For President, I Am Voting For…
This coming Tuesday, November 2, we shall elect the President of the United States. It is without any question the most powerful office on the face of the earth. That office has been occupied by some saints, some sinners, and some who were both saintly and sinful. The office has been occupied by some who were so desirous of the office that they pursued that office for all they were worth. The office has been occupied by some who were thrust by circumstance into it. The office has been occupied by some who achieved a remarkable level of greatness, and it has been occupied by some who were stained with an equally remarkable mediocrity. The office has been occupied by some who have made contributions to this nation which are in existence to this very day, and the office has been occupied by some whose names are recalled only by the most serious of American historians. But it is a profoundly significant office and therefore as we move now toward this date with destiny, November the 2nd, I want to share with you some thoughts under the title, “For President, I am voting for …”
In order to put a frame around these comments, I wish to call your attention to a man who was a supreme politician—a man who is described in the Bible as being greater than all the kings and presidents who ever lived because of his great ability and excellent spirit. In fact, when I stop to think about the kind of person who ought to occupy the Oval Office in our time, it would be my fondest hope and prayer that it would be a person patterned after the great Old Testament hero, Daniel. Daniel, you see, was not so much a spiritual leader as a political leader. He is the ultimate proof that one can achieve political success without compromising moral standards, without cutting corners, without becoming expedient to a fault, and without losing one’s identity under God. Daniel is, in my view, the ideal politician. You remember his story, don’t you? How an invading army conquered his land and his people; how the victorious king declared that all of the tall, strong, capable, well-educated young men in this captured kingdom were to be taken back to the king’s homeland and there they were to work for him. Daniel met all the requirements. So he was sent into exile in this foreign land to work for the king. Because of his intellectual depth and political acumen, Daniel soon rose to a position of enormous power in that kingdom. In fact, he became the most potent political force in the land, second only to the king himself, and yet through it all, he maintained his personal integrity and the integrity of his faith. He achieved power without sacrificing his belief. Thus he showed how the two can work together in harmony for the benefit of the people. Therefore Daniel has become my pattern and following that pattern, I wish to underscore for you the qualities I expect to find in the person I am voting for in the Presidential election.
For president, I am voting for a person of character.
Daniel was, without any question, a politician of great character. His greatness lay in the absolute consistency between his public life and his private life. We need his ilk today. To be sure, many editorial columnists and political commentators now are saying that it doesn’t really matter about a candidate’s personal character, that there isn’t a connection between the politician’s private life and personal values and the way that politician leads in public life.
Faulty reasoning. Chuck Colson makes reference to a book by the noted historian, Paul Johnson. The book is entitled Intellectuals. It is a collection of portraits of some of the great minds in human history. One of those portraits is of Jean Jacques Rousseau, the French thinker. Rousseau has exercised an enormous impact over the political structures and systems of our world. But, as Paul Johnson points out, Rousseau was a scoundrel in his private life. Johnson makes the case that that affected Rousseau’s political philosophy. For example, Rousseau gave himself to one illicit relationship after another and as a result he produced a string of illegitimate children. He then engaged in what I would call “slow motion abortion.” The minute those children were born, he would deposit them in a staterun orphanage—an orphanage where it was widely known that children died or wound up being beggars on the streets of Paris ultimately dying in terrible poverty—“slow-motion abortion.” Every child Rousseau fathered was placed in that orphanage. Now in order to justify his own private actions and values, he developed a philosophy which decreed that individuals need to be cared for by the government. When he placed those children in the orphanage he was saying, “This child is now your problem. Take care of him or her.” You see, the personal private part of his life was translated into a political philosophy which advocated state domination over peoples’ lives. What consequences that has had in our world! I need only remind you that Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, and Marx were heavily influenced by Rousseau. Also, Pol Pot, the demonic dictator of Cambodia, adopted the philosophy of Rousseau, and the result was that nearly one quarter of the population of Cambodia was slaughtered. Paul Johnson writes, “What an individual does in one’s private life has an indelible impact upon what happens in that individual’s public life. One cannot draw a distinction between the two.” Our political leaders are not perfect. However, we do have the right to expect that even with their weaknesses and failings, that, in general, they should be people of sterling character. There is a poem I love by Josiah Holland which says it all for me:
“God give us men. A time like this demands strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands—men whom the lust for office cannot kill; men whom the spoils of power cannot buy; men who possess opinions and a will; men who have honor; men who will not lie; men who can stand before a demagogue and damn his treacherous flatteries without winking; true men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog in public duty and in private thinking.”
Yes, for President, I will be voting for a person of character.
And for President, I am voting for a person of courage.
Every chapter of Daniel’s life tells the story of courage. Here he was singing the Lord’s song in a strange land, but he sang it so courageously that he became a very effective political leader. Of course, it takes great courage today just to run for political office, particularly the office of President. The way the press treats our candidates is quite astonishing to me. They refer to it as hard questions. My grandmother would have called it “bad manners.” Those who stand for public office today are subjected to the most horrendous treatment our society can muster short of physical violence. And I suppose that in some instances even that may be a part of it. It takes courage to run for the office. But more to the point, it takes great courage to execute the responsibilities of that office. There are massive issues to be dealt with and people’s lives are hanging in the balance. There are complex decisions which have to be made and the whole world is affected by those decisions. Yes, it takes extraordinary courage to be President in this free and noble country of ours in a time of such grave threat and uncertainty in our world.
The model for me in this regard is George Washington. After the Revolutionary War the Continental Congress did not have sufficient money to pay the soldiers for their effort. A group of rabble-rousing soldiers got mad about that and they stirred up other soldiers and formed a rebellious army intending to march and overthrow the new government. It was at that point that they were confronted by George Washington. Washington said to them, “If you continue in this manner you will open the flood gates of civil discord and you will drown this new nation in blood.” They seemed to pay no heed. They were determined to take the power of the nation for themselves. It was at that moment that George Washington remembered that he had in his pocket a letter from the Continental Congress—a letter of pledge that when the funds were available, the soldiers would be paid. He reached into his pocket, pulled out the letter, opened it up intending to read it. Suddenly, however, he seemed quite bewildered and confused. The soldiers were surprised. They were used to decisiveness from George Washington. They couldn’t imagine what in the world was wrong. It was then when Washington reached into his pocket once more and he pulled out what no one had even seen him use before—spectacles, eyeglasses. As he put them on he said to the soldiers, “Forgive me that I must wear these spectacles. But you see I have not only grown gray but also almost blind in the service of my country.” The soldiers were so moved that they immediately broke ranks and gathered around George Washington. They hugged him and they wept, and the rebellion was over. One year later, Thomas Jefferson writing of that incident said, “The courage and virtue of George Washington in that time of crisis prevented the loss of the freedom this nation had so dearly won.”
Dear friends, the freedom this nation enjoys, which was so dearly won, is now under attack by those seeking in any way possible to destroy it. In such a time, it takes great courage to stand for the glorious light and life of freedom which America has been, is now, and by God’s Grace shall ever be. For President, I am voting for a person of courage.
And for President, I am voting for a person of commitment.
What made Daniel such a great political leader was his unswerving devotion to God. My own hope is that the person who occupies the Oval Office in the White House is a person who not only speaks about the faith but practices it—a person who recognizes that the greater the responsibility and the more expansive the power, the deeper one’s dependence upon God must be. Yes, I want a person who stands strong in that office but who is unafraid to kneel. My great friend, the late Frank Harrington, told of a quote someone sent to him. Frank Harrington said he was not sure it was a friendly gesture but he kept the quote and referred to it about once a month. Here is that quote: “A mist in the pulpit puts a fog in the pew.” I want to tell you something, dear friends. I do not ask you to agree with me about everything that I stand for. I do hope you can love me in spite of that. I do not ask you to agree with me, but you can bet on the fact that from this pulpit as long as I stand in it, there will never be a mist. You will know where I stand. You will know my interpretation of Scripture. You will know my commitment to Jesus Christ. You do not have to agree with it all, but you will at least have to react to it so there will not be a fog in the pews. I believe that to be true of this church, and I believe the same thing is true of our nation. A mist in the Oval Office results in a fog in the nation. The person who occupies the office of the President of the United States must be a person of deep, solid, unashamed, unapologetic, unreserved faith in Almighty God. Otherwise, there will just be a mist in the Oval Office. So for President, I am voting for a person of commitment.
Well, for President, I am voting for . . .
Now you knew from the beginning that I wasn’t going to tell you. That’s not my purpose in this pulpit. However, what I do want to do from this pulpit is to call you to do precisely what I have done. List the kinds of qualities and characteristics you would like to see in the life of the person who occupies the office of the President of the United States and then when you go to vote on November 2, take your list with you.
James Stewart, the great Scottish Preacher, was making his rounds at the Royal Hospital in Edinburgh visiting his people there. He came up to a nurse’s station. There was a nurse there in obvious distress. He spoke to her and she looked up and recognized him. “Dr. Stewart,” she blurted out, “I don’t know what to do. What’s the answer for the people in this hospital who are suffering, people who are hurting, people who know that they are not going to live? For that matter, what’s the answer for all of the problems and difficulties raging about in this world of ours? What’s the answer?” James Stewart looked at her and said very tenderly, “You are the answer.” My dear and beloved people, any problems that exist in this nation and this world are in your hands and mine. You are the answer. I am the answer. We are the answer. And we need to be remembering that . . .
Soli Deo Gloria.