Should our politicians be held to a higher moral standard?

Popularity does not guarantee morality

Popularity does not guarantee morality

[Originally posted on Helium in March 2009, and it quickly rose to #2 out of 111]

2 When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.

~ Pr 29:2

The question of moral accountability for leaders isn’t necessarily a black and white issue. There is no such thing as a perfect human being. Therefore, whoever is in charge will fail us at some given point. If we were to only elect perfect leaders, we would have none!

Having said that, however, as a matter of practicality, we should be looking for leaders that exemplify everything we ourselves would desire to be. We should be looking to put the ones in office that will be a shining example for ourselves as well as other governments. One who is without scruples, one who is without a moral guide or one who is without compassion for others will not make a good leader. There are countless examples in the world today of leaders who are simply grabbing the power and the wealth for themselves and for their cronies. The result is mass starvation, unimaginable inflation and the rapid depletion of the resources that the nation does have.

This isn’t just a theoretical question. Putting people into office who are known liars will guarantee we will be lied to. Putting people into office who are known thieves will guarantee we will be stolen from. Putting people into power who are cowards will guarantee that we get a leader who will blame others instead of themselves when things go wrong. Putting people into power who are power hungry will guarantee limitation of our civil liberties. Putting people into power who are greedy will guarantee their actions will be bought by special interests. We need to stop thinking of having a minimal moral requirement for a leader as not having concrete consequences.

One of the problems we have had in the US is that we sometimes exalt people into power who only have the appearance of morality. Just because a person prays, goes to church and talks a good talk does not make them righteous. Jesus criticized the religious leaders of His day because they strove to only appear righteous without actually being so. The Jews of His day would look upon them as righteous because of their rituals and traditions. We too sometimes look at the show and conclude that he or she is a moral leader instead of looking at their track record. Even worse, we have sometimes re-elected people into office even after the discovery of lies and cover-ups which show they are the opposite of what they try to portray. Americans in general have fallen too many times for appearances instead of true character.

The US political system also has a way of limiting choices. How many times have you heard of voting for “the lesser of 2 evils”? Yet, this is a myth, when you seriously consider it. People only want to vote for 1 of the 2 main political parties. The reasoning is that only those parties are “electable”. So, people vote only for the 2 parties, and only the 2 parties are electable because they are the ones people vote for. The catch-22 should be obvious. Yet, if neither party has a candidate that is deserving of the office, then voting for an undeserving candidate says something about the electorate.

This is a good time to point out that often people get exactly what they deserve in leadership, and especially so in a democracy. As stated above, people have a tendency to vote in “practical” terms. However, is it “practical” to vote in the “lesser of 2 evils”? Why not instead vote for the person who has the character to not lie, cheat and steal from the general population?

Ancient Israel rejected the Ultimate King for a human imperfect king (1Sa 8:7-19). They got the king they deserved. How much less do we get rulers we deserve in a democracy, where we the electorate choose the leader? If we are moral and vote for moral leaders, we will get moral leadership. If we are immoral and vote for immoral leaders, we will get immoral leadership. We can decry corruption in government all we want to, but we have to remember they were placed there because a significant number of people did not refuse to vote for people of low character.

In fact, it becomes a significant feedback loop. If people of character get elected, then not only are the rules made fair by those in charge, but people of character will become enticed to run themselves. If only crooks get elected, then they will set the rules so only crooks can run and moral people will be too disgusted to run. Furthermore, once corruption sets in, it becomes more difficult to turn around because of the corrupt laws that have been passed. At that point, it takes a significant number of people to possess moral outrage to change an unfair system.

However, it can be reversed. It has to start with the grass roots. It has to start with you and I making sure we are people of character before we can vote for people who can be a shining example of hope. If we want moral leadership, we must vote moral leaders into office. If they fall short of expectations, we must be willing to vote them out of office. Otherwise, the entire nation can and will suffer. If we elect good leaders, ones who know how to keep their word and have honest dealings, then we will have leadership that exemplifies what the old Superman show used to say, “Truth, justice and the American way.”


  1. Hi John,

    The way this column reads, it sounds like you are now advocating voting. Is this so?

    As for King Saul, God gave Israel the best king He could find. He didn’t choose one who would fail them. Saul just grew corrupt through his love of power, something God did not expect him to do, as he was a very humble man to begin with.

    Anyway, our nations’ political systems are largely out of control now. If you don’t have a nice campaign contribution (a “legalized” bribe) to give to your congressman or senator, you should not seriously expect them to respond to your requests for help. This is the corruption that plagues the American system and I don’t think anything short of a very bad crisis will change it.

    • @Todd Sauve: Well, here’s the question: Is voting wrong? Is it condemned in the Bible? Or, is it our participation in the governments of Satan that is the problem? Because if voting is wrong, so is balloting. They are the same thing.

      “As for King Saul, God gave Israel the best king He could find. He didn’t choose one who would fail them.”

      Actually, God gave the people what they asked for. Can God not see the future? Did He or did He not know Saul would fail?

      In fact, the Bible records a number of times when God gave what was asked for, and those things often seemed good at the time. Hezekiah received additional years on his life, and during those extra years he had a son who was a very wicked king. I doubt that was what Hezekiah had in mind.

      To put it another way, our prayers need to be peppered with lots of “Thy will be done” statements because we most often cannot see the unintentional consequences of certain events.

      • Yes, people should make up their own minds on voting, though many COG ministers don’t want anyone to vote at all. Personally, it always comes down to the lesser of two evils in my mind and I just can’t lend my approval to politicians who are 99% carnal, and getting worse all the time.

        Of course God can see the future but I doubt that He chose Saul because He knew he would fail. If such were the case He would know before calling anyone whether they will make it into the Kingdom or not. I can’t see Him doing that. I think He wants us all to rely on Him for all the help we need. I remember a sermon by Colin Adair where he said that while God could look into the future and see who will make it, He doesn’t do that so that He will make sure He puts His best effort into making sure everyone succeeds. Sounds reasonable to me, though He has never sought my input on any of these matters and none of us humans can know His mind in these things.

        • @Todd Suave: Well, I guess those who are totally against voting don’t ballot either. However, in spite of people who foam at the mouth otherwise, there are times when not only did a lot of people have a say in what occurred, but they were invited to do lend their voice.

          The difference is that we are ambassadors in this world and not citizens of it, so entangling ourselves in this world’s politics and this world’s wars is like an ambassador from a foreign nation voting in their host country’s elections.

          Actually, I do believe God looks down the corridors of time to select people who are capable of making it into the Kingdom, if they so desire. I believe that is why He does not choose a majority of people, because He knows that most will reject His ways if it were not for the firsthand experience of living and dealing with brokenness. Yet, even when all is said and done, there is a possibility of some few rejecting Him even after a resurrection. He will make the conditions right to favor success, but He will not take away our free will.

          I believe Saul’s story has a lot more to do with teaching Israel (and by extension us) to wait upon God’s timing in all things. It was prophesied that Judah would carry the scepter, yet Saul was from Benjamin. Yes, God was willing to see Saul through it all if only he would have remained humble and obedient (1Sa 13:13). However, we also cannot ignore the fact that God already had prophesied through Jacob that the kingly line would be from Judah (Ge 49:10).

          We were chosen by God Himself to be in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Ep 1:3-4).

  2. Hmm, do you believe the traditional COG view on predestination, i.e., God decided to call a certain number of people at a certain time, and that He does not “look down the corridor of time” to only pick those He can ascertain will “make it”?

    • Todd Sauve wrote: “i.e., God decided to call a certain number of people at a certain time…”

      That is the traditional view, period. However, an often stated corollary is that, because He desires all who will to make it, He calls people at the right time. He calls people such that the maximum number will make it.

      Therefore, there is no incompatibility with the view that God calls people in a specific order so that they have the best chance to make it and the officially stated view of predestination. The only caveat would be that the good of the overall pool of humans must come first.

      • Yeah, we’re getting into some heavy speculation with predestination. I think God can call anyone and if they submit to His lead they will succeed. But this is a topic rife with possibilities, and the scriptures are rather difficult to apply one way or the other … 😉

        • Todd Sauve wrote: “I think God can call anyone and if they submit to His lead they will succeed.”

          And, I’ve said nothing that contradicts this idea in the least. Furthermore, I am simply extrapolating from every COG sermon I’ve heard on the subject of predestination.

          Really, is it that difficult to believe that God knows when someone is most likely to succeed and help others to do the same? Is it that difficult to believe that a loving God Who is “not willing that any should perish” (2Pe 3:9) would choose the time that they would be the most willing to repent and apply themselves in order to call them?

          Frankly, the only arguments I can recall against this is not from the COG realm, but rather from evangelical Christians. That’s because they believe in a false Calvinistic idea of predestination where no one has any choice in anything.

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