Brian Weldy considers his presidential candidates logically, as befits his training as a chemical engineer. Married, and the father of three sons, he looks for leadership as evidenced by specifics: a strong moral compass, a consistently held and clearly communicated bedrock of principles, a vision for the future, and the ability to carry that vision forward. He wants the principles to be in line with those of the country's Founders, and the moral compass to be in line with God.
"Absolutely important in a leader is a person who prays to God for wisdom and direction in how to lead this country," he says. "It's great if he's a Christian, but not really essential."
"Can [the candidate] effectively carry forth the things our nation was founded on?" asks Mr. Weldy. To him, this means freedom: national freedom, political freedom, and individual freedom. That can't happen, he says, without smaller debt, smaller government, and the ability to clearly understand and trust the vision for the future that government leadership is communicating.
Weldy, who grew up in the Black Hills of South Dakota, became a Christian while a student at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. His belief is not tied to a denomination, but rather to a relationship with Jesus in which the believer is invited, as described in Matthew 22:37 and 39, to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind" and "Love your neighbor as yourself."
"This," says Weldy, "is the prescription to each of us and will ultimately lead towards healing our nation and impacting the world."
Now an executive with a health-care company, Weldy has relocated often during his career. When they came to Nashville 15 years ago, he and his wife sought a church that put its resources in mission work. The church that fit the bill, and which cares for the poor – as near as Nashville and as far away as Africa – happened to be Southern Baptist, a first for Weldy. As with many believers, the Bible – not the church – is central to his spiritual walk. He regularly studies the Scriptures and discusses them with others, weighing his own life against scriptural values and adjusting where need be. He expects that – for himself and his presidential choice – a person's "actions reflect that they abide in faith."
The foundation of principles Weldy wants safeguarded in the presidential election is eroding, he believes. "The government is moving more in a direction to take control of its citizens." Case in point is the Obama administration's birth control insurance mandate, he says. "It stepped over the line. It was ... a crackdown move when there were other options available." Because large government can oppress, he says, he favors decisionmaking at the lowest possible level, be it an individual, a community, or the state.
Weldy is also wary of administration efforts – invoking Scripture to advance government policy, for example – to align the president with people of faith. "Anytime someone uses Scripture for their individual advancement, it sends up a caution light. It could be construed as having a selfish motivation."
President Obama, he says, is not entirely responsible for the nation's problems, but neither is he the man to fix them: "I can't understand his moral compass. I'm not sure what his true values are. I believe he has a bedrock of principles, but they are not in alignment with the framers of the Constitution."
The bottom line for Weldy? "Trust. Do I trust what he's doing with this country? No."
Weldy was undecided about his vote in the March 6 Tennessee GOP primary until the 11th hour. Mitt Romney was a strong possibility, but ultimately Weldy went for the message and values of Rick Santorum, which, he says, have "resonance with my values."
With crushing debt and entitlements, Weldy believes that values may take a back seat to voters' concerns over the economy this year, but he feels that if Christians focus on values and being responsible in their own lives and their politics, economic recovery will follow. "In history there have always been divisions – it's nothing new." In an ever-more polarized society, he says, "we all fall short." The challenge? "How do we reconcile, not battle?"