The Republic

by thomaslsimpson

I remember talking to friends in college once about representative government and polling. We were talking about the job of a politician in the United States in general and comparing the idea of polling the people to decide how to vote on an issue versus simply voting based on one’s own convictions about something. Some of the viewpoints we discussed are still in my recollection.

Since most issues of consequence have more than one valid way they can be looked at, and the people you represent are going to be on different sides, so no matter which way you vote on an issue, the people you represent are going to be angry and happy. In any case, their say in the matter may not have any real impact. The majority of the people you represent are unlikely to have a complete understanding of the issue, so why would you listen to them anyway? Most of the time these days when I talk to someone about an issue of importance all I really learn is which news program they watch on TV anyway. They just repeat what they have heard or, worse still, read on Facebook.

Then there is the problem of what is good for my people, moral in general, and good for the larger country. Sometimes a thing may seem good or lucrative for the people I represent but I feel it may be immoral based on my personal beliefs. What about a thing that I know to be best for my country but bad for the people I represent? What if I have a chance to do something as a representative of my own people that I know will be very good for them but will hurt someone else: in the next county; in another generation to come; in another part of the world?

I suppose here is where I have consider my own Christianity. Wouldn’t a good Christian who was a representative of a group of people find it unconscionable to vote for something that hurts others? Or would it be right (ethical?) for them to say, “I work for the people and regardless of my own opinion, I have to do what they want.” Is it a simple matter of doing what one thinks Christ would have done if He were voting, or it is a matter of doing a job well and deciding that one’s job is to do the will of the people?

I know that when I’m developing software I never ask myself, “what code would Jesus write?” Christianity does not work that way. So, is a politician the same in that regard? Can they consider themselves simply “at work” and make their decisions based on what any good politician would do, or must they, in recognition of the fact that their job will have an impact on the lives of people that other jobs will not, consider their own personal morality on each decision and therefore each vote?

Maybe it is more complex even than all this. Maybe there are numerous other parts of this puzzle that I have not considered since I’ve never been in any public office. Nevertheless, I can see that it really is not so simple as just deciding a thing one way or the other, even if a person tries to truly uphold their Christian morals as a representative of the people.