As the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus approaches, Republican candidates have been rounding up cities throughout the state in a final attempt to swing some voters in their favor and convince the public they are the right person to take on President Barack Obama next year for the White House.
The candidates have been hitting up various campaign trails, with Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann attempting to stop by all 99 Iowa counties before Jan. 3. Frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich will also be visiting as many communities as they can the week leading up to important day, with the latter launching an ambitious 44-city tour on Tuesday.
A number of Iowa pastors spoke with The Christian Post about their views on the presidential campaign, and shared advice they have to give to Christian voters about how to determine what a good president will be from a Biblical standpoint – and how to search for the qualities that will allow a candidate to lead the people in a just and Christian way.
Pastor Steve Schmaljohn from the Apostolic Church of Tipton, IA, wrote in a long email that there are no perfect candidates:
“I believe that we have a responsibility as Christians to choose a candidate prayerfully and in a way that gives consideration to all of the important issues and the needs of the nation. I think it is unwise to choose a candidate based on one single issue, while neglecting others.”
The pastor continued by explaining that the most important freedom we have is religious freedom: “So, I think first and foremost, for me to support a candidate, they must be respectful towards religion, and particularly (as I believe that Christianity is under attack from many quarters) they must be respectful towards Bible-based Christianity.”
Schmaljohn reminded: “To make a statement disparaging people who "cling to their religion" as Barrack Obama did illustrates contempt towards people and towards Christianity. I can never support a candidate who has that attitude.”
The pastor then went on to outline concerns with abortion, gay marriage, and economic and foreign policy:
“I need a candidate who believes that life is sacred. This will affect their position on abortion, euthanasia, and even health-care "rationing". I believe God gave us the right and even the responsibility (in Genesis 9) to have the death penalty, so I don't see that as a contradiction to a pro-life position, but it has to be administered very carefully. I believe we have a responsibility to make our voice heard to protect the innocent and oppressed, including the unborn (Jer. 22:3, Jer. 1:5).
“I believe that the candidate should be concerned with the plight of the poor - but I don't believe socialism or the social gospel is the answer. I believe that providing people with opportunities is the answer. It is the old saying, "If you give a man a fish, he can eat for a day, but if you teach him to fish, he can eat for a lifetime." The Bible says that "if a man will not work, let him not eat". Entitlements are making slaves of many.
“At the same time, I believe government needs to assist those who cannot assist themselves - there does need to be a safety net. But if we do not do something to live within our means (also a Biblical principle), there will be no safety net and no America as we know it. Therefore, a candidate's position on the economy is important to me, even from a Christian perspective.
“The candidate must have principles that support the free market (which I believe is supported by scripture), creating an environment where people who are willing to work (no matter what ethnic and racial background they have) can succeed. I don't believe that we should give business free reign to abuse people or the environment, but I don't believe we should regulate them and tax them such that they can't be successful in the global market, either.
“Family issues are important. I believe the family was instituted by God (Gen. 2:23-25). I do not believe in so-called "gay marriage" and if a candidate supports that, that is a problem for me. At the same time, I do not believe we should discriminate against homosexuals - we should try to lead them to repentance and salvation. Whatever the state does with homosexual couples, it must not be called marriage - marriage is a sacred institution and should not be profaned in this way. In fact, I believe government policies should strengthen traditional marriage between a man and woman and should encourage it. I believe the candidate must have pro-family positions.
“Foreign policy is important too. The candidate must see war as a last resort, but also must be willing to protect the cause of freedom, and the interests of the U.S. when necessary. Our nation is not perfect, but I believe we are a good nation and have done much good in the world (largely because we have been primarily a Christian nation in the past). I believe we must continue to support Israel's right to exist and to defend themselves (Gen. 12:3).”
Pastor Schmaljohn also addressed how should Christians respond to calls to forgive candidates for their pass transgressions, such as Newt Gingrich leaving his previous wives for a new mistress on two occasions – and should that affect their voting decision:
“I am not sure "forgive" is the right word here,” he explained. “I do not need to forgive Newt Gingrich - he has not wronged me. I do need to recognize God's willingness to forgive him, and I must also recognize that God wants us to extend mercy towards people. I am not Mr. Gingrich's judge (or any other candidates). I recognize that people change, especially with God's help. That being said, yes, a candidate's past should affect my voting decision to some degree.”
He added: “I have to decide if the candidate has good character and is trustworthy, so both past actions and present actions must be taken into account. Regardless of their past history, have they established a track record that has exhibited good character and established their trustworthiness? Regardless of their past actions, if they have enough of a track record that shows they have changed, I could still support them.”
Pastor Cary Gordon from the Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City, IA, who produced a YouTube video reminding voters of Newt Gingrich's three marriages and spoke previously with The Christian Post about the production, and had further comments on the republican campaign: “I hope people will vote based on who should be president, and not based on certain qualities or characteristics that make a candidate stand out,” he said.
“The one with the least moral baggage may be the better choice. I would also look at past positions of power, and see how well they handled them.”
Despite his highly critical YouTube video, the pastor said that forgiveness is always possible – but forgiving a candidate should not lead us to vote for them if they do not deserve it: “Forgiveness is between Gingrich and his former wives, and between him and God. We can also forgive, but we cannot forget.”
“Trust must be earned – the Bible says it is foolish to give out trust to those that have not earned it.”
Pastor Dennis Meyer from St Paul's Lutheran Church in Atlantic, IA, spoke about the need to put God at the top and always consider Him when making big decisions.
“I think that the most important thing is to have a candidate be willing to recognize that God is in the picture. That’s more than just a lip service. We have many evangelical candidates right now, and they all present themselves as totally depending on God,” he said.
“But what’s the reality? We cannot know the hearts of people. It worries me that some of the candidates have nothing more than nice words to use.”
Speaking on forgiveness and voting decisions, the pastor concluded: “I am always willing to forgive and follow Jesus’ example. We can also look at God listening to Abraham’s pleas in the Old Testament not to destroy Sodom and Gomorra because he thought five righteous people were living there. I believe that people need forgiveness – but I know that some of us are simply unable to accept the lifestyle former congressman Newt Gingrich has lived by.”
“It comes down to the matter of personal integrity and personal choice. If in our prayers and our search for guidance, we find that God leads us to believe that Newt Gingrich is not really an option and does not show the morality that is necessary for a candidate – then I personally would find it hard to vote for Newt."