Return First Salvo

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Can A Christian Be Deceptive In The Political Arena?

RadarThe axiom is true that “he who frames the question wins the debate”! The presupposition of the thread title is that crossing over in a primary is deception. It’s not, but more on that later.

Some definitions first:

Deception by definition is misleading other people. A strategic tactic by definition is not necessarily misleading, but a crafty maneuver to achieve victory.

My contention is that:

  1. Deception is used in the Bible on numerous occasions for God’s purposes or for a greater purpose. Deception is used by necessity in warfare, athletic competition, and games of skill. Strategy (not deception) is employed by necessity in competitive business. Therefore, strategic tactics are certainly not “off limits” in the political realm which is certainly a form of warfare and infinitely more important that games and sports.

  2. Crossing over in an open primary is not deception by any stretch of the definition. The tactic in certain situations is a justifiable strategy and violates no scriptural principles.

Without going into full-blown exegesis, here some scriptural examples where trickery and outright deception are used either by direct command of God or to fulfill a greater purpose:

Genesis 44: Joseph (a type of Christ) tests his brothers by not revealing his identity and making them think that Benjamin was a thief.

Numbers 13: God affirms the Israelites’ desire to send spies into Canaan.

Joshua 2: Joshua’s spies in Jericho hide out in a prostitute’s house; she then lies to the king about their whereabouts. She is not only spared from destruction, but she ends up in the Messianic line.

Judges 3: The deliverer Ehud uses false pretenses to enter Eglon’s presence and get him alone. He then proceeds to thrust a knife into his belly.

Judges 4: Jael pretends to offer Sisera protection, then proceeds to hammer a tent peg into his head while he is asleep. This act is honored in the next chapter by Deborah’s victory song.

Ruth 4: Boaz (another type of Christ) lies by omission to the kinsman by describing Ruth as “Moabitish widow”, not exactly a tempting offer for the kinsman. Boaz neglected to mention that Ruth was young and attractive!

You can certainly argue that God can use whatever means he desires to fulfill his divine plans, however in four of the five examples I see no admonition or command from God for the deception to take place. I also can’t find a condemnation. So we can at least establish that by scriptural examples and by necessity, deception is warfare does not violate scripture.

Let’s look at the games of football and chess. Victory in these contests depends 90% upon successfully deceiving your opponent! Are we to seriously contend that those who excel in football or chess in danger of divine judgement? Assuming no, we can establish that deception (not cheating) in leisure competition does not violate scripture.

What about in competitive business? Now in this case the argument can be made that deceiving customers, stockholders, the general public, government regulators, etc. violates scripture and is destructive to advancing the kingdom. However, is there a problem if you can employ a legal and ethical strategy to gain advantage over a competitor?

An example would be if a customer shares with you your competitor’s pricing. Outside of a nondisclosure agreement, there is nothing immoral about this. Especially if the competitor is providing substandard service. What if a former employee of a competitor comes to work for you and shares some of that competitor’s methods? Outside of a nondisclosure agreement or outright stealing of intellectual property, there is nothing immoral about this either.

I suppose one could invoke the golden rule here, however that cuts both ways. If you don’t want your customers or employees to do these same things to you then treat them right in the first place. It’s amazing how customer and employee retention rates increase when this happens! In any case, we certainly must concur that employing strategy to gain advantage in a competitive business environment is ethical and moral.

Now we come to all-important political realm. Again, outright deception here is definitely forbidden because it almost involves bearing false witness. Lying to voters about your stances, breaking campaign pledges, embellishing your experience, etc. would qualify. HOWEVER, if outright deception can be used in warfare and football and strategy can be used in business to gain competitive advantage, then it stands to reason that strategic tactics can be employed in politics without violating principle. Examples would include:

  1. Using advanced knowledge of Roberts Rules of Order to steer a meeting to your advantage,

  2. Using IRS loopholes to set up a 501c3 “charity” in order to collect tax-exempt donations for eventual use in electioneering or lobbying,

  3. Compromising on critical legislation in order to get 90% of what you want,

  4. Threatening a lawsuit in order to intimidate an enemy.

Modern American Politics is a form of warfare. The damage that socialism can do to a nation’s populace at least as dangerous as the danger from a foreign invasion, maybe even more so. I submit that as believers we are justified in using ANY strategic tactic outside of lawbreaking or outright deception that will cause confusion in an enemy’s camp or gain an advantage in the battle.

Now we come to the crux of the debate which of course is that crossing over in a primary is NOT deception and it NOT diminishing the stewardship of your vote. (For sake of debate we will assume there is no loyalty oath and that a stellar candidate has a lock on the GOP nomination). For there to be deception, by definition, there must a recipient of the deception. The quarterback has to fake somebody out. If as a republican you vote democrat in an open primary, who exactly are you misleading? It is common knowledge that crossover voting occurs in primaries, so the democrats aren’t being deceived in any way.

You can argue that you’re intruding on the other party’s “sacred” process of choosing their own nominee, but if this process is so sacred then why is there an open primary in the first place? The parties could easily move to a caucus/convention system. For democrats to complain about crossover voting would be like you complaining about racoons in your backyard after stubbornly refusing to build a fence.

The bottom line is that you have every right by state law to walk into a primary election, request your enemy’s ballot, and cast of a vote for a candidate for whatever reason you like. If you want to vote for Hillary because you believe she’ll be easier to beat in the general election, or just to keep her in the race in order to make the democratic party implode, then it’s a great strategic tactic to either defeat your enemy outright or cause confusion in their camp. You’re not voting for Hillary to occupy the presidency, you’re voting for her to run for the presidency. Assuming that you’re not foreiting the opportunity to vote a 100% purist candidate on your own party’s ballot, I can’t see how this holds water in the voting stewardship argument either.

Beyond all this, where is the scriptural admonition that every vote cast must be for 100% purist reasons? Because if there is one then we have a lot of repenting to do!

Regarding trickery, deception, and strategy – several factors must be looked at. The chief of which is what is your intention? Boaz didn’t lie by omission and Joseph didn’t deceive his brothers for malicious reasons. What about deceiving Nazi soldiers at your front door looking to kill the Jews hiding in your basement? Certainly the noble intentions of protecting innocent life is the overriding concern here. Another factor is what does it do to your witness? In the case of crossover voting, this is not applicable because again nobody has been deceived.

Crossover voting is a tactic used to cause the confusion and defeat of an enemy that wishes to dishonor God, destroy your nation, harm its citizens, and perpetuate the killing of innocents. Will God look at your legal crossover voting as violating His principles or destroying your witness for Him? The answer is self-evident.

First Salvo

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Can A Christian Be Deceptive In The Political Arena?

RadarIn analyzing an article, while on air filling in for a local talk radio host, relating to the Ohio primary election and whether or not criminal investigations of over 20,000 voters who changed party affiliations would take place, I posited a position that has generated some intense, yet respectful, opposition from members of our own board.

My basic position is this: a believer in Jesus Christ as Sovereign Lord and Savior (ie: a Christian, in other words) should not engage in tactics which violate the revealed Word of God and/or his own conscience. In other words, to put it more bluntly, situational ethics is sinful.

A little background, to start. Ohio has primary elections for the purposes of determining the nominees for each major party (Republican and Democrat) for the November General Election ballot. When an elector either requests an absentee ballot, or shows up in person at a county board of elections office or at the designated polling place on Primary day, they must, by law, declare their party affiliation prior to receiving a ballot. A good explanation of Ohio’s primary affiliation laws can be found in this article in the Dayton Daily News.

A tangental position, not necessarily affecting my basic premise of the argument in any way, given Ohio’s current election law on this topic, is that the party affiliation requirement amounts to, I believe anyway, what is an unconstitutional “test oath”, such oaths being rejected by the US Supreme Court in 1867. Be that as it may, that’s a discussion for another thread and a later time. The fact is, that is what is legally binding in Ohio law at this time.

In essence, the discussion revolved around the position that Christian voters who crossed over to vote for the opposing party’s candidate, who did so with the intent specifically to intrude upon that party’s selection process to benefit their own party nominee’s chances in the general election, and did so having signed the affiliation oath (or even if they didn’t sign it), were acting in an unbiblical manner.

The responses on the radio program were mixed. Some agreed, some disagreed. One voice of disapprobation came from a very dear friend and fellow Institute board member, whom I shall now afford the benefit of positing his position on the matter before continuing my thesis and counterargument to his thesis….

Oh, What A Tangled Web We Weave….

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Can A Christian Be Deceptive In The Political Arena?

RadarThe director of the Institute For Principled Policy, Barry Sheets, was the guest host on WRFD’s Bob Burney Live radio talk show. The topic for discussion was the plans of some of the members of the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, specifically the Democratic Party members, to discern if any of the 17,000 “former Republicans” who crossed over to request Democratic Party ballots did so deceptively, i.e., to strategically try and influence the Democratic Party ticket to the advantage of the Republican Party. Those Cuyahoga County elections officials want to investigate in hopes that any of the deceptive crossovers would be prosecuted. Ohio does not have an open primary; one must swear an oath that one is sincere when one changes parties to vote in a primary election here. It is a 5th degree felony carrying a possible $2500 fine and 12 month jail sentence to be deceptive in swearing this oath.

This is an interesting situation, considering that there are several complicating factors. “Conservative” radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has been very vocal in encouraging fellow “conservative” Republicans to cross over and vote in Democratic primaries for Hillary Clinton. Further complicating the situation is that Limbaugh is also encouraging the same voters to vote for Clinton in the general in the fall, thus seriously damaging the claim that the Republicans crossing over were not necessarily sincere. Further muddying the waters, is the fact that Clinton’s win in the March primaries seemingly knocked the Barak Obama Democratic juggernaut off the rails. How much of the Cuyahoga County election officials outrage is due to this factor? How many were Clinton and how many Obama supporters? Another question- where did these same Cuyahoga County election officials stand while leaders in their party were encouraging Democrats to cross over and vote for John McCain in the 2000 Republican party primaries?

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, recognizing the political can of worms that the Cuyahoga County elections board is attempting to open, has said she isn’t really interested in pursuing charges in these cases. Uncharacteristically, she recognizes a political poison pill for what it is. Career suicide.

But more importantly and for the purposes of this series of articles Barry raised a number of questions during the radio show that all Christians who are called to be involved in political activity in the public square should be asking themselves. These questions are of such a basic nature that debate on the questions and the wider implications of proposed answers has resulted in a debate within the Institute For Principled Policy. The basic question is whether or not a Christian is ever justified in engaging in deception in political activity, and if so, under what circumstances and within what limits? In other words, what standard is the Christian to apply when engaging in political activity?

Those on either side of the question will be citing specific biblical passages and precedents and exegeting these biblical citations to make their respective cases.

Gentlemen, Make your cases!