This political season has been nasty, unpleasant, and absurdly ungodly. Nevertheless, as things are coming to a head, I thought that it would be a profitable exercise to collect a number of articles which I believe deal with the topic from a distinctly Christian perspective. Additionally, I’ll give you the short take of my own position on this mess.
The marriage of convenience is over, at least for now. Perhaps the best we can hope for in this sad election cycle with these two unsupportable candidates is that we do not allow a national disgrace to become the Great Evangelical Embarrassment.
Those of you who have read my review on Wednesday are probably not overly surprised that I would endorse Al Mohler’s perspective here. If you have listened to the episode of The Briefing on Monday that I recommended in my review, you have heard much of what is in this article. I think his rather sage perception of the dissolution of the political alliance between Republicans and Evangelicals is extremely on point. Whether that dissolution is a desirable or deplorable development depends largely on one’s perspective, I would wager.
For an analysis which is more focused on Hillary Clinton, consider the episode of The Briefing which aired this morning. The first segment discusses the recent revelations of emails which displayed a deliberate and pointed disdain for religion closely associated with her campaign.
But there is a point at which strategy becomes its own form of idolatry—an attempt to manipulate the levers of history in favor of the causes we support. Strategy becomes idolatry, for ancient Israel and for us today, when we make alliances with those who seem to offer strength—the chariots of Egypt, the vassal kings of Rome—at the expense of our dependence on God who judges all nations, and in defiance of God’s manifest concern for the stranger, the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed. Strategy becomes idolatry when we betray our deepest values in pursuit of earthly influence. And because such strategy requires capitulating to idols and princes and denying the true God, it ultimately always fails.
I haven’t cited Christianity Today on the blog before, and to be honest, I don’t expect to cite it again anytime soon. It tends to represent a species of Christianity which is uncomfortably broad and tends to represent legitimately problematic trends in Christian culture, such as a softening view of scriptural authority and enthusiastic approval of more charismatic forms of worship. That all being said, I am primarily citing this because, in trying to keep their net broad, CT tends to tread very softly on partisan political issues. Their production of an article which is this pointed is genuinely notable. Despite my concerns about CT as an outlet, this particular article is really very good.
I understand why many are reluctantly choosing to vote for Mr. Trump. Given the horrific prospects of a Hillary Clinton presidency I am even sympathetic with that choice. But the enthusiastic rallying around the man from some rather prominent members of the “religious right” is unconscionable. Indeed, the continued endorsements of Trump from men like Jerry Falwell Jr, Mike Huckabee, and Robert Jeffress have proved that the religious right are the new moral relativists.
This article perfectly encapsulates the reasons I, personally, cannot vote for Trump. I really, really want to be able to do so, as I desperately do not want to deal with the moral havoc a Hillary presidency will wreak. Pruitt here points out the moral contortions we, as a community, have gone through in order to serve that desire, and the catastrophic damage that we do to the witness of Christ when we lend our voices to the approval of an unabashed sexual predator.
There is a tendency, on both sides, to treat “our side” differently than we treat “their side.” Would the same Christian leaders excusing Trump’s statements ever think to excuse the same from Clinton (Bill or Hillary)? Of course not. Would liberals be overlooking Bill Clinton’s treatment of women (and Hillary’s role in downplaying or silencing accusations) if a Republican candidate (or spouse) had the same trail of serious allegations? No way. So much of politics is “defend our guy at all costs” and “seek and destroy their guy at all costs.” The church must show a better way.
There’s not a whole lot in this article which you haven’t read in other articles, but I do find that it is a remarkably balanced presentation of all the sides. DeYoung himself comes down on a third-party stance, which I confess is my own as well, but I believe that he gives appropriate charity to those whose political opinions may lead them to vote for either of the major party candidates. If we are to continue to function as churches and give the necessary charity and understanding to our brothers and sisters in Christ, despite the increasing stakes and emotion involved, we must understand the perspectives of all the different sides involved.
Hopefully there is some useful guidance for everyone here, wherever we land this election season.
I have not been overly guarded with my own political opinions in the above discussion, but I did want to give a brief take on the divisions and conflicts that I see amongst those closest to me on this issue. No one, in our circles, tends to seriously consider voting for Hillary, which should really not be surprising, considering the recent militarization of the Democratic party against not only traditional Christian values, but religion as a worthy member of the public sphere at all. The debate frequently comes down to whether people can stomach voting for Donald Trump to avoid the terrible possibilities of a Hillary Clinton presidency or not.
After a lot of despair and struggle, I have come down on the point that I cannot vote for Donald Trump. I am not saying that this opinion is, in any way, normative for the BPC, nor do I despise my brothers and sisters in Christ who have decided that they can vote for him. I disagree with their stance, and will try to convince them of what I believe to be an error if we speak, but I hope we can maintain Christian charity despite disagreement.
In the end, it is not just that Donald Trump fails to meet certain minimum moral standards for respectability and suitability for public office, but (to use completely unguarded language) that he is an absolute moral garbage fire of a person. When we dismiss that rank, violent, abusive immorality, even implicitly, we do great damage to the reputation of the church in the US today. In a sense, we should absolutely be ashamed to take anything from the hand of a man so venemous and vile. It is not unlike another story you may have read:
“And the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the persons, but take the goods for yourself.” But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have lifted my hand to the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth, that I would not take a thread or a sandal strap or anything that is yours, lest you should say, ‘I have made Abram rich.’” Genesis 14:21–23, ESV
If, at the end of the day, we have taken the gifts offered by the king of Sodom, we have only him to boast of, rather than the Lord.