On the relationship between justice and love, Augustine says in On Christian Doctrine, “Now he is a man of just and holy life who … neither loves what he ought not to love, nor fails to love what he ought to love, nor loves that more which ought to be loved less, nor loves that equally which ought to be loved either less or more, nor loves that less or more which ought to be loved equally.” Such wisdom is especially useful in casting a vote within a field peopled with candidates whose policies and records are imperfect to a distressing degree.
Save that one woolly-headed year I myself ran for Lieutenant Governor of New York on a third-party ticket, I’ve never encountered a political candidate who has aligned perfectly with my own views. So, following Augustine’s wise definition of justice, I judge candidates along a hierarchy of priorities. Not living in (nor wanting to live in) a theocracy, I find life, liberty and happiness form an excellent rubric of descending criteria for evaluating candidates for office, any office, but especially that of the president.
The first function of a government being the protection of the life of its citizens, I count unfit to govern any candidate who does not believe in protecting the very lives of its most innocent and vulnerable people. Today (although certainly not always in our nation’s history), the most vulnerable human beings in America are unborn children. While I’d much prefer a candidate who opposes abortion, the death penalty and wars fought for reasons other than the defense of life (and one who doesn’t flip-flop on such matters), according to the wisdom of Augustine, I love the protection of the lives of the innocent more and give this issue the highest place.
The next priority in governmental function is the advancement of liberty. Here I draw on hard-earned experience. Both my husband and I have served as educators among young people born into a generations-long culture of welfare dependency. Our experience has cultivated in us a righteous anger on behalf of (not against) those yoked by economic dependence. The problem isn’t that they see themselves as victims; the problem is that they are victims and don’t see it. Such enslavement is all the more insidious for the invisibility of its shackles and the mighty force of its unseen chains. There is no slavery quite like that of being prevented from fulfilling the God-given, human purpose of creating through honorable work. Yes, providing a sure safety net for those in crisis is good. But hindering human dignity and freedom through a cycle of dependency is not good. It is evil.
There’s an equality that is based on the lowest common denominator, and there’s an equality that is based on elevating everyone. While our economic situation is not the fault of one person (or even one party), the fact remains that under President Barack Obama’s leadership, equality looks more and more like the former: the number of those on welfare assistance has grown almost 19%; the gap between the rich and poor has increased; 15% of Americans are living in poverty; and the unemployment rate has remained unacceptably high after a sharp spike in 2009,with the jobless rate for African Americans reaching 14.1% and that for women 15.5%. So much for liberty.
And when it comes to happiness, I know as a Christian its ultimate source. And on that point, too, the current administration is faltering: a new Pew Forum report on government restrictions on religion moves the United States from the category of “low” restrictions on religion to “moderate” for the very first time.
He’s far from perfect, but for the sake of even modest gains for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I’ll cast my vote for Mitt Romney.
What Do You Think?
- How do you think Mitt Romney would perform as president?
- How does your faith play a part in that evaluation?