Iorg urges students to have 'character we long for in elected leaders'
At President's Convocation Feb. 6, Jeff Iorg said Christians must approach the tumultuous political landscape with humility, patience and prayer as they sort through the complicated decision of whom to vote for in the 2020 election.
Iorg warned attendees at Gateway's opening chapel service of the confusion and stress many evangelicals feel as they face a dilemma in a particularly vitriolic political landscape. He said the division is caused by two conflicting perspectives. "First, many evangelicals are distrustful of Democratic candidates which seem beholden to the radical wing of their party. Second, many evangelicals have deep-seated concerns about supporting President Trump," he said. Some evangelicals have embraced Trump despite his personal shortcomings. Others have called for his removal from office, concerned association with him undermines their Gospel witness he said.
"Should we support President Trump because of his policies and despite his flaws? Or, should we reject his leadership and choose someone with character and demeanor more in line with our expectations for leaders? My message today will provide a framework to help you answer those questions."
Iorg proposed three questions to bring clarity into the issues surrounding the upcoming presidential election: 1. Does character matter for leaders? 2. Which is more important for political leaders -- policy or personality? 3. What are the most important policies when deciding which candidate to support?
Iorg said the answer to the first question is a resounding yes. However, ministry leaders and political leaders are held to different standards. Iorg described the serious character flaws of David, whose moral failures did not cost him his leadership role though they did diminish his effectiveness.
"Some Christians erroneously apply David's example to ministerial leadership and are willing to excuse immoral and unethical behavior among ministers. That's an exegetical leap too far," Iorg said. David's failings cannot be used to excuse heinous behavior by ministry leaders because of the different standards to which political and ministry leaders are held.
Iorg built on this conclusion and explained why he prioritizes policy outcomes over personality in his assessment of political leaders. "My heartfelt desire would be for a president to have sound policy positions and a leadership style reflecting my values, while demonstrating high character and a winsome personality," he said. "But, if that person is not available, the decision of which candidate to support must be determined by the policy positions he or she will likely enact (and leave behind with the force of law) -- not their character or personality or leadership style."
Prioritizing important policies is a complicated task. Iorg said individuals are responsible for determining what policies are most important to them. "While there are many evangelical voices answering that question for you, mine will not join that chorus this morning," Iorg said.
"Once you determine your position on the issues that matter most to you, support the candidate who most closely shares your positions. It is very likely you will not agree with some other evangelicals on which issues are most important and which candidate you choose to support."
Iorg concluded his address with cautions -- to make realistic assessments of political leaders, to limit exposure to overly-politicized news sources, to think deeply on policy outcomes, and most importantly to approach political issues with humility and patience. He asked listeners to demonstrate Christian character in their political interactions through 2020. "Let's choose the high road and demonstrate the Christian character we long for in our elected leaders," he said.
Iorg ended the chapel service by asking attendees to pray as instructed in 1 Timothy 2:1-4. "According to these verses, a primary prayer for governmental leaders is they will govern in a way that does not hinder Gospel expansion," he said.
"Our mission is timeless, has eternal consequences, and is too important to dissipate with trifles like political infighting or falsely placed hopes that political victories fulfill our Gospel-sharing mission."
The video and printed manuscript of the entire message are available at gs.edu/dilemma.