By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
In his current role as vice president for church ministries with the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., Cureton has been asked his opinion of the upcoming presidential election multiple times. Often, he is asked if Christians should consider not voting in the 2016 election because of a dissatisfaction with the two primary candidates — Hillary Clinton (Democrat) and Donald Trump (Republican).
His response is always the same. “Every believer must follow his or her conscience, which is a hallmark of Baptists,” said Cureton, who lives in Morristown and is a member of First Baptist Church. He commutes weekly to Washington where he has served with the FRC since 2006. The FRC is a public policy organization that defends and promotes a pro-family agenda. “We want to see an American culture where human life is valued, families flourish, and religious liberty thrives,” he said.
Noting that he cannot tell anyone to vote or not vote, Cureton said the biblical principle is clear. “Voting is an opportunity to be a salt and light influence (see Matthew 5:13-16) in the realm of government,” observed Cureton, who has served as pastor of Alice Bell Baptist Church, Knoxville; Buffalo Trail Baptist Church, Morristown; and First Baptist Church, Lebanon.
Cureton related that government is one of three institutions (along with the family and the church) that God created. If God “established government authority, why would He then tell His people to stay out of it?” he asked.
“No, God expects us to get involved. Jesus put it this way: ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Matthew 22:21). So, we have a stewardship responsibility when it comes to government,” he added.
Cureton observed that “Christians have been involved in shaping and directing government from the settling and founding of America and I believe God expects no less of us today. Therefore, if we do not actively participate, including casting votes in elections, then we are not fulfilling the totality of Jesus’ command.”
Cureton, who served as vice president for convention relations for the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention prior to joining the FRC staff, said the question “should not be about whether or not to vote but which vote is most likely to bring the best opportunity for health and well-being for the nation,” citing Jeremiah 29:7.
Cureton also suggested that people “vote for the candidates who offer the best opportunity to further righteousness and against those who would further sin.” Additionally, he references the admonition of James: “Whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17, ESV).
Cureton acknowledged there are some voters who are tempted to choose a third party or write-in candidate as a “protest” vote.
“However, like it or not, either the Democrat or the Republican candidate will win the presidency,” Cureton said. “So, we should consider which one of those could potentially do the most good and the one who could potentially do the most harm with their policies and Supreme Court picks, and vote accordingly.
“Otherwise, a person who votes third party or writes in their vote is at best throwing it away or at worst helping the candidate who could do the most harm by not voting for the candidate who could potentially do the most good.”
Jesus is not on the ballot
When people tell Cureton that they cannot in good conscience vote for either Clinton or Trump, he reminds them that “Jesus is not on the ballot. There are only sinners.”
Cureton acknowledged that “both candidates are deeply flawed, but one of them will win. And, as president, that person will pick one, two, three, or more Supreme Court justices and scores of federal judges for Senate confirmation,” he said.
Because of those appointive powers, Cureton said it is critical to remember that this election “is bigger than the two candidates who resemble two cartoon characters hurling insults at one another. It is about which one gets to pick judges and justices who will impact American life for a generation.”
As the election draws near, Cureton encouraged Christians to pray and seek God’s wisdom and become as informed as possible on the candidates and their positions.