize the limits of what is possible." No candidate is perfect. Even if the vote in some states seems to be for the lesser of two evils, cast your vote to bring about less evil. Our concern should be to make our community and our nation more moral than it is. And we do that by electing candidates who, as God's magistrates, reduce evil. A vote that helps reduce evil may not be perfect, but it is a good vote. For further information: See the October 30 "Worldview for Parents" page for more resources on voting and public policy. Access the Christian Coalition Voter Guide download page. Once you sign in, you can then select the voter guides for your state and/or area and view, download and print them out on your desktop printer. BreakPoint commentary no. 021015, "Whose Choice is 'Pro-Choice'?" October 15, 2002. Alan Keyes, "The Choice for Silence," Pro-Life Infonet. Learn more about life issues at Pro-Life Infonet's Website. Cal Thomas, "Don't Allow This Election to be Stolen," Pete Winn, "The Duty to Vote," CitizenLink, 29 October 2002. See the rest of CitizenLink's coverage of the election. Father Frank Pavone, "Practical Voting in the 2002 Congressional Elections," Pro-Life Infonet, 22 October 2002. Stuart Shepard, "Experts Urge Christians to Vote," Family News in Focus, 29 October 2002. "One Vote Won't Make a Difference?", Life Issues No. 1391, 4 November 1996. Peter Kreeft, How to Win the Culture War: A Christian Battle Plan for a Society in Crisis (InterVarsity Press, 2002). The November BreakPoint WorldView magazine includes articles on Christian engagement in politics. Get yours today!


Chuck Colson



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