Obama, Romney, and Christian Ethics

Election day is around the corner and many Americans are still on the fence. Obama or Romney? Many Christians will go to the polls on Election day and vote based upon which candidate better lines up with “Christian Values.” This is a legitimate way to decide who will get one’s vote. Many Christians in my part of town believe that Romney best lines up with Christian/Biblical values. Many Christians I go to school with believe that Obama best lines up with Christian/Biblical values. In this blog post I want to briefly outline the ethics or values of both Obama and Romney as they are presented in a couple of interviews done by Ed Stetzer. Ed Stetzer interviewed some high up staff that adequately represented each candidate. For the sake of Christian Charity I will only highlight the positive aspects of their ethical stances. After taking a look at this I will suggest a paradigm for understanding their ethics and voting in light of their positions.

Obama’s Ethics

According to the his representative, “President Obama recognizes that as a society we will be judged on how we care for the ‘least of these.'” This is evident if we look at his stances on immigration, healthcare, and creation.

“On immigration, the Bible tells us to show care and respect for “strangers in the land” (Deuteronomy 10:19). President Obama has promoted pragmatic and compassionate immigration policies, including support for the DREAM Act that would provide a path to citizenship through higher education or military service for young people who came to America as children.”

“He has expanded health insurance to 32 million Americans, supported maintaining nutrition assistance for needy families, unemployment benefits for those who are out of work, Head Start programs for early childhood education, and doubling Pell Grants for students who may not otherwise be able to afford to attend college.”

“We are called to be stewards of God’s creation (Genesis 1:26), and President Obama has taken steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mercury pollution, protect water quality, and promote clean, renewable energy.”

Obama’s ethics are clearly a reflection of his belief that we are a government of, by and for the people, which means the values and priorities of our governmental institutions are a reflection of all of us. Because of this we cannot divorce ourselves from this responsibility as a society.

Regarding some of his more controversial positions: Gay Marriage and Abortion

“President Obama believes that it is fundamentally unfair to deny certain rights and protections to gay and lesbian couples who perhaps adhere to a different religious perspective.”

“While the President is pro-choice, it is not an issue he takes lightly, and there are certainly people of faith on both sides of this debate. President Obama believes we should be working together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions. He has strengthened programs that encourage adoption, increased pre- and post-natal care, and has increased access to contraception.”

Upon doing a quick survey of Obama’s ethics its clear that he is in favor of helping immigrants, the poor, and the oppressed. He is interested in taking care of creation. He desires to protect the freedom of people to do whatever they want as individuals, whether it be gay marriage or abortion.

Romney’s Ethics

Regarding the poor:

“Governor Romney’s governing history indicates a reliance on important partnerships between public and private sectors to address these problems. Furthermore, his life of involvement in his church demonstrates a consistent record of caring for the “least of these” in our midst.”

Regarding Gay Marriage:

“Governor Romney has long supported the civil rights of all Americans while still opposing the right for same sex couples to be joined in marriage.”

Regarding Abortion:

“Governor Romney has been quite transparent about his “conversion” on this issue, which resulted from a scholarly discussion on the matter of stem cell research during his term as governor of Massachusetts…I do not have the slightest concern about his fidelity to the defense of human life beginning at conception.”

Regarding Immigration:

Romney plans to “implement a national immigration strategy that bolsters the U.S. economy, ensures our security, keeps nuclear families together, addresses the problem of illegal immigration in a civil and resolute manner, and carries on America’s tradition as a nation of legal immigrants.”

He plans to secure the borders by: “completing a high-tech fence to enhance border security”, “ensuring that we have the officers on the ground we need to gain control of the border”, and to “develop an efficient, effective system of exit verification to ensure people do not overstay their visas.” He will discourage undocumented immigration, especially among young people by opposing “all “magnets” that entice illegal immigrants to come to our country. (As governor, he vetoed in-state tuition benefits for illegal immigrants and opposed driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants.)

A Paradigm for Understanding Obama’s and Romney’s Ethics

Reading through their positions on these political (ethical issues) it become clear to me that neither candidate really displays a more consistent Christian morality. Let me explain why…

Obama’s Ethics are best understood as corporate ethics. Romney’s ethics are best understood as individualistic ethics. For Christians both are essential. Romney is concerned about ensuring the morality of individuals. Homosexual acts and abortion are all sins that are committed by individuals. Obama is concerned about ensuring a corporate morality. He goes after the systems and structures that are immoral. For instance the systematic injustice faced by the poor when they are denied access to healthcare or a proper education. This observation is true not only of the candidates but the parties as a whole. For instance consider the democratic stance on the role of government and the republican stance on the role of government. Republicans tend to believe that freedom is a freedom from coercion. Democrats tend to believe in a version of freedom in which freedom is the ability to do something, rather than merely being a lack of restrictions preventing one from doing something. Thus these views of freedom influence their views on what the government is supposed to do. Republicans believe that the government should not coerce, so the government should stay out of the picture as much a possible, this is how to help people be free. Democrats believe that freedom is the ability to do something, so the government should help people to be free, thus by stepping in to situations they can help people actualize their freedom.

This might be an oversimplified analysis of the situation…. but when you (Christians) go out to vote next week keep in mind that one candiate is not necessarily more moral than the other. They just approach morality from two different directions (individually or corporately). As Christians both paradigms for morality are supposed to come into play. Vote accordingly.






Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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