The November 2nd presidential election resulted in what many consider a mandate for President Bush as he was voted into his second term by a large margin. Exit polls revealed a fact, unsurprising to those who hold to traditional values, that those very values were utmost in a majority of citizens' minds as they voted. Other indicators:
The charge of partisanship is possible against anyone attempting to help readers think through a presidential campaign so polarized by accusations from the Left and Right, so charged by raw emotion and with the backdrop of high-stakes subjects as a long-term war in Iraq and the continuous threat of terrorism. However, we have truly attempted to put forth a non-partisan view from the Judeo-Christian starting point. But that's just the point: everyone has a starting place. The breadth of issues involved in this presidential campaign was staggering: the economy and environment, war and terrorism, social issues like same-sex marriage and abortion. But this is no normal issues-oriented-only voter's guide (useful, we trust, beyond this election). Worldview—the primary, often unquestioned presuppositions behind thoughts, beliefs and convictions about reality—rests at the bottom of every position held by a candidate, even at the root of their religious convictions. So, we touch on worldview as a concept and dive a bit into what truth is and how it is known. (No attempt to address economics was made, although we have published on capitalism elsewhere.) As pundits and politicos alike were reminded, values matter and values spring from worldview.
It is particularly incumbent on Christians to participate by voting, given the biblical injunction to good citizenship (Proverbs 29:2, Leviticus 19:15, Micah 6:8, Romans 13:1-4). Jake Dockter in an op-ed piece in Relevant magazine, writes "St. Augustine said, 'Those who are citizens of God's kingdom are best equipped to be citizens of the kingdom of man.' One of the best ways for us to do this is by being involved in the process of electing a leader who follows a biblical standard of leadership." But the topic of religion and politics is contentious, even among believers. Kerby Anderson writes, "[T]he 'naked public square,' where religious values are excluded, is wrong. Likewise, the 'sacred public square,' which seeks to impose religious values, is also wrong. What Christians should be arguing for is a 'civil public square' that allows an open, civil debate to take place."
Many Americans who identify themselves as "born again" or "Christian" have been loathe to participate in past elections, especially young Americans of voting age. "...Presidential adviser Karl Rove... said nearly 4 million evangelicals did not cast ballots in the 2000 elections," writes Tony Carnes in Wooing the Faithful, Christianity Today, October 2004. By all indications, those silent evangelicals—and not a few conservative Catholics—not only voted, but cast their ballot for Bush and the values he has touted. According to Nathan Paul Mehrens and Won Kim in Casting Your vote on History in Relevant, Sept/Oct 2004, the percentage of overall voting-age 25-32-year-olds (Christians and otherwise) dropped from 53.3 percent to 43.3 percent. "The percentages for younger voters have dropped even lower."
Whatever your political persuasion, whoever you voted for or whether you are even eligible to vote in the U.S., we invite you to look beneath the surface to the bedrock of beliefs, to the worldview of those who would lead our nation and the free world. And you may want to bookmark this Web page for future elections.
—Byron Barlowe, Editor/Webmaster, Leadership University
"Worldview = Weltanschauung, n., a particular philosophy or view of life; a conception of the world" (Oxford American Dictionary and Language Guide, 1999).
Nancy Pearcey, co-author of How Now Shall We Live? and author of Total Truth, said "Culture first, not politics. If you just focus on politics, you lose the culture. Politics is a reflection of culture. Political issues arise from deeper worldview assumptions, so it's much more effective to address those underlying assumptions." - From a Human Events Spotlight (1996). We seek to aid you in addressing those most basic presuppositions here, not only in relation to the upcoming elections on November 2, but beyond to all elections and culture-shaping ideas and events.
How Does Your Worldview Fit?
John H. Stoll, Ph.D.
With all the rapidly changing events that are happening in today's world, is your worldview able to assimilate them, without disrupting your life? Written to help Christians in their faith, this brief newsletter copy from a well-rounded senior member of our human race challenges people of all worldviews to the basic test of livability--does your view of life and reality get you where you want to be or help you deal with where you already are?
Books in Review: Before the Shooting Begins: Searching for Democracy in America's Culture War
Reviewer: Elizabeth Fox-Genovese
Ten years later, this book review still speaks volumes about American voters who are still "disillusioned with the possibilities of making an impact upon 'the system'" and who in many cases, choose not to vote. Citizens' grasp of public issues," Fox-Genovese writes, "has largely been reduced to a personal adherence to one or another of the political slogans that activists substitute for reasoned, responsible debate." Hunter, author of the book, contends that American democracy itself is at stake and poised to topple. Fox-Genovese concludes that the "assumed moral baseline" of American democracy disintegrated along with the fair, reasoned, balanced pursuit of that democracy and that they must both be restored together, if they can be.
Measuring Morality: A Comparison of Ethical Systems
Erwin Lutzer, condensed by Lou Whitworth
What makes an action right or wrong? Such a question is acutely relevant when discussing waging war, averting evil and righting wrongs, as in the case of a post-9-11 conflict with Iraq. The answer to this question, when asked of various ethical systems, helps sort through the maze of beliefs that muddy the ethical waters. A condensation of Erwin Lutzer's book Measuring Morality: A Comparison of Ethical Systems.
The Lost Art of The Debate: How Today's Debates Teach Cynicism and Relativism
Professor Gene Edward Veith
A contrast and comparison of today's debates with the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates of a century and a half ago. Veith contends that the present-day presidential "debate" format encourages cynicism that renders us incapable of the logical and rhetorical skills true debating once did. That leaves the burden on the voter to read between the lines and think critically.
Kerry, a practicing Catholic who regularly flouts Catholic doctrine on subjects like abortion, is famous for keeping his religious convictions to himself. In a 1998 interview with American Windsurfer quoted in John Kerry's Open Mind, Christianity Today (October 2004), Kerry said, "I'm a practicing Catholic, but at the same time I have an open-mindedness to many other expressions of spirituality that come through different religions.... I've always been fascinated by the transcendentalists and pantheists and others who found these great connections just in nature...." Evangelical Democrat James R. Kurth remarks, "Kerry is the imperial self dressed up in a politician's suit." Pastor Michael Haynes of Boston says of Kerry's interfaith comments, "It sounds like what Thoreau's people and Emerson's people talk about" (ibid). Left-wing Catholic Sister Joan Chittister cites Kerry's opposition to racial profiling and loss of "civil liberties lost during the Ashcroft era," and his support of affirmative action as "good Catholic positions."
Bush, known for his openly evangelical faith, has 91 percent support from evangelicals, according to a Bush campaign strategist citing their own polling. This is not just stump-speech behavior; Bush prays at cabinet meetings. Research by Karl Rove, presidential adviser and campaign mastermind, shows that nearly four million evangelicals failed to vote in 2000—evangelicals are being courted heavily by Bush. In Wooing the Faithful, Tony Carnes writes, "...Bush is more open about his faith and at ease in using Christian language than ever. The American public is comfortable with that. According to a Pew Research nationwide survey conducted in early August (pewforum.org/docs/index.php?DocID=51), 59 percent of people who responded said it's important to have a President who is religiously devout." But some dislike the way Bush ties ties faith together with the conservatism he embraces. Overall, however, "roughly seven-in-ten voters (72%) continue to say it is important to them that a president have strong religious beliefs," according to the Pew Research poll.
The Pew poll also found " the public expresses ambivalence on general questions concerning the appropriate role for churches and other houses of worship in politics, and outright skepticism on specific issues relating to religion that have arisen during the current campaign.... Americans continue to oppose the idea of churches and other houses of worship endorsing political candidates. Nearly two-thirds (65%) say churches should not do this, while just 25% find it acceptable." Interestingly, the survey uncovered the opinion that the GOP is more friendly to religion, by a wide gap, while neither party was seen as particularly unfriendly toward religion.
And, 64% of voters claim that "moral values" will be "very important" to their vote. "Kerry and Bush run about even among voters on the question of which candidate could do the best job in improving the nation's moral climate (45% Kerry vs. 41% Bush)," according to Pew Research.
This speaks not of immorality vs. morality in the minds of Americans, but of competing moralities. That is, polls and interviews, blogs and even demonstrations reveal genuine angst borne of deeply held convictions by anti-Bush Americans, who make up many of the pro-Kerry camp. Their antipathy for a president who they say favors the rich and is carrying out an imperialistic war in Iraq rests often in a passion for social justice. Simultaneously, pro-Bush conservatives—a good share of evangelicals among them—emphasize traditional values tied to a strong defense, national sovereignty and views based on belief in imago dei, or man as the bearer of God's image which lead to protection of the unborn in all cases. Strong moral views all, but if they are not in direct competition, they certainly stem from pretty widely divergent presuppositions.
Commentary: Moral Leaders in Public Office
Retaining our nation's freedom depends on several things, none more important than electing moral political leaders. Anderson quotes several founding fathers, writing that "the founders of this country believed that the future of the republic rested on moral principles. And those moral principles were best exercised in the hands of godly leaders."
Radio Commentary: Pulling the Lever: Our First Civic Duty
I can't tell you, my BreakPoint listeners, how much I envy you today. Why? Because as a convicted felon, I cannot vote. Today is Election Day (written in 1998), and your first civic duty is to vote! If you don't vote, you are abandoning the first tenet of the biblical command to be a responsible citizen. I won't tell you whom to vote for, because I never endorse candidates. But I will say that whether you vote Democratic, Republican, or Independent, you should look at one overriding criterion this year: Character.
The Problem With Conservatism
Professor J. Budziszewski
What should Christians think about conservatism? The author strongly cautions against identifying any political persuasion with Christianity. He goes on to point out eight alleged errors in conservative thought that he believes Christians should keep in mind.
The Problem With Liberalism
Professor J. Budziszewski
Should Christians be political liberals? Or to put it another way: what are Christians to think of liberalism? The author asserts that liberalism is wrought with serious moral flaws. He does not bolster his case with issues such as homosexuality and abortion, but rather goes deeper to their causes.
Politics and Religion
Kerby Anderson, Probe
This classic, simple essay written to Christian believers examines the role of politics and religion, pluralism in America and whether a government can legislate morality. Concludes with biblical principles for social involvement.
President Bush, contrary to populist rhetoric, actually took the middle ground on the issue of embryonic stem cell research—in which embryos are often created for therapies and are always destroyed in the process. Rather than placing a ban on such research, he stopped further development of embryos for the research. Bush has otherwise gone on record as being against embryonic stem cell research, a position which he claims is informed by his faith. On abortion, Bush has similarly towed the middle line, which he opposed except in the case of rape, incest or cases where a mother's life is endangered, according to a 2000 New York Times article. It is unknown whether he has modified that stance, but he still maintained recently, according to the Times, that "neither the country nor Congress was ready for a ban on the procedure." Bush signed the Partial Birth Abortion ban into law and opposed the FDA's approval of RU-486 ("morning after pill").
Kerry has derided Bush's stance stem cells as a major campaign issue. According to C. Ward Kischer in an article reposted to Lifeissues.net, in August, "John Kerry said if he is elected President: 'We're going to lift the ban on stem cell research.' The 'ban' is a refusal by President Bush to fund with public money research on stem cells derived from" destruction of embryos. "Kerry also said: 'We're going to say yes to science. We're going to listen to the scientists.'" Kerry supports abortion rights, health plans with coverage for women's contraceptives and would appoint only judges who support abortion-rights. In a July interview that reveals a disconnect between personal beliefs and public policy decision-making, Kerry said, "I oppose abortion, personally. I don't like abortion. I believe life does begin at conception." Despite this pro-life "belief," Kerry continues, "I can't take my Catholic belief, my article of faith, and legislate it on a Protestant or Jew or an atheist."
The Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life (see above) found that the issue of stem cell research is gaining visibility and may help Democrats. "...A majority of the public (52%) now feels that the potential benefits of such research are more important than preserving the embryos that would be destroyed—up from 43% in March 2002."
LeaderU Special Focus: 30 Years of Roe v. Wade: Death, Deceit, Depression
Edited by Byron Barlowe
Abortion on demand became law in 1973. The judiciary sees this "right" as indispensible in protecting women's rights. But as statistical fabrications, health risks and fraudulent legal bases come to light, opposition to that premise grows. (Not to mention the 40 million aborted babies.) See our Special Focus (posted 1/15/03).
LeaderU Special Focus: Stem Cell Research: Is a Life for a Life Required?
Edited by Byron Barlowe
Stem cells to the rescue? Yes, there is promising research and treatment, but what should be the source of this "miracle material"? Ethical implications abound amid all the promise of cures and therapies. Why do proven adult stem cell therapies remain undiscussed while questionable, ethically problematic embryonic stem cell research is heralded? We survey the issues in our Special Focus.
President Bush launched the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq in response to 9-11 and the "war on terror." His position on pre-emptive war, known as the Bush Doctrine by some, is supported by some Christians as an extension of the Just War Theory and is criticized by other Christians, sometimes on the basis of Just War Theory. Bush views terrorism and terrorists (and the states that support them) as evil, but that troubles some, according to a Christianity Today article, Wooing the Faithful, in that he seems to see Americans as good. That is "very bad theology," says Jim Wallis, evangelical head of Call to Renewal. Bush has been ridiculed for failing to build more of an international coalition for the Iraq War, but more than 30 nations did participate. There is general agreement that Bush's presidency has been defined by 9-11 and the reaction to it and Americans seem to be placing their bets with Bush to lead in the ongoing war, if recent poll results are any indication.
Kerry voted for the Iraq War and, in a seeming policy "flip-flop," voted against the appropriation of $87 billion to further prosecute the war. From the official Kerry-Edwards Web site (www.johnkerry.com/issues/national_security/iraq.html):
John Kerry and John Edwards will make the creation of a stable and secure environment in Iraq our immediate priority in order to lay the foundations for sustainable democracy [by seeking to]:
- Internationalize, because others must share the burden;
- Train Iraqis, because they must be responsible for their own security;
- Move forward with reconstruction because that's an important way to stop the spread of terror; and
- Help Iraqis achieve a viable government, because it is up to them to run their own country.
What Would Caesar Do?
Professor Gene Edward Veith
Accusations that America's President Bush is a "new Caesar," seeking to wantonly wage war for his own purposes, here meet the reality of contrasts between the two leaders' styles, proven motives and behaviors.
Moral Clarity in a Time of War
Weigel laments the loss of moral understanding of the "venerable just war tradition," even by religious leaders who would be expected to guide us in times of war like these. "Moral clarity in a time of war requires us to retrieve the idea of the just war tradition as a tradition of statecraft, the classic structure of just war analysis, and the concept of peace as tranquillitas ordinis ('tranquility of order'). Moral clarity in this time of war also requires us to develop and extend the just war tradition to meet the political exigencies of a new century, and to address the international security issues posed by new weapons technologies." He calls for and offers clarity regarding the moral discussion of war. Weigel continues, "There is a moral obligation to rid the world of this threat to the peace and security of all. Peace, rightly understood, demands it."
In Response to Terror
James Turner Johnson
Johnson, professor of Religion at Rutgers University, outlines a possible political response to the threat of terrorism that draws on the tradition of just war theory. He writes, "It is not necessary when thinking morally (or legally) about the use of force in counter terrorism to restrict such force to after-the-fact response to particular violent acts; nor is it necessary to deal with terrorist activities on a tit-for-tat basis, though the use of force would be justified in such cases. Let me be clear: a strategy that involves the use of military force to prevent terrorist acts is just and moral." Note: written previous to the events of 9-11.
Terrorism and Islam
Professor Otto Helweg
Dr. Helweg, who studied Islam, classical Arabic, and the Middle Eastern culture while living in the Middle East for more than a decade, writes a straightforward article regarding the mindset of Muslims, particularly the terrorists among them. First, he describes the sharp differences in the worldview and culture of the West and Middle East, then briefly explains the effect that the Qur'an and other sacred writings have on radical Muslims. He disputes the characterization of Islam as a peaceful religion and concludes that attempts to stamp out the evil of terrorism are naive.
Jihad and Just War
James Turner Johnson
Johnson contrasts the mainstream Islamic doctrine of limited war with the radically unlimited jihad of Osama bin Laden, which expands the doctrine of emergency warfare to include the entire West (along with Israel) and makes no distinction as to targets or combatants. Bin Laden's jihad also seeks overthrow of contemporary Muslim states and their mainstream views.
Conflict of Religions
Professor Gene Edward Veith
The Iraq War and occupation serve as a litmus test for an Islamic culture's view of war and terrorism, albeit one that spent decades under repression of a Socialist regime. Veith contrasts Islamic culture and worldview with that of the United States with its Judeo-Christian moorings, especially as they relate to the "war on terror." One thing is clear: jihad, or holy war, has been declared and waged on America and that is something Westerners do not readily understand.
The American founding fathers realized that the fledgling nation's people still smarted from the oppression of state religion. In fact, curtailed religious freedoms launched the colonization of the English colonies and the American experiment itself, in large degree. The doctrine of the separation of powers, through which three branches of government would counterbalance the tendency for human government to overreach, sought to avoid historical abuses.
However, many today claim an imbalance, particularly on the part of the judiciary. Judges, appointed and not elected for the most part, continuously reinterpret law according to a doctrine that sees law not as fixed, but constantly interpretable according to the times and shifting norms. At times, critics charge that judges create norms and rights out of thin air, most notably, the so-called "right to privacy" which is a phrase not found in the Constitution. Needless to say, the legal and moral worldview of the next President will determine much for the future of democracy in the U.S.
Bush explicitly promises to appoint judges who subscribe to a strict constructionist view of law, which views law as intrinsically meaningful, as opposed to the view that seeks to reinterpret law over time, drawing meaning from the culture and its changeable mores. His appointment in his first term fell along these lines, which is one reason for their fierce opposition, almost entirely by Democrats. Bush's faith-based policies display his belief that government should come alongside religiously based social programs and not avoid or actively oppose them.
According to Mark Stricherz writing in Christianity Today (Kerry's Open Mind, October 2004), "Kerry has many supporters who also blur classic church-state issues with the relationship of faith and public policy.... The Clergy Network for National Leadership Change, a new interfaith group opposed to the 'far-right' policies of the Bush administration, has emerged as a well-spring of support for Kerry. 'We are especially dismayed by...the manipulative ignoring of the principles and practices of church-state separation,' they said." Kerry favors judges who tend toward seeing the law as malleable, the so-called "living document" view of law, which is often at the root of judicial activism according to conservative commentators.
LeaderU Special Focus: The Secularization of Church & State
Edited by Byron Barlowe
The next President of the United States will likely appoint three Supreme Court Justices and dozens of lower court jurists. Daily, it seems, American courts bear the fruit of the separation of church and state doctrine that is now sacrosanct in the public psyche. From the Ten Commandments in public places to the Pledge of Allegiance, we see a constant purging of faith expressions in the public square. But is the idea Constitutional? (Posted 9/18/03)
The Clinton Presidency provided plenty of fodder for discussions of postmodern relativism and shifting morality. Perhaps the chief split in the electorate—and arguably, between the two presidential candidates of 2004—is the most basic worldview tenet of all: what is truth and how is it known? Ancillary questions may be Does it change over time? Is it different for different people and groups? Who is to say with truth really is? We touch on these root issues below.
How Do You Spell Truth?
This article describes both modern and postmodern views on truth. He then presents what Christian teaching means by Truth.
What is Truth?
Professor Douglas Groothuis
This essay explores the nature of truth in relation to our postmodern setting. Groothuis advances the correspondence view of truth, explain its importance to Christians, and defend its several rivals.
President Bush has called for support of the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would codify into the highest law marriage as a monogamous, heterosexual union. John Kerry's position, on the other hand, is characteristically an attempt at middle-ground: he is against same-sex marriage but also rejects the federal amendment. Although according to a Pew Research poll released recently, gay marriage "ranks as among the least important issues tested in the new survey. Roughly a third (34%) say gay marriage will be a very important factor in their choice about as many (30%) say it will not be a factor at all. By comparison, twice as many voters see the economy, terrorism and Iraq as well as health care and education as very important to them."
Yet, conservative religious leaders maintain that same-sex marriage is a seminal issue—perhaps the defining issue of our day. Bush called the marriage between a man and a woman "the most fundamental institution of civilization" (Wooing the Faithful by Tony Carnes, Christianity Today, October 2004). Read the collection below for insight into an issue whose importance seems less apparent than many, but which may turn out to be the most important of all.
LeaderU Special Focus: Redefining Marriage: the Gay Way
Edited by Byron Barlowe
The Massachusetts Supreme Court found laws barring gay marriage unconstitutional. Perhaps the greatest culture-war showdown of all is brewing. How would same-sex marriage redefine marriage? What are the stakes?
Candidate Al Gore provided a starker contrast to President and candidate George W. Bush in 2000, but there is still a difference between Kerry and Bush. The latter represents the primary view of man as tamer and exploiter (at least as necessary) of the environment. One key issue: favors drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). Yet, he scaled back offshore drilling in Florida. He opposes further regulation on mileage for cars and light trucks and favors tax incentives for increased energy efficiency.
Kerry leans toward the worldview of man as only one member in a matrix of natural equally valuable animals who carries an overwhelming obligation to protect the environment at virtually all costs. He proposes that oil and gas revenues be funneled into developing cleaner energy sources, calls for tighter standards for fuel efficiency and companies operating on public land, opposes drilling for oil in ANWR and wants us to be independent of Middle East oil in 10 years. (Source: New York Times online, Campaign 2004: On the Issues. Accessed 9-23-04).
We offer a biblically balanced overview of many of the major tenets of these underlying values.
LeaderU Special Focus: Ethics of the Environment
Edited by Byron Barlowe
President Bush refused to sign the Kyoto Accords early in his presidency. To some, environmental concerns conjure images of militant protests, draconian laws and frivolous lawsuits. Others raise a siren call for the survival of the planet, often vilifying "arrogant" corporate and societal interests. Is there a moderating view?