Mt Soledad
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Christian Citizenship Council
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“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Prov 29:2)

“A Biblical Perspective on Candidate Qualifications – Part II”

How well do we really know someone?  Most of our perception of a candidate for public office is based on the views of others we respect, or what we hear in the news.  Because few of us live next door to someone seeking elective office, we have little opportunity to meet and evaluate the “real” person under every day life conditions.  Even without personal knowledge, it’s critically important for us to evaluate competency to serve since any legislative, governing or judicial position can have profound impact on our lives.  This becomes abundantly clear when we ignore our duty and leave the voting decision to others.

The previous month I addressed the necessity of knowing the candidate’s spiritual condition, and the underlying principles governing their outlook on life and decision-making.  The following treats the last two areas: character and knowledge.

The Candidate’s Character.

Character is one of those interesting qualities that shows itself in times of significant challenge, or over time through less important circumstances when strong, moral consistency can speak volumes.  Even though a person’s personality can leave the most dominant impression on each of us, their true character may still be solid and shine brightly when tested.  We all know that a person may sound like they have a sincere faith, and talk a good line about values, but their real convictions (if any) will show themselves through decisions and attendant actions.  Within the church environment, the Bible provides important character trait qualifications to evaluate leaders (1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9; 1 Peter 5:1-3).  These verses tell us that visible life patterns become the evidence of inner integrity, moral soundness, and commitment.  Why wouldn’t we use similar criteria to evaluate a political candidate’s character?  For instance, is their home in order?  Are they self-controlled, teachable, gentle, mature, above reproach, well thought of by outsiders?

Let’s go one step further.  A candidate of solid, godly character has probably demonstrated personal responsibility and remorse (repentance) for any prior, sinful decisions or actions.  Do they truly understand why they were wrong, or for that matter, do they ever admit fault (Prov 12:1; 1 Cor 6:9-11)?  Does the person come across as double-minded, saying one thing to one audience and something quite different to others (James 4:7-8)?  Do they appear to be ambitious for power and begin to believe their own press releases, or is their heart truly one to serve us (James 3:13-18)?  Finally, do others that you respect openly support this person based on their understanding of the candidate’s true “character” (Prov 27:2)?
The Candidate’s Knowledge.

The previous qualifications have addressed the makeup of a candidate, beginning with the innermost condition (relationship to God), and proceeding outward to their applied life principles.  The living out of their principles establishes the quality of their true character.  Given these factors, the last area to consider is their knowledge of, and giftedness for, public office.  Often this becomes essentially the de facto criteria governing our vote.  If a candidate has a lot of direct experience, it’s going to be highlighted in ads, mailings, speeches, etc.  If they don’t, they’re portrayed as “outsiders” but with an applicable perspective and experience base for the job.  Though it has its place, I’m not convinced simple experience is the key, over-riding factor. 

Experience-related questions I would rather ask include: how skilled (not just successful) was the person in their prior work (Prov 22:29)?  Do they understand the breadth of issues, decisions, difficulty, and people they’ll have to work with (Luke 14:25-32)?  If they’ve served in public office before, do they have a demonstrable, morally sound voting record?  If there are some apparent inconsistencies, are there valid reasons as to why (1 Tim 3:10)?  If they have no public record, what clear evidence exists in their past of sound moral understanding and actions?  Finally, do they have the necessary giftedness and aptitude to work with radically different personalities and types of people in order to make progress consistent with their (hopefully Biblical) convictions (2 Tim 2:24-25; Col 4:5-6)?

I realize an in-depth understanding of a candidate is both rare, and difficult to get.  But why would that dissuade us from doing the necessary research to gain as much insight as possible?  The more we hold our public officials to a higher, morally sound standard, the more it will impact those who decide to go after public office and seek our support.  Why should we ask for, better yet, why should we demand anything less?

If you have differing views, I’d love to hear them.

- Frank Kacer

First published as a Guest Commentary in the May 2006 issue of Good News Etc.