Those arguing that Christians should choose a third-party candidate are wont to rely on the Scriptural standards for choosing leaders in arguing that their guy is superior. Do those standards really warrant decrying George Bush as evil and voting for whoever the Constitution Party is running? (This year it's a Maryland lawyer named Michael Peroutka.)
Now, although I believe the Mosaic governing structure is in many ways limited to that specific time and place as God prepared the world for the coming of the Messiah, I do think the standards set down for their rulers are persuasive if not binding for Christians today. So let's look at them:
Ex. 18:21 Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place [such] over them, [to be] rulers of thousands, [and] rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens:
Deut 1:9 Take you wise men, and understanding, and known among your tribes, and I will make them rulers over you.
The first qualification we see here is "able." Able to do what? Able to rule well. How do we know ability? By testing it. Even rulership of a family or church well is not a good measuring stick for this qualification, because the pressures are totally different. Anyone who's been around politics for long has seen perfectly good, well-meaning people get into office and cave in once they get there.
Proponents of the third-party candidate are wont to imply, "Well, Candidate X has compromised on issues A, B, and C, but our candidate will never compromise." How do they know? Has this man been tested in the incredible pressures of national politics? Does he even know what he is doing? It's easy to say our government should be thus and so--does he have a viable plan for getting it there without destroying it in the process? Does he have the people on hand to put in place to carry his ideas into reality? If he doesn't, then I seriously doubt whether he fulfills this primary characteristic of ability. Indeed, I would doubt the political ability of anyone who seriously expects to bring political change about by running as a no-name for president.
Men of truth, hating covetousness, fearing God
These are all important matters of character and I even will concede for the sake of argument that Mr. Peroutka probably scores better on some points here than President Bush. But I would ask his supporters: Do you think you are voting for Jesus Christ? Of course not (heresy, heresy). Then guess what? You're voting for a sinner. That means you're voting for someone who sometimes stretches the truth, sometimes covets, and who doesn't fear God as he should. The lesser of two evils is indeed still evil--and it's a pretty basic Christian doctrine that we're all evil. That means it's a matter of weighing the degrees: trying to choose someone who does indeed have some fear of God, who tries to be truthful and who avoids corruption, but realizing that just because a person is a better person doesn't mean they're a better leader.
Yes, I disagree with President Bush on some points of theology. But then, I disagree with practically everybody on some points of theology. That doesn't mean they don't fear God. It's OK to support someone who disagrees with you on some points and pray for God to guide him.
Would Mr. Peroutka's supporters have voted for King David?
Wise and understanding
Wise: skillful, shrewd, insightful. We're not just talking about people who know the Bible here. We're also talking about people who have practical insight into reality. A person may have a great knowledge of God and how to apply His Word and still be a lousy plumber if he doesn't have wisdom at plumbing. A person may have a great knowledge of God and still be a lousy leader if he doesn't have wisdom at politics. As noted below, I'm not at all concerned about the theology of my plumber. I'm a little more concerned about the theology of my President, but not that much. I'd rather elect a President I disagreed with on theology but trusted to make good decisions when it counted than one I agreed with on theology who didn't have the experience and advisers to guide the largest country in the world.
Known among your tribes
That's right, name ID is important to God. Why? My guess is it's to ensure those chosen as leaders have some history behind them--that they've done something to prove their worth. Usually, this is because they've worked their way up in the ranks of leadership, or served bravely in war. They need to be well-known and have a good reputation.
In response to critiques that they are throwing their vote away on a third party candidate, supporters are prone to argue that God is able to accomplish things despite their apparent impossibility. Quite true. But just where do they get this promise from God telling them that they can win with this particular person by this particular method? It seems an act of gross presumption to me. Yes, God works miracles, but He doesn't command us to jump off cliffs so we can see more of them. Our duty is to work faithfully in the best way that we can.
In short, I did not vote for President Bush because I figured he was the lesser of two evils, while secretly thinking some third-party candidate would be better. Does he fall short in a lot of areas? Of course. I pray God keeps working on his heart, as He already has. But I voted for President Bush because I thought he would make the best president among all the choices on the ballot. I voted for him because I thought he was the most qualified by the Biblical standards.
(Note: I was going to console myself with the thought that a lot of these Constitution Party supporters seem to be tending to the idea that only heads of households should vote, but I think when I do the math it seems that voting for a third-party candidate and not voting would have the same effect. Oh well.)