Ryan Bell: Loving Our Neighbors at the Ballot Box


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A few weeks ago, the Adventist Review published an voter's guide by seminary professor S. Joseph Kidder giving some Biblical positions on life, protection, justice, morality, economic fairness, and personal integrity. It was titled "Vote Wisely" and it appeared online and in print. In response, pastor Ryan Bell wrote an article exploring a Biblical approach to the civic issues of justice, non-violence, religious liberty, health, and immigration. He submitted it to the Adventist Review and the editors agreed to post it online.

For the past seven and a half years I have had the joy of serving the Hollywood community in Los Angeles, the second largest city in the country. My heart is broken on a daily basis as I see the pain and suffering that my members and neighbors endure just to survive and make a decent life for themselves and their children. Young adults with college degrees and several part-time jobs can’t afford rent without two or three roommates. Working families cannot take their children to the doctor when they’re sick because they lack basic health care coverage. College students are buried under a mountain of debt with no chance of starting a career on solid footing.

The question to ask is which candidate (and ballot initiatives) supports policies that create a world in which we all belong to each other and have a responsibility to support one another, especially those who are suffering?

Justice

“I know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy” (Ps. 140:12). Justice is about fairness and equity. Injustice prevails when some gain an unfair advantage over others, usually at their expense. Inequality in America is at an all-time high. According to research in the new book, The Price of Inequality by Nobel Prize winning economist, Joseph Stiglitz, “the top 1 percent of Americans gained 93 percent of the additional income created in the country in 2010, as compared with 2009” (3).1 This has come at the expense of the middle class and the working poor who have seen their wealth, if they had any to begin with, evaporate. Fairness and equality, from the time of the Judges to today, has meant that people have, more or less, equal opportunity. When one class of people prospers at the expense of the majority, this violates the principle of justice.

Economic injustice is not the only injustice in America. People of color, immigrants, women, senior citizens, and children are all in jeopardy today. God says to the Israelites through the prophet Isaiah, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the chords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” (Isa. 58:6).

The question to ask is which candidate better expresses the biblical value of justice and equality of opportunity for all people? Which candidate is better prepared to understand the plight of the poor and oppressed and create policies of fairness?

Read the rest of "Loving Our Neighbors at the Ballot Box" here.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4828