Before I begin my article on the 2016 Election, it is appropriate that I provide justification for another think-right-about-the-2016-election article. I am writing this blog for friends and family that have taken an interest in my thoughts on what Christians should do this election. There have already been excellent articles on the subject from many thinkers far more qualified in knowledge and life experience to present their thoughts, opinions, and reasons for how citizens ought to engage this election. With this in mind, let’s proceed.
Faith Trumps Fear?
There is a problematic video and website circulating the internet titled www.faithtrumpsfear.com. The video claims that Christians thinking about voting strategically for Trump are really voting out of fear. According to the video’s presenter, Christians should seek to honor God by not making a strategic choice, and instead vote for the most “ballot-qualified candidate” in their state. Who is a “ballot qualified candidate”? Anyone not Hillary or Trump, even if they are pro-gay marriage and pro-choice. This strategy, so the video claims, will make a statement that the government won’t be able to ignore!
There is a problem with this perspective. It is contradictory to hold that Christians should not vote strategically, but instead trust God, while at the same time stating that Christians should think strategically about this election as a demonstration of trusting God. There is nothing wrong with thinking strategically about your vote, or presenting other ways to move the country in the direction that will bring about the most good. But there is something wrong when these same Christians judge other Christians’ faith simply for holding to a different strategy.
Trump does not have the character qualities that we typically prefer to see paraded in front of the camera, but he is promising to represent, not the church, but some of the values of the church. When I visited “faithtrumpsfear.com”, I was told to vote for Gary Johnson because I live in NC. Gary Johnson’s website states that he is pro-choice and pro-gay marriage. The godly course of action, according to www.faithtrumpsfear.com, is to vote for a candidate that has promised to allow the use of abortive practices and services instead of voting for a candidate that has promised to attempt to reverse Roe v. Wade through the election of Supreme Court Justices. How is your conscience clean if you vote for some who has “presidentially” promised to continue abortion versus a man who has “unpresidentially” promised to end abortion? Now that the primaries are over, we must ask ourselves an important question: what principles should guide us in voting our conscience in the General Election, especially if our candidate did not make it out of the primaries? According to the video, a vote based on fear of another candidate is by definition a lack of faith and trust in the will of God. So, what is the difference between voting for Trump out of fear of Hillary versus voting third party out of fear of Trump?
A Matter of Principle
One of the major questions that I have pondered is, “What does it mean to cast a vote based on your principles?” This is a fair question and should be met with another question: “What are your principles?”
To cast a vote for a candidate is not an endorsement of their character, it is an endorsement of their policies. This is why in order to “vote your conscience” you must vote your principles and not your feelings. Allow me to explain. Clearly, the reason evangelicals do not want to vote for Hillary Clinton is because her policies are contradictory to their principles and they know that a vote for Hillary would be in conflict with their deepest held beliefs about religious liberty and the right to life. But the reason many Christians don’t know if they should vote for Trump is because he has promised to represent their principles, but has not shown character traits that are typically associated with those principles. We can summarize the dilemma this way: “I can’t vote for Hillary, but I don’t want to vote for Trump.” In a culture that believes that conscience is guided solely by emotions, it is not surprising that many individuals are conflicted with how they ought to vote. But a person’s conscience should be emotionally sensitive according to his principles.
If you cast your vote in such a way as to further policies that are contrary to your principles, you have violated your conscience. In order for you to determine how you ought to cast your vote, it will require that you determine and define your principles. Your conscience is guided by your principles, therefore, in voting your conscience, you should vote for candidates who have committed themselves to legislation that will re-enforce your principles.
A Prudent Vote
I don’t think the Church’s success or failure is dependent on any of the candidates. The church is responsible for the church and its congregants. The Nation is responsible and morally obligated to protect the rights of its people. Meaning, it ought to protect human rights and create and defend a space for people to freely pursue their eternal destiny through their talents. The candidates we have are the candidates we have. The Christian voter needs to be strategic in standing up for those who don’t have the ability to stand for themselves, as well as fostering an environment that edifies and encourages the body of Christ to freely engage their culture with the Gospel.
There are concerns raised by some Christians about the future of the Church under either candidate. Will Hillary launch a legislative offensive against the church and the unborn? Yes. She has said she will, and again all we can evaluate is the statements and policies the candidates promise to defend and promote. One website featured on www.FaithTrumpsFear.com argued that Nationalism could infect the American Church and shift their focus from trust in God to trust in America. To these individuals who say both are equally bad, I ask “Are you sure?”
In one sense, persecution of the Church is not really something we have control over; only God knows the future and the trials the Church will face. However, in another sense, we are free beings with the privilege to participate in the election of our leaders. If Hillary is elected, we have every reason to believe that she is going to further her agenda against the church, those who have conservative values, and those who would be defended by conservative values. If Trump is elected, we don’t know what to expect; all we can do is speculate. It could still end the same way, but ultimately God calls us to be “wise as serpents and gentle as doves.” Wisdom presumes that you strategize about the election and you vote for what you believe is the wisest choice: the wisest choice being, in any situation, that which will maximize the good, despite your circumstances. The only things we can weigh are the proposed policies, the party platform’s stances, and what the candidates have promised to do. If the platform or the candidate intends to not follow through on their promises, they are culpable for their actions; we are not culpable for lacking the ability to read the minds of candidates and perceive their hearts based on sound bites and media clips.
It seems to me that the probable outcomes of this election, should Hillary win, is a legislative offensive not only on the Church, but also the unborn and the elderly. If Trump wins, it is probably safe to say that he doesn’t care what the Church does or says. So, which tyranny would you prefer: a scenario in which the church is actively defending itself, the unborn, and the elderly, or a scenario in which the church will need to guard against nationalism?
Don’t Get Excited
On November 8th, one of these candidates will be elected. Regardless of who you vote for, you should not be watching the election outcomes with a sense of excitement to see if your guy or gal is going to win. Hope is not a policy that either of these candidates are capable of fulfilling. A country may be only as good as its leaders, but its leaders are the products of the culture they lead. These may be some voters’ preferred candidates but they weren’t mine and they shouldn’t have been any other reasonable Christian’s first choice either. Both candidates bring about a form of American government that Christians will have to, with the power of the Holy Spirit, overcome. The issue that makes this election so paradoxical, is that we are free to determine our own fate, but more importantly we set the battlefield of ideas for the next generation. Personally, of the two likely scenarios, I prefer the one that involves defending the church from within and from above with the potential of making progress in the battle for life, rather than a scenario that involves a pro-choice candidate with an agenda that targets conservative principles and beliefs along with any of those associated.
In short, I think that we must vote our conscience, but we need to understand exactly what we are culpable for in casting our votes. Acting like your vote for a third party renders you innocent of the crimes that will follow this election is naive and lacks responsibility. Those who don’t believe their vote for a 3rd Party is a throw away vote, need only look back to the Republican Primary and the current Republican candidate to understand why this thinking is most certainly false. Making excuses for the actions of Hillary or Trump will not help restore our country or the conscience of the church. The older generation should be asking “How did we let this happen?” and the upcoming generations need to ask “How do we ensure it doesn’t happen again?” Those likeminded in principle, within the younger and older generations, must come together after this election, regardless of the outcome. We are not watching on November 8th merely to see who wins, were are watching to find out what problems we will face and what difficulties we must overcome for the sake of future generations. After the candidate has been selected, we need to come together, assess the situation, and get to work changing our culture for the glory of God.