By Sarah Carlson, Copy Editor
About two-thirds of the students at the Chapel forum Monday night in Cullen Auditorium raised their hands indicating they had already voted or were planning to vote in the presidential election. Later they heard different viewpoints on politics and why Christians should be involved, as well as philosophical stances on why Christians should abstain from the process.
A panel of four professors and a representative of the Abilene community discussed issues relating to Christianity and the electoral process. Following the forum, members of the College Democrats and College Republicans debated partisan issues and the presidential candidates.
Dr. Wendell Willis, associate professor of Bible, ministry and missions, outlined David Lipscomb’s philosophy of a Christian not taking part in the political process; Anthony Williams, Campus Store manager, explained his views on a Christian’s role in society and politics; Dr. Joseph Cardot, chair of the Department of Communication, explained his Republican philosophy as a Christian; Dr. David Dillman, professor of political science, explained his Democratic philosophy as a Christian; and Dr. Randy Harris, instructor of Bible, ministry and missions, talked about how to make ethical decisions in politics. Dr. Cheryl Bacon, chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, moderated the forum and relayed questions from the audience to the panel.
Williams and Cardot advocated a Christian’s responsibility to participate in government.
“What if all Christians suddenly withdrew from the electoral process?” Williams asked. “I can see it, and the picture isn’t pretty. We talk a lot about changing the world, but we can’t change a lot if we’re not engaged.”
Dillman left the option of not participating open, admitting politics is not all-important.
“There is very little pure that goes on in politics,” Dillman said.
However, he did explain ways a Christian should get involved and how their response to issues such as poverty and civil rights should be Christ-like.
Willis explained Lipscomb’s belief that because human governments are sinful, Christians should not be engaged in them and should simply pay taxes and be good citizens. He said he is disinterested in politics but votes out of respect for sacrifices others have made, mainly his father-in-law’s involvement in World War II.
Harris explained that he does not vote because he finds the high power in the country and that of God incompatible.
He later explained the difference between philosophical and political ethics and Christian ethics, where the former calls humans to be minimally decent while the later calls humans to be good.
“When you sign up to be a disciple of Jesus Christ you take on a whole different ethical sphere than you do just in the political or philosophical,” Harris said. “So now as a Christian it’s not enough for me to be a minimally decent Samaritan, I have to be a good Samaritan.”
Students submitted questions ranging from why a Christian shouldn’t vote to abortion to education funding to immigration. A reactive topic was a Christian’s view on gay marriage. Dillman called for civil rights for all citizens, and Williams said he is offended by the comparison of gay rights to the Civil Rights Movement and said Christians need to oppose gay marriage at all costs. Willis said homosexuals deserve the same rights as heterosexuals.
“I think every citizen of this country should be treated equally as citizens,” Willis said. “That is not the question of marriage; marriage as I understand it has to do with individuals and their relationship to God. Now there are people who don’t do marriage that way — how they do it is their preference. The church has a right if they are going to bless something to ask what it is they’re blessing, but how Caesar prefers to run marriages is not really my concern. I would say that I suspect that one of the reasons this is a hot-button issue is it’s one of those places where a lot of Christians can come off feeling like we’re pretty clean and good, and we see that as a way of beating up on people we think are not as good as we are.”
At the debate between the College Republicans and College Democrats, Lizz Alvarez, senior political science major from McAllen, and Josh Massingill, sophomore political science major from Abilene, debated for the Republicans while Teresa Pecinovsky, senior Christian ministry major from Cresco, Iowa, and Michael Johnson, freshman communication and education major from Cisco debated for the Democrats.
The teams debated abortion, the war on Terror and in Iraq, carbon emissions, minimum wage and gay rights.
Pecinovsky said the presidential election is important, and she is glad students at ACU can come together to debate pertinent issues.
“We choose not to shy away from controversial issues even though we are a Christian university,” she said.