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Focus on the Family Broadcast

The Importance of Voting in 2020

The Importance of Voting in 2020

John Stonestreet and Tim Goeglein discuss the critical importance of being informed on the issues and participating in the election process, urging Christian listeners to vote their faith-based values and engage others in civil discussion.
Original Air Date: September 30, 2020

John Fuller: There’s a story told that after America’s founding fathers voted to ratify the U.S. Constitution, a woman asked Dr. Benjamin Franklin, “Well, doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” “A republic,” replied the doctor, “if you can keep it.” And, of course, part of maintaining this republic that we have in the U.S. involves voting, which is a cherished tradition and a right that we have. And today we’re going to talk about the critical importance of your vote. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. And I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: John, we’re in the final weeks before the election on November 3rd. Make sure we know that. November 3rd. What a privilege to live in a country where we can participate in the formation of our government. This is a rare thing in human history, and, uh, it’s something that my two boys are now 18 and 20, this will be their first election. So, I am imploring them to get registered, which they’ve done, and get the absentee ballot and get with it. And I hope that each one of you listening to me will encourage everybody in your orbit to do the same. Now, one of the difficulties here at Focus on the Family, we’re 501(c)(3), so we have restrictions. We don’t talk about who to vote for, but we can talk about the principles of what to vote for and you’re gonna hear that discussion today. So, it’s not about R and D, Republican and Democrat. It’s about Biblical principles playing out in the public square and how we as Christians need to see these challenges and apply the right antidote to some of the things that are occurring in the culture today.

John: Mm. And joining us in the studio are John Stonestreet and Tim Goeglein. And John is the president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview and speaks and writes and addresses topics of faith and culture. He’s co-written a book called A Practical Guide to Culture and has been here a number of times. Tim Goeglein is the vice president for external and government relations for Focus on the Family. Serves in our Washington, D.C. office. And, uh, we’re so glad to have him here. He’s also written a book called American Restoration.

Jim: Tim and John, welcome back to Focus, both of you.

Mr. John Stonestreet: Always great to be here. Thank you.

Mr. Tim Goeglein: Thank you so much.

Jim: I don’t know that you’ve ever been on together.

John S.: Never been on together.

Jim: What a misstep that’s been for us.

John F.: (Laughter).

John S.: It’s – it’s a great day.

Jim: I mean, you two are in the mix. I mean, you’re seeing it every day, right?

Tim: Absolutely. Yes.

Jim: (Laughter) I mean, for you, Tim, at the office there, which is a beautiful location right near the Supreme Court. You and I, when I fly out, we’re able to go and meet the people that are making things happen in that city. And, you know, to – I think to our credit, we have reached across the aisle. We – we see both Democrats and Republicans and talk about those issues that we’re concerned about. Comment on that opening statement I made about the restrictions on speech. I mean, we have to be careful. But still, Christians have a right to express their moral convictions.

Tim: By all means. And I find it liberating to, uh, be at Focus on the Family and to be partisan to the issues and not to the party. I think it gives us a much clearer view, uh, and allows us to look at the entire landscape of our country and to realize a very important principle, which is that the first duty of Christian citizenship is to vote.

Jim: Well, that’s so well said. John, I admire what you have done stepping in the shoes of Chuck Colson. I mean, man, I prayed for you many times.

John S.: (Laughter).

Jim: I, kind of, know the feeling, right?

John S.: The big shoes. It’s impossible.

Jim: (Laughter) And who are you again?

John S.: Yeah, exactly.

Jim: But, uh, Chuck Colson was such a mammoth collaborator. And, you know, after being President Nixon’s “hatchet man,” as he was called, he became such a – just a pillar of working with people behind the scenes, even at his funeral. Uh, there was a Democrat that stood up at his funeral and said, “We were on the opposite sides of many things, but I learned so much from Chuck Colson.” And Chuck Colson had gone to this man and asked for forgiveness for politically tearing him down. And, uh – and the man could not forgive him at that time, but there he was at his funeral and he forgave him years later. And they had that discussion and they buried the hatchet, sort of speak. And what a beautiful testimony from Chuck Colson. How do you see this? And knowing Chuck the way you did and being mentored by him, how do you feel he would feel about what’s going on right now?

John S.: (Chuckles) You know, there’s plenty of issues that he foresaw, right? And he prophesied and predicted.

Jim: Boy, he was so smart.

John S.: He – he – well, he was. And he was mostly right about – about all the things that he saw coming. And in some ways, we’re grateful that the Lord was gracious enough, given the gravity of some of the issues that we face. But, you know, the thing that sticks with me is that Chuck realized that there’s two equal and opposite errors that people of faith make. One is what he would call the political illusion, which is actually – he’s taking that from a – a quirky, French theologian named Jacques Ellul – which is the idea that all problems are political, and all solutions are political. And then what we might call, which I think we see more and more maybe the political delusion, right? Which is basically this idea that politics is – is – is unholy, irredeemable. It’s pointless. My vote doesn’t count. This idea that politics – you know, you can’t go in there without getting your hands dirty, so to speak.

Jim: Right.

John S.: And neither of those are a Biblical perspective.

Jim: Let me…

John S.: There…

Jim: Yeah. Let me ask both of you in that vein. There’s research that shows that 70% of Americans feel it’s important for Americans to vote, but only 56% of us show up. I mean, that disparity right there is something’s wrong, right?

Tim: Yeah, I’d like to pick up on that, because I think, uh, in going back to Chuck Colson for a moment, Chuck showed us and Focus on the Family, I think even since our inception has – has shown, that there is a definite disconnect between many who are in public life and the American people. You know, Chuck famously said – and I – I find this a remarkably refreshing. He said, “In America, salvation will never arrive on Air Force One.” And what he meant by that is that to John’s great point, don’t look for the politicians of either political party to resolve or to restore, uh, you know, the values that we care about. That it begins in marriage. It begins in family. It begins in parenting. It begins in local community. It begins in our churches. It doesn’t begin in a political fulcrum. It begins, frankly, at the most local, organic place. And I find that very nourishing.

Jim: It’s so true. And you think about in that context, God created three institutions, the family, the church, and government – each with its own specific role. Government, basically, and Scripture is given the task of restraining evil. I mean, isn’t it amazing? And yet that’s becoming more and more blurry in some cities in our country today. Why have they lost their way?

John S.: Well, I – I think you have between the federal government and the top of the culture, you might say, and the individual citizen, historically, America has always had this really robust, strong middle – families and community groups and local, civic governments and so on. But one of the things we’ve seen over the last hundred – 150 years, and I think especially the last 20 to 30 years, is a weakening of the middle and emptying out of the middle. You guys spent so much important energy looking at one of those, which is the family. When a family is weak, this society is weak. And this is why voting matters. And I – let me get there, right? Because so much of our attention when it comes to a national presidential election like ours is the two people at the top of the ticket, right? And – and – and it’s an example of the political illusion that if my guy’s in, all is well; if my guy’s not in, all is lost. But on every ballot – you know, as a Colorado citizen, especially in our state right now – on every ballot down ticket, there are local races. There’s a lot of ballot initiatives. There are things that will determine the future of policy. And policy either threatens the existence of these very important, nonpolitical and what we might call pre-political institutions, or it will create space for these things to flourish.

Jim: Yes.

John S.: And so, this is in a very real way – I – I’ve just kind of become struck, especially this election, Jim, that Christians need to take seriously the task of voting because it is a real and tangible way to fulfill the great commandment – loving God and the second like unto it, loving our neighbor.

Jim: Well, Tim, let me ask you. You’ve been involved for over 30 years in that wonderful city. I say in air quotes. Washington, D.C.

Tim: Yes.

Jim: Working for Senator Dan Coats. Of course, you worked with the Bush White House and you’ve seen it. You’ve seen it all. You’ve seen how parties manipulate and they’re trying to get in for all kinds of reasons, mostly power. And we get that, and we understand that. But for the Christian who feels like, “You know what? God’s in control.” A little bit of apathy here probably is a good, deep spiritual truth. What do you say to that person who says, “It doesn’t really matter anyway? Um, you know, in the end, God’s in control, so I don’t care who goes into power.”

Tim: Yeah, I would say that was St. Augustine. That those who are discouraged and despairing need to understand that discouragement and despair is a sin because it negates the hope of Jesus Christ. We are hopefulists. You know, we’re the Easter people. Uh, and our vote matters. It definitively matters. And I think to John’s point and to your second question, we are facing one of the most important elections of our lifetime. The future of our country, the future of our culture and civilization, is definitively on the line. Jim: Yeah.

Tim: And I think, Jim, without overstating it, this is the most important election since 1864. Because in 1864, by a cat’s whisker, Abraham Lincoln won. If Abraham Lincoln had lost his reelection in 1864 to George McClellan, I think that hours after McClellan’s inauguration, I think he would have sued for peace. And I think we would have ceased being the United States of America. We would have been at least two countries and maybe three.

John F.: Hmm.

Tim: There is nothing written in the stars, uh, that the United States of America shall henceforth always be the United States of America. And it matters. People, uh, voting matters because you are – sometimes it seems voting against.

Jim: Yeah.

Tim: And – and sometimes you’re voting for. But our founding fathers genius was that Silicon Valley and Hollywood and Washington and Wall Street – it’s not their country. It’s our country. And it’s important that we step into the voting booth as men and women of faith and make a decision.

John F.: And we want to help you become better informed and better equipped as you do that. So, stop by our website for details about the books from our guests, Tim Goeglein and John Stonestreet. And then we also have a helpful voter’s guide, which you’re going to find really useful as you, kind of, untangle all the different campaign rhetoric and the ads out there. Stop by our website for the voter guide and the books. It’s focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. You can also call us. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.

Jim: In fact, when it comes this idea of, you know, God’s in control, so, you know, voting is kind of optional. I have a clip from Dr. Tony Evans, a wonderful pastor from Dallas. He’s been on the broadcast many times. And, uh, let me play the clip and then get your response to what he’s saying.

Dr. Tony Evans: “The best understanding of God’s sovereignty is like the lines of a football field or the sidelines and there’s, uh, goal lines and those are non-negotiable lines. But you get to call plays within those lines and some of those plays could be good plays. Some of those plays could be bad plays. You don’t mess with the sovereign lines, but you do get freedom of play calling. God gave Adam and Eve freedom in the garden. They could choose God or not choose God. God’s sovereignty didn’t stop them from not choosing God. So, you are to never use God’s sovereignty as an excuse to be irresponsible.”

John S.: What – I mean, what can you say to that other than amen? I think he nailed it.


Jim: Yeah. That’s right.

John S.: Plus, he gave a football analogy and it’s been so long.


John S.: Well, look. It…

Jim: I personally love football.

John S.: Well, that’s right. I mean, but – but he’s exactly right. Nowhere does God’s control negate, eliminate, remove, trivialize human action. Humans are still responsible for what they do and what they choose not to do. And – and I would only add that underneath all of this is a question for every follower of Christ. And that is, do we believe that Christianity is actually true, not just true for me and maybe not for you, but literally the best description of the contours of reality itself? Because if we do, then voting and coming down on certain sides when it comes to policy issues and how best to structure education or, you know, international relations, what to do with issues like abortion and marriage and religious freedoms and so on and so on and so on, this is like dealing with gravity. We don’t want a world that denies gravity because as Dallas Willard once said, “You can’t step off the roof and then choose not to hit the ground.”

Jim: Right.

John S.: We don’t want a country that denies created realities like the dignity of every single life or the sanctity of one man, one woman for life – marriage – because this stuff is like gravity. And to deny this is going to have brutal consequences for individuals and for our nation.

Jim: That is really well said, John. And it reminds me of the important responsibility a President has in nominating federal judges. I mean, that’s probably the most important thing a President will do. And we now have this opening on the Supreme Court. Judge Amy Coney Barrett has been nominated by President Trump. Um, speak to the importance of judicial nominees in relation to the upcoming election.

John S.: You know, so much that a President does these days ends with his term in office, executive orders and so on. The thing that lasts are judicial appointments, especially to the Supreme Court. This is why people say elections have consequences. President Trump, in his first term has now, uh, nominated three Supreme Court justices. Two of…

Jim: Three out of nine.

John S.: Three out of nine. And two of them have been seated. And we’ll see, you know, whether the, uh – the Senate can push this confirmation through in time for the election or not. It’s – it’s not clear, at least at the time that we’re having this conversation. But that has significant consequences. I mean, right now, the volume has gone through the roof on this nomination of Amy Coney Barrett because of what it actually might do to the central political and cultural reality of our nation for the last four decades, which is Roe v. Wade. I mean, that’s huge. Since Roe v. Wade was passed, every confirmation hearing has been a fight as if it were over life and death.

Jim: Starting with Bork. Judge Bork.

John S.: Starting with Bork, because it’s been a fight over an issue that has to do with life and death. I mean (unintelligible).

Jim: You know, that’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about it in that context that Roe v. Wade was the beginning of judges being “Borked”, as they’ve talked about that becoming a verb now.

John S.: Absolutely. It – it – it – Roe v. Wade was the sort of sweeping, culture-shifting decision that you don’t often see from the court. I’d argue that the Obergefell decision on same-sex marriage was similar in the sense that states decided one thing and the court has decided something else and imposed that will on the nation. The Supreme Court is usually very reticent to do that. But in the case of Roe v. Wade, that’s what it did. And I would argue, along with some others, uh, that – that Roe has poisoned a lot of our cultural discourse. The reason that it’s at such a fever pitch, the reason that, um, we have to make maybe some sort of, uh, prudential, you know, decisions that we’re not super happy with between candidates or elections or whatever else has to do with the fact so much is at stake. And that’s why I think we’ve seen the fever pitch where it’s been. And, of course, it’s not just the Supreme Court. We talk about the lower courts and the President has seated, you know, scores of judges. This is proof. Elections have consequences. And this is our chance to speak into that process.

Jim: Let me – let me ask you this. Um, and, Tim, you realize this working with me when I do an interview on the subject of politics. I’m trying to express the fact that Christians have every right to have a voice in that arena. We live in a republic where we can express ourselves. That’s part of our freedoms that we believe are God given. It seems to me – and I know some people are going to be really, uh, put out by this – but it seems to me the Christian community has become more politically sophisticated. I’m not speaking spiritually. I’m saying purely politically, more sophisticated, in that we realize that a presidential candidate may not possess attributes of being our pastor or priest and that policies become more critical – um, freedom of religion, pro-life, those kinds of things. Talk about – I’m sure there’s danger in that. But at the same time, human beings are – are imperfect people. Yes, both Democrats and Republicans. (Chuckles) Nobody has the corner on perfection. Only Jesus. And so, when you look at it in that context, have we become a little smarter about electing people that put good policies forward that allow for human flourishing versus simply control and power?

Tim: Yeah, I love that question because I think the 1960s and the 1970s were essentially, um, a moral and social upheaval in the United States. Maybe…

Jim: You had both extremes.

Tim: Both extremes. Unprecedented in the history of our nation. And I think many Christians, until that point, could with some comfortability say, “Well, both political parties, you know, essentially agree on the largest questions there are. And whether I participate or not is not yesterday’s news. But it doesn’t feel as consequential.” You come through a moral and social upheaval like the 60s and 70s, and you realize, “Wait a minute. The result of these decisions has narrowed my religious liberty and conscience rights.” We are now at 63 million abortions since 1973.

Jim: 63 million. Think of that.

Tim: 63 million of our fellow citizens are not with us. And I think Christians have said, “Wait a minute. This matters. It matters maybe more than ever.” And I think that as a direct result of these both political and cultural currents, American Christians have said, “It’s important that I stand in the public square, engage as never before at the local, regional, state and federal level because actually voting matters.”

John F.: Hmm. You know, on a practical level, like Jim, I’ve got adult kids who are voters and we have had some, if I may put it this way, robust conversations. Um, I think the social media platforms and the news media have – have distilled this down to, you know, there’s one – one thing in this election and it’s either candidate A or candidate B, and it’s the personality of the candidate. And – and somehow it seems there are younger people that are – are making it about that. How do we have a conversation about policies and all the things that you’ve mentioned thus far that are below the surface of candidate A and candidate B?

Tim: Yeah, I – I – I must say, as a father of two sons ages 24 and 22, Tim and Paul, who are also making these decisions, John, what you say, you know, is in our echo chamber. And I think in part the answer is an honest dialog, an honest conversation and a really robust exchange of views and ideas. But I feel very confident, uh, that when there is a whole lot less opinion and a lot more discussion of data and what the case is, um, I – I think young people and the rising generation of young Americans are actually quite open and excited about what’s coming from the next generation in our country. I – I feel confident.

Jim: Yeah. Let me continue to throw Scripture in here because it’s so important. This is what we believe. Romans 13:1 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except from God and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Now, Paul – you gotta give it some context. Paul is writing this when Nero is the emperor. I mean, you got a – wow. Really? Paul, are you sure? I mean, he was the Caesar of Rome at the time, right? And he was evil and wicked. And yet Paul still wrote that.

Tim: I love the fact that a pastor wrote a letter to the primary architect of the American constitution, James Madison. He was a New York pastor and he sent a letter to Madison and was essentially including a sermon in his envelope to the former President. And he said essentially, “Is there a unique duty for the state and a unique duty for the church? And does our Constitution make this distinction?” What the pastor is asking is, “Is the American founding an accurate reflection of this idea of the city of God on one hand and the city of man?” And Madison writes back and essentially says, “You’ve got it exactly right.” I find that a remarkably nourishing reality in 21st century America, that we live in an exceptional and extraordinary country, that, in fact, in our very founding is a reflection of what the Bible is teaching us.

Jim: Hmm. That is good.

John S.: Yeah, I mean, I think that is good. I’m just going to absorb for just a second.


Jim: Yeah. Me too. Wow.

John S.: But – but it’s important to understand that even though we are having a time right now of such incredible conflict on so many levels and the sort of nation we want to be, which, by the way, in my mind is – is downstream. Upstream is the question, the sort of people we want to be – what’s happening culturally in so many different ways. We – we – we don’t send folks to D.C. or to our state capitals to rule over us. We send them there so that they can reflect the sort of culture and community in ruling that we want as we govern ourselves. That’s the great idea I think that has been lost. And this is something we began with Chuck Colson. And I’ll go back to him because he reflected on this a lot. If we are a people that can’t govern ourselves, then there’s not going to be enough police officers to solve the problem.

Jim: Wow.

John S.: It’s the conscience or it’s the constable. And, uh, that’s such an important distinction to make. And this then is an opportunity for Christians when they vote to reflect that sort of self-governance, the sort of community and culture we want to have together, the sort of people we want to be, the sort of vision we have for the future.

Jim: Well, I think you both have made a great, uh, statement about why it is important for us to take this seriously. So, I want to say thank you. Tim, thank you for coming in from D.C.

Tim: A real honor.

John F.: John, thank you for coming down the down the hall.

John S.: Down the hall. It was a long journey.


Jim: I think Tim might be a little jealous. But seriously, folks, I think that this has been one of the best discussions that I’ve participated in, in terms of the need to vote. Certainly take a look at the voter guide that Focus on the Family has prepared. Uh, we obviously can’t say vote for this person or vote for that person. We’re putting out the principles, the policies and speaking to that. We’re Christians. We’re conservative Christians. There’s no question about that. We get it. People have different views about what should be done. This is our view. We should protect religious liberty. We should protect as a social justice issue, the most vulnerable among us, the pre-born child. We believe in this. And, um, I hope that this discussion has prompted you to register and to vote and let your voice be heard. And, in the end, really, whether your vote for this party or that party, that’s between you and God. What we want you to do is exercise your right and vote.

John F.: And to be informed. As Jim said, we have this great voter’s guide. It’s been months in the making. I mean, there’s so many things going on that you got to think through. And we’ve distilled it all, condensed it all, into this great voter’s guide that you’re going to find on our website. As well, you’ll find American Restoration, the book by Tim Goeglein. We’ve talked about it here in the broadcast before. And we’d love free to pick up a copy of that which exudes Tim’s hopefulness. And then John Stonestreet has co-authored a book called A Practical Guide to Culture, which includes his great insights about what’s going on and how we can be Biblical citizens in today’s current culture. Those are great resources and we want to encourage you to get in touch with us for those. Make a donation of any amount and when you do, we’ll say thank you for joining our support team by sending a copy of either of those books, whichever one you choose. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY. Or stop by focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And then, finally, we’re making a C.D. available of our conversation. We’re going to include additional content that, uh, just would not fit into the confines of this radio broadcast.

Jim: Tim, John, what a great reminder to get out and vote. Thank you for being with us.

Tim: A real honor.

John S.: Yes. Thanks.

John F.: And once again, get in touch with us for any of the resources I’ve mentioned or if you have any additional questions about what’s coming up around the corner on November 3rd. Our number once more. 800-A-FAMILY. And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller, inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Covers of the books "A Practical Guide to Culture" and "American Restoration"

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