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31.10.10

I'd want to know how God wants me to vote

Steve Benen is upset that conservative activist David Barton released a video in which he told his followers:

One day, we'll stand before [God] and He'll say, 'What did you do with that vote I gave you?' And we'll have to answer.... If we stand before God and He says, 'Why did you vote for a leader who's attempting to redefine my institution of marriage and who wills the unborn children that I knew before they were in the womb?' If He asks us that and our answer is 'Because that leader was good on jobs and the economy,' He's not going to accept that.


Benen replies: "Yes, David Barton feels comfortable claiming to know what his God finds acceptable and unacceptable, and then relaying that information along to the rest of us."

I don't see what's so objectionable about Barton's approach. Certainly as a liberal non-believer I disagree with the idea that God is going to punish anyone for voting wrong, and I disagree with the idea that voting for pro-life candidates is the best way to use one's vote. But we can bracket those issues, because Benen's concern is with the idea that we could claim to know how God wants us to vote. To him, saying that God wants you to vote in a certain way is inexcusably arrogant.

But what kind of a religion would it be that couldn't tell you how God wants us to behave, including in the voting booth? "God wants you to obey his commandments, but it beats me what those commandments might be." It's certainly wise to hedge our claims about God's will in caveats about the fallibility of human interpretation and application -- but if we can't make any claims whatsoever about what God wants us to do, then we have a thoroughly useless theology. I'm happy to see conservative and liberal religious figures making competing claims about what substantive policies, and what voting strategies, best advance their (God-derived) values. I want to hear other people's thoughts on how best to use my vote, in order to help me decide what to do with it -- and if I believed in God, that would include their thoughts on what God would approve of.

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