Panel discussions give students biblical context for upcoming election
With the Nov. 8 presidential election quickly approaching, North Central recently provided opportunities for students to consider the election in light of a biblical worldview. For many college students, this election marks their first time voting for a president, and the tumultuous campaign season thus far makes the process of choosing a candidate difficult for many voters.
The Oct. 25 chapel service featured a panel of North Central staff and faculty members who shared thoughts on voting and provided Scriptural context for students seeking a biblical framework from which to view the upcoming election.
Spinal Development, a forum-style program put on by residence life staff, held a panel presentation and discussion on Oct. 26 to give students in attendance specific reasons to vote for particular candidates.
At the Spinal Development event, associate dean of residence life and housing Abigail Davis, director of athletics Greg Johnson, and assistant professor of social work Beth Brown each advocated for a presidential candidate. North Central is unable to endorse a candidate due to its non-profit status, so the statements made by the panel members in support of candidates did not necessarily reflect their personal political stances.
“Republicans and Democrats have the same goals, but disagree on how to get there,” Johnson said as he discussed the role of third party candidates in the election. Johnson advocated voting for an individual rather than a party. This makes third party candidates more appealing in this specific election cycle due to the lacking popularity of both major party candidates.
Brown advocated the Democratic position, while Davis took the Republican stance. Both of them revealed differing ideologies when viewing these parties from a Christian perspective.
Brown focused on the relationship between Democratic policies that target poverty, and Scripture passages that instruct believers to care for the poor and needy. Davis agreed in the importance of combatting poverty, but disagreed with the Democratic methods of doing so.
“It is my belief that this [caring for the poor] is not the job of the government,” Davis said while speaking from the Republican perspective. “Let’s take this out of the government and put it into the hands of the church.”
After the panel members each represented their party, the floor opened for student questions and discussion.
In contrast to the differing rationale for voting for a specific candidate or party provided by staff and faculty members at Spinal Development, the chapel service took a step back by collectively presenting a biblical approach to voting.
As the four panel members took their seats, Doug Graham, vice president of spiritual life, read Romans 13:1-7 which exhorts believers to be subject to authorities in government.
The panel answered a variety of questions from Graham, and advised students to be faithful in their witness throughout this election season, to be wise, to be involved beyond simply casting a vote, and to be understanding of others who may have differing political views as the election approaches.
“Recognize that you are not voting for God,” Renea Brathwaite, North Central director of graduate and creative education, said as the discussion began. “We can’t forget who we truly represent.”
The panel members along with North Central president Gordon Anderson, had met prior to the chapel service to discuss opinions and prepare the content to present to the student body. Along with Brathwaite, professor of theology Allen Tennison, associate professor of business LaToya Burrell, and assistant professor of English Desiree Libengood participated in the panel.
“You guys have something that’s powerful beyond the media; you guys have Google,” Burrell said as she encouraged students to be involved and informed in the election.
Being informed on candidate platforms can reveal issues that voters do not agree on, making the choice of a candidate difficult.
“You’ll never vote if you look for a candidate who you agree with 100 percent,” Libengood said.
“We are not just voting for one office. All of it matters. It is about being informed about who is running for every office,” Tennison added.
Regardless of who becomes president, Burrell said Christians are to respect the elected official as well as pray for that leader regardless of personal agreement.