The Question I Hope Every 2016 Candidate Is Asked

Here we are at the beginning of another presidential campaign, and like every campaign since our founding, the people who put themselves forward as possible leaders of the free world are being grilled by the media on a number of issues.

Some of my conservative colleagues have complained about the types of questions that conservative candidates like Scott Walker receive compared to the questions leveled at liberal candidates. Only a willingly blind observer would conclude that conservatives get a fair shake in this, as Mark Helperin and others have noted. I'm in general sympathy with my friend Matt Lewis that wanting to be president includes being willing to take all kinds of questions. Or, as my high-school basketball coach often said, "Don't complain about the referees, play well enough that they don't matter." This is the big leagues and good leaders don't complain about the media, they press on and demonstrate what qualifies them for the highest office in the country.

But if we are going to have questions about the questions directed at presidential candidates, I'd like to offer one a query I hope every aspirant is asked. It's a simple question that has profound policy implications.

Do you recognize the intrinsic value of every human life, from conception to natural death?

For Christians, this question is rooted in a foundational belief. The Christian story starts in Genesis with the declaration by God that humanity, unlike the rest of creation, was sculpted by a loving and creative God and formed, "in His own image." The Latin word is imageo dei. Christian theology teaches all humanity was endowed with dignity because we are made in God's likeness.

It is this theology that drives what Christians believe about the basic dignity and worth of every human being. In every person, regardless of their utility to society, we see the image of God. This drives our activism on issues like abortion, immigration, human trafficking, poverty, racial reconciliation, elder care, orphan care and advocacy for the disabled. It's why we care about the institution of marriage, because we believe that God's best design for human flourishing is the complementarity of the sexes. It's why we care about religious liberty, because every soul has the right to worship freely, even if we believe they are wrong.

I don't expect the next President to be a master of biblical anthropology, but I do hope he is asked many questions about the way he or she sees human beings, especially the most vulnerable.

  • Do you value the dignity and worth of unborn life enough to protect it with the force of the law?
  • Do you recognize the dignity in the poor and impoverished enough to help them escape their economic condition?
  • Are you willing to consider the plight of the "other", the people group you are least familiar with, and render whatever legitimate assistance they may need?
  • Do you see value and worth in the immigrant, even the undocumented, and are you willing to treat them with fairness?
  • Do you see the humanity in those who vociferously disagree with you, even your ideological opponents, enough to recognize that you are both seeking the good of your neighbors?
  • Are you willing to fight and spend political capital on a marginalized group who may not be able to reward you with electoral votes, and if so, can you name which groups those are?

These are just a few questions that arise out of the big question: are you willing to see every human life as important and worthy of protection? Are you willing to find dignity in lives that are considered a burden to society? Can you see worth in people beyond their utility?

The presidential candidates will face a lot of questions between now and November, 2016. Some will crumble under the weight of this higher level of scrutiny. Some will thrive. Ultimately one will emerge as our next leader.

But I hope one question arises above the rest: Are you willing to treat every human, regardless of their status, as being of equal and immeasurable worth, and are you willing to fight to protect their inviolable dignity?