Same-sex marriage. Abortion. Liquor by the drink.
It's not uncommon for pastors to speak out on controversial public issues — be it from a strictly moral perspective or a political angle.
But this one, courtesy of Kentucky's Lexington Herald-Leader, is new to me (even though I live in a state where the deceased have been known to turn out in large numbers for elections):
There's no "Thou shalt not" on vote buying in the Bible, but it's a sin nonetheless, according to a group of Magoffin County pastors trying to discourage the pernicious practice in a place where it has long corrupted the fabric of politics.
The ministers have asked local candidates in the general election to make a public pledge not to buy votes or provide money for others to buy votes for them, and to report anyone who buys votes for them to Attorney General Jack Conway's office.
The local Salyersville Independent newspaper has been running a copy of the pledge in the paper with the names of those who have signed, and posting photos of the signed pledges on its Facebook page.
Keep reading, and the Herald-Leader provides a nice piece of religious imagery, straight out of Exodus:
Judge-Executive Charles "Doc" Hardin said nearly every candidate for local office has signed the pledge, himself included.
Justin Williams, who pastors Lakeville Baptist Church and helped organize the effort, said the hope was that the pledge "will ultimately lead to a day that when I take my daughters to vote for the first time, that vote buying will be a distant memory in Magoffin County."
That wouldn't qualify as a miracle on the order of parting the Red Sea, but it would be remarkable.
A local lawyer once described Magoffin County as the "vote-buying capital of the world" — quite a claim in a region long plagued by candidates buying votes with money, liquor, drugs or power over jobs.
Later in the story, the Kentucky newspaper does a good job of explaining — from a biblical perspective — the pastors' position:
Williams said he and other ministers often get questions about their views on scriptural matters. After the primary, and with the general election approaching, a good number of the questions were about vote buying, including what the Bible says about it, Williams said.
A group of more than a dozen ministers decided to confront the issue with a letter to the newspaper in late September.
The letter acknowledged there is no verse in the Bible that says don't buy votes, but the pastors — all from Baptist or other Protestant churches — said there was plenty of Scripture to conclude Christians should not be involved in buying or selling votes.
For one thing, it's illegal, and verses such as 1 Peter 2:13-14 make clear Christians are to obey the law unless it conflicts with Scripture, the letter said. Vote buying also constitutes bribery, which the Bible teaches against, and does not show Christ-like behavior, the pastors said in the letter.
In addition, vote fraud exploits the poor, which is against biblical teaching, the pastors said.
13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
I thought the Herald-Leader story was fine, especially given newspaper space constraints.
But as I kept reading the summary of what the pastors said, I found myself wanting to know the exact words they used.
If you, too, are curious, here's a link to the full letter to the editor originally published by the Salyersville Independent.
A couple of representative paragraphs from the letter:
Disclaimer: There are candidates on the ballot who are members of our churches. But this is in NO WAY an endorsement of any candidate on the ballot in the November election.)
We begin by saying that vote-buying is NOT explicitly forbidden in Scripture. What do we mean by that? You cannot go to a Bible verse and see the statement: “Thou Shalt Not Buy Votes In An Election.” But just because the Bible doesn’t explicitly forbid something doesn’t give us liberty to do it. For instance, the Bible doesn’t say, “Thou Shalt Not Look at Pornography On The Internet;” but we know — or at least we hope we know — that we are not permitted to look at pornography on the internet just because the Bible doesn’t explicitly forbid it. Vote-buying is the same way: While there is no scripture that explicitly forbids it, there are many Scriptures that, if true (and they are!), make the practice of vote-buying and selling (for a Christian) impossible. Based upon these Scriptures, there are 4 reasons why a Christian should not participate — in any way — in the practice of buying and selling votes.
Once again, we have solid proof that the Godbeat ain't ever boring. I can't afford to pay you for it, but can I get an "Amen?"