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Living Faith: How to pick a president

Created date

May 22nd, 2012

How much does a presidential candidate s faith count in casting your vote? Polls show that 75% of Americans want their chief executive to have strong religious faith. They want to know that their president, who makes decisions about their youth going to war, their personal health and well-being, and spending trillions of their dollars is someone who prays, seeks God s guidance, and believes that God is in control. For most voters, however, a candidate s faith is not their main selection criteria. Several Living faith readers have told me that a candidate s stance on policy issues and their personal character and integrity is most important to them.

Character first

The ancient Greeks believed personal virtue was primary because candidates will work out their values and character in their political decision-making. They looked for leaders who demonstrated the cardinal virtues of prudence (practical wisdom), justice, courage, and temperance (moderation). The Judeo-Christian tradition added faith, hope, and love to the list. Gandhi agreed when he said, The obligation of accepting a position of power is to be, above all else, a good human being. Why the emphasis on character? First, due to the frequent necessity for compromise in our political system with its checks and balances, a candidate s policy plans are rarely enacted as originally proposed. Second, it is almost certain that an unforeseen crisis will arise, requiring crucial decisions for which the candidate had no position paper or campaign promise. Therefore, it behooves we the people to vote for the candidate we trust to act wisely in such emergencies. Gary Scott Smith, professor of history at Grove City College, who has written extensively on the faith of American presidents, sums up his approach: If everything else were equal, I would be more inclined to support the candidate who has a strong personal faith. But I would put character and policy analysis first. How do you decide? Please mail your letters to me at 703 Maiden Choice Lane, Catonsville, MD 21228, or email to