[This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters, places, or events to reality is strictly coincidental. It is also part of a series. Characters who have been introduced in previous episodes will not be re-introduced. You can find a list of characters from episodes up to this one here.]
Only four members of the God-Talk Club had gathered this evening. They were Mark Morton, who was taking a break from studying for a test in his systematic theology class, Jerry Simonson, more determined than ever to reach Mark with the gospel, even though Mark was a seminary student, Mandy Kelly, who never missed her prescribed break from home life, and Justine Reeder.
“How is it that I never see you studying?” Mark asked Justine.
“Oh, I study! I just don’t do it here.”
“But I never see you studying on campus either.”
“You never see me on campus.”
“I have too seen you. A couple of times. I just never see you studying or in class.”
“I know,” said Mandy. “She’s so smart she doesn’t have to study!”
Justine looked embarrassed, but didn’t say anything.
“If you don’t mind my asking,” said Mark, “What’s your GPA?”
“I do mind you asking,” Justine replied. “I think that’s rude!”
“I bet it’s so high you’re afraid we’ll think you’re boasting,” said Mandy.
Jerry looked embarrassed. One of his problems with this group was that he was very courteous. It was hard for him to get his viewpoints taken seriously in this group without being blunt, and to be honest quite rude. “How about the election? Have any of you decided who to vote for?”
There was a moment of stunned silence at the obvious change of subject, then Mandy laughed. “Yes, Grandpa! We’ll settle down and be a little less rude,” she said.
“I didn’t mean that.” Jerry paused. “Well, I suppose I did. But I’d still like an answer, if anyone is willing.”
“Why don’t you go first?” asked Mark.
“Very well,” said Jerry. “I’ll be voting for Fred Thompson in our primary.”
“Do you think he still has a chance?” asked Mark.
“I don’t know, but I think he best represents my values—smaller government, private education options, and pro-life.”
There was another long pause. Jerry looked from one face to another. Had he stepped over a line with these folks by asking their political views?
“OK, I’ll go,” said Justine. “I’m voting for Barack Obama.”
“How can you, a Christian minister, vote for him?” The words were out of Jerry’s mouth before he could censor them.
“Does that mean that you acknowledge that I am a Christian minister?” asked Justine.
“I’ve never really questioned whether you are. I’ve questioned whether you should be.”
“That’s comforting. But why should I not support Obama. He’s a Christian.”
“Yes, but what type? United Church of Christ, and in that church? He doesn’t even seem really Christian to me.”
“What’s unChristian about him?”
“Well, abortion for one thing. And look at his health care plan. He really seems to think that the government can solve everything!”
“And yet Hillary Clinton and John Edwards think he isn’t solving enough on health care. They want to make it all mandatory. He’s still trying to get people to do things voluntarily.”
“But you haven’t answered on abortion yet.”
“OK, but first I’d like to hear just where you think you can find small government as a Christian principle.”
“I don’t think that’s specifically a Christian principle.”
“But you brought it up when you said Obama wasn’t really Christian.”
“OK. That’s just something I don’t like about him, though I do think Christians should engage in private charity. We should carry out our convictions on our own dime.”
“It is on our own dime. I’m a taxpayer, and I pay my share. The voters get together and decide what we’re going to take responsibility for. I don’t think that’s any worse than me getting together with my fellow church members and voting to give a gift to someone. If it’s done by the rules, it’s legitimate.”
“I think the commands God gives us to obey are for us to obey, not to force others to obey.”
“But how can I be a real Christian if I don’t remember charity when I vote as well as in my private life.”
“So you think socialized medicine is just Christian charity?”
“I think that making sure everyone gets medical care is a duty for all Christians. It’s part of caring for the poor and needy.”
“What about those who won’t work? What about lazy folks?” asked Mandy.
“I think there are far fewer of those than is commonly believed. But of course we should require all who are able to work if they want to get any kind of support. What I mean is that nobody should fall through the cracks.”
“I don’t want anyone to fall through the cracks either,” said Jerry. “We’ve established a fund at our church to help pay medical bills for needy children.”
“That’s a good plan! But I think that if I can get together with the whole country, we can make sure that nobody gets left out.”
“That seems a bit optimistic,” said Mandy.
“It may be optimistic, but that kind of optimism saves babies’ lives.”
“But again, what about abortion? You’re all interested in saving these children’s lives, but you don’t care about the lives of the unborn.”
“Who doesn’t care? I’m opposed to abortion.”
“But you’re voting for Obama. He believes in abortion rights, that abortion should be legal.”
“That’s abortion rights. I think abortion should be legal, and Christian women should make the moral choice not to do it.”
“That’s impossible!” Jerry sounded angry.
“How is it impossible?”
“You can’t believe abortion is morally wrong, and at the same time believe it should be legal.”
“Why not? I believe liquor should be legal. I also don’t drink. I believe it’s morally wrong to drink. I don’t have to be a prohibitionist to believe that.”
“But we’re talking about human life. Here you are, claiming to care about every child’s life, so much so that the government has to pay for their medical care, but you’re willing to kill, or allow others to kill, millions of babies.”
“Yes, and people are killed in wars, in executions, by police officers, and by others all the time.”
“That’s different. Those are official actions. I’m talking about individual murders.”
“So what is the difference when the government executes a criminal, and when someone goes and shoots a store clerk in a robbery?”
“Well, in the first case the guy isn’t innocent. He’s guilt of a crime.”
Mandy interrupted. “He might be innocent. The jury might have made a mistake.”
“But he has been judged guilty and convicted.”
“So the difference is that the right people have decided that he should die. And the law specifies who the right people are.”
“True,” said Jerry. “But we don’t allow that role to individuals in any other case. Only with unborn babies.”
“I would call them fetuses, not unborn babies. There’s a difference,” said Mark.
“Oh I don’t think there’s a difference. The difference is in who gets to say. In the case of an unborn baby, totally dependent on the mother, I believe the mother should say. I think she’ll answer to God for what she does, but she shouldn’t have to answer to the government.”
“What about drugs,” asked Jerry. “Obama opposes, or wants to reduce, mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenders.”
“Well, how would you say the drug war is going? Do you think we’re winning it?”
“No,” said Jerry. “I think we need to do much more. But we can’t back off on what we’re doing.”
“More people in jail, then?”
“If they need to go there, then send them.”
“OK,” said Jerry. “This could go on forever. Mark, have you made a decision?”
“No, not really, but I think I could vote for Giuliani or for Hillary Clinton. I’m not sure who I’ll vote for.”
“Are you registered?”
“Yes, I am. I’ll vote for somebody when the time comes.”
“I don’t see how you can be undecided between a Democrat and a Republican.”
“Well,” said Mark slowly, “I think they’re not that far apart actually. Giuliani has made some of his positions more conservative to get the conservative base, but I think he’s really still fairly liberal. And Clinton is pretty conservative for a Democrat. I don’t really expect a candidate to agree with me on everything. I vote for the person I like.”
“What about you, Mandy?” asked Jerry.
“I’m for John McCain, but I could live with Giuliani, really any of them. If your Fred Thompson gets the Republican nomination, I won’t have any problem voting for him.”
For once, Jerry felt some kinship with Mandy, who always seemed too flaky for him. But at least her vote for the solidly conservative Thompson made sense to him.
“No Huckabee supporters here then?” Jerry asked.
“Oh, I don’t think he would be too bad, but I just don’t like him that much.”
“Personality,” said Jerry.
“Well,” said Mark. “Whether Justine has to study or not, I do.” And with that he started gathering his books. The conversation was much lighter for the rest of the evening.
Note: For some of my personal views on a health care plan, not quite like those of any of the characters, see What I Want for Election Day: A Health Care Plan.