Campaigns for local, state, and national offices are getting into high gear throughout the United States. In view of scandals uncovered in the recent past and the religious professions of leading contenders for the presidency, many Christians are taking a greater than usual interest in the political process. Those who suddenly plunge into campaign observation and activity should be prepared for some facts of political life.

First, the candidates are not running for church offices. They are seeking positions in secular governments that serve people of widely varying beliefs. Candidates want to appeal to as many voters as possible. They will not needlessly offend those whose votes they seek, or those whom they will lead or serve if they win. While Christians have every right to expect candidates to be honest, they should not expect them to take stands (such as opposition to the legal use of alcohol) that will virtually guarantee their defeat.

Second, some of the reports from “good” people can be misleading. Potential voters need to beware lest they be misled by friends or foes of candidates or even by neutral persons. The news media have to shorten what candidates say; they cannot report every word. Usually they try to be fair, but occasional distortions are inevitable. The Bible says that at least two witnesses are required when certain charges are brought; for understanding candidates, many more witnesses are in order.

A recent issue of a Christian political newsletter illustrates the need for caution. It presented quotations from various sources as an “informational service” to indicate the positions of Jimmy Carter on twenty-five questions. The newsletter quoted the Democratic standard-bearer from a May 10 Time story: “… ...

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