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My Personal "Voting Guide"

Voting%20Machine.jpgMany people (in our congregation and readers of this blog) have asked me about my thoughts on particular candidates in the upcoming presidential elections.  To put it bluntly, I'm not thrilled with any of them (at least not yet).

Rather than speak of individual presidential candidates, I thought I would post some of the criteria I will be using when I make my final choice.  Perhaps, you will find this helpful.  These apply to other state and national elections as well.

Like every other presidential election I can remember, my vote next time will probably be some form of a "lesser of evils" choice.  It has been a long time since I voted for someone with great enthusiasm.   But as Christian citizens, we must do our due diligence and weigh our vote carefully.

Since the focus of this blog is primary theological, I am reluctant to discuss presidential politics.  But this might be of help to some of you.  Again, the following list is largely descriptive, not prescriptive (i.e., this is how I will choose my candidate, not how you should choose yours).

Here, then, are a few of my personal criteria: 


I.  Moral issues:

1.  Is the candidate “pro-abortion” (i.e., supports partial birth abortion and federal funding for all abortions)?  I will not vote for such a candidate. 

2.  Is the candidate “pro-choice” (i.e., personally opposed to abortion, but defends a woman’s privacy over against state intrusion)?  Under very limited circumstances I would vote for such a person (that is, if the person is an otherwise sound candidate, does not advocate federal funding and if they are running against a pro-abortion candidate).

3.  Is the candidate politically pro-life (i.e., a generic conservative)?  Perhaps.

4.  Is the candidate consistently pro-life (i.e, in tax policy, supreme court appointments, etc).  Likely.

5.  Does the candidate favor homosexual marriage?  I will not vote for such a candidate.

6.  Does the candidate favor civil unions?  Under very limited circumstances I would vote for such a person (i.e, only if they were an otherwise sound candidate, and only if they are running against a gay-marriage advocacy candidate). 

7.  Does the candidate support the traditional definition of marriage?  Likely.

8.  Does the candidate express their concern about the poor and suffering through the advocacy of increased federal spending and centralized government programs?  Unlikely.

9.  Does the candidate express their concerns about the poor and suffering through the advocacy of federal/state/community programs involving job training, welfare reform, etc.  Perhaps.


II.  Constitutional Issues

1.  Does the candidate favor limited representative government?  Likely.  This is my primary voting criterion.

2.  Does the candidate defend second amendment rights?  Likely.

3.  Does the candidate understand that the establishment clause of the first amendment does not trump the free exercise clause?  Likely.

4.  Does the candidate defend the principle of avoiding all foreign entanglements (i.e., nation building), but nevertheless is willing to defend America’s citizens and vital interests when necessary?  Likely.

5.  Does the candidate defend private property rights?  Likely. 


III.  Disqualifications–Personal Reasons Why I Will Not Vote for a Particular Candidate:

1.  Does the candidate engage in rhetorical class warfare–“two Americas,” “tax the wealthiest Americans” etc?

2.  Does the candidate play the race card?  (This is different than addressing racial issues--something which is vital)

3.  Does the candidate have a thin resume for office?  Executive office holders (i.e. governors) are generally better suited for high office than is a legislator (i.e. senators).

4.  Does the candidate make unsubstantiated concerns (i.e. global warming) important themes of their campaign?

5.  Does the candidate invoke "Christian America" themes? 

6.  Does the candidate see the judiciary as a means of enacting public policy? 


IV.  Qualifications–Personal Reasons Why I Will Vote for a Candidate


1.  Is the candidate well-qualified for the position?

2.  Does the candidate understand the vocation of “public service”?

3.  Does the candidate possess strong leadership skills?

4.  Does the candidate possess good communication skills?

5.  Does the candidate manifest personal integrity?

6.  Does the candidate understand the great threat posed by militant Islam?

Reader Comments (34)

I agree with most of your criteria. As a pastor, exactly how much leeway do you have in encouraging participation in elections without losing tax-exempt status? My understanding is that you can endorse ballot propositions or positions of candidates without endorsing the candidate or political party itself.
July 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Alvarez
oh no, no, no, no. please say you didn't.

i think a minister has every right and duty to his politics, etc. and so forth. but i guess i have some pretty conservative views on just how much he should show his hand and how. despite the descriptive/prescriptive caveat, i wonder how much this disregards how the "non-verbal" aspect of a minister's office. one can say "you shouldn't do what i do" but what about the unspoken weight and authority of the office?

i am not sure what the difference is here between such a reveal and what one finds in broad american mixes of religion and politics. and what's it do for the credibility of any criticisms against such?

a (friendly) zrim rant
July 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterzrim
again - it's an issue of the two kingdoms. Dr. Riddlebarger is speaking as a citizen of the kingdom of this world - informed by his citizenship in the kingdom of heaven. we are free to agree or disagree and he is free to post his views on his blog
July 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commentergil
Dr. Riddlebarger,

Thank you for this post! This is a helpful, sane, reasonable, biblical set of means of sizing up a candidate. Thanks for posting this.

Thanks also for all your work on the radio and this blog. As a pastor, I have been greatly helped and encouraged.

Scott W. Kay
July 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterScott W. Kay

Looks to me like you've come to enjoy your status as a blog contrarian way too much.

As Gil said above (and as I was about to say), under the two kingdoms model I have every right to express my views as a citizen.

As you well know, I am very careful not to make political pronouncements from the pulpit, or in my office as minister of word and sacrament. That's why I chose to make this post here--on my personal blog, with all the necessary qualifications.

The fact is that people know I have strong political opinions and they often ask me questions about the up-coming elections. This is the best way--in my estimation--to address these questions. At some point it becomes disingenuous to not say anything in response to honest questions. The two kingdoms model allows for this very thing.

As I said, these are the criteria I will use in picking a candidate. You may find them helpful, you may not. I would hope that the weight people give to them would be determined by the soundness of the criteria and not any supposed gravitas that ministers possess because they also happen to be citizens.

Most who read this blog "get it." They know exactly what I am intending.
July 18, 2007 | Registered CommenterKim Riddlebarger
Pastor Kim,

We are grateful you have the guts to speak your mind; the wisdom to know God's boundaries; and the caring to share your ideas on your personal blog.

The upcoming election is going to be one of the "stupidest tea parties," yet!

May God help us all to diligently prepare to make the best vote possible, in this present evil age.
July 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
I was heartened to see that military people are the largest contributors to Ron Paul's campaign. He delivered about 4,000 folks as a doctor, but didn't about any.
July 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterCarson
5. Does the candidate invoke "Christian America" themes?

But I was told in my Abeka and Bob Jones history books that America is (or at least was in its past Golden Age) a Christian nation, with Evangelists like Charles Finney and Billy Sunday as proofs (and briefly during Reagan's 8 years). What am I supposed to do now?

A confused Republicrat.
July 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermatt holst
My criteria;

Does his first name start with 'Fred' and his last name end with 'Thompson'?
July 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy
"Profoundly unenthused" describes my position, for every candidate since Bush the First, with the possible exception of Ron Paul (who I voted for when he had an L. behind his name).
July 18, 2007 | Unregistered Commenter"lee n. field"
"Like every other presidential election I can remember, my vote next time will probably be some form of a "lesser of evils" choice. "

I agree and I usually go with the lesser of weevils. Whomever seems most likely to do the least harm.
July 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterChris Sheman
It is problematic,no?

Where is a candidate who is able to meet the specifications required in response to those very serious questions which need an answer?

I have found that it is very important to be in accord with my pastor and my husband.

But my candidate for President?

I am probably not going to find one who will generate much confidence.


My husband long ago reminded me that being a "purist" in politics would result in my being alone in the attic with my Bible, the Book of Concord, my copy of the US Constitution, and my twenty gauge.

"Jane", he would say every election,"You need to come down from the attic and vote. It is what citizens of both Kingdoms do".

I will not sit out this election......I will vote: but I may need to shed tears when I cast my ballot.
July 18, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJane Kerner

yes, i suppose it's the first-born in me that makes me so contrarian. yeah...let's go with that excuse. psychologizing seems less controversial and confrontive than any appeals to w2k theories.

yes, you have every right (and duty, like i said) to your views. that's why i made the anticipatory "right and duty" statement, because whenever i try making these similar points i think what may be heard is that i want to take them away. far, far from it; a w2k POV cannot tolerate such a pietistic and cavalier suggestion, even for ministers. my main point is simply that your office, seems to me, has a burden on it that no other office has. and i don't much envy that burden, namely that the one who holds it doesn't seem to have the same liberty as everyone else to speak freely about such matters, that's all.

that someone needs help in knowing how to vote, etc. seems odd to me...but ok. that a pastor is one to ask seems an odd assumption, but somehow even even more ok. letting these oddities slide a bit, i agree that it is disengenuous to say nothing to honest questions. but given your office, my point is that perhaps it might be best to do so more privately (if we agree that a "perosnal" blog has some undeniable public dimensions and that your office is made even more public by your relative "celebrity"...sorry, i hate using that word but it works for the moment).

so i'd rather see an adherence to 2k rules than relying on what "bloggers get."

maybe some of my perspective here has to do with the fact that, while i have my politics, i am not a *particularly* political person. and maybe that's why i get quite irritated with our highly over-politicized time and place as it seems to run roughshod over what i consider pretty clear 2k rules. but those are rules very much in the minority and not always adhered to by fellow proponents, so what do i expect?

July 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterzrim

please advise my wife...she has misunderstood her citizenship in the two kingdoms in the same way for too long. maybe you bumped into her in your attic at some point...cute girl, brown eyes, about 5 foot 5, bow legs, highly creative and overly-friendly, infectious laugh?

July 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterzrim that i think about it, "contrarian" seems overstated. just like i understand your response yet still disagree, same goes for that label.

...or is that what you mean by "contrarian"? :)

July 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterzrim
Zrim - every Christian blog I read is loaded with comments by you - always verbose and loaded with hubris. At first I was glad that Dr. Riddlebarger responded to you - but then I thought "Crap, this'll just boost his ego - 'my post warranted a response from Kim!!'" It seems I was right. I believe I'll stop reading the comments on this blog. Seriously - if you have so much to say - get your own blog. Sorry for my rant Dr. R. I'll leave now.
July 19, 2007 | Unregistered Commentermax
Hey! Leave Zrim alone....

Seriously, I don't get it. Just because his comments weren't filled with praise for Pastor Riddlebarger's defense of libertarian, free market candidates, he gets slapped on the wrist.

This is blogdom, people, it's no fun when we all agree on everything!

Jason J. Stellman
July 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJJS
"III. 4. - Does the candidate make unsubstantiated concerns (i.e. global warming) important themes of their campaign?"

You may not like the issue, you may disagree over the importance/urgency of the issue, but please please do not say it is an UNSUBSTANTIATED concern. That really sounds (reads) quite insulting, especially considering that most of the international scientific community is behind the issue. Surely this fals within the Christian Jurisdiction caring for God's earth? (Within a long list of priorities of which this is far from the first).
July 19, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel Lago
After reading all the comments Kim, all I want to say is I LOVE THE PICTURE YOU DID FOR THIS ONE!! lol The End.
July 20, 2007 | Unregistered Commenterplw
I agree mostly, but reject the defense of the second amendment. The second amendment which allows citizens to bear arms against the government, is the most anti-biblical aspect of our constitution.

The fact that it has been systematically curtailed by congress and the courts is matter of pragmatism, because it is such an incredibly bad law that was only created to placate free states that deeply distrusted centralized authority.

The second amendment guarantees the right to bear ARMS, not GUNS against the government. This means tanks, nukes, whatever.

It been necessary to illegally restrain our right to bear arms, because no governement can reasonably trust its citizens in this matter. Consider for a moment that if the explicit text of this amendment was actually upheld, you would have a legal right to go on a tour of the white house carrying a suitcase nuke.

While I think that gun and hunting hobbies are great hobbies, and that people should be allowed to own them, the second amendment is wrong.

Christ commands us not to rebel against our government, he commanded this in the context of the Roman empire, but we rebelled against one of the most benign leaders in world history, under conditions that were completely unoppressive. The American revolution was totally immoral and against God. Defending yourself against the government by force that God has authorized to rule you is a completely anti-Christistan concept. The second amendment is an ethical and legislative failure that has been shanghaied by gun enthuists that don't want to lose their right to hunt.
July 20, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterTory

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