My intention for this blog has always been to discuss biblical or theological topics. Politics is, to some degree, not part of that. However, as others have wedded them so closely together, I want to address this. This is partly because fairness is really important to me and unfair things are being said about white males, especially the Evangelical kind, by Christians no less.
I have seen several tweets, blog posts, and articles in recent months asking how any Evangelical/conservative Christian could have voted for Donald Trump. I cannot hope to cover all the complexities of all these issues but I would like to suggest a few things worth considering.
First, to get some things out of the way, I reject categorically any sort of discrimination against someone based on their race ethnic group nationality gender religious convictions etc. I reject completely the misuse or mistreatment of women as though they were lesser or less intelligent or just there for sex or some other unjustifiable assertions or assumptions. So I believe that sexual abuse should be punished. Being a member myself of a minority group that is those with disabilities makes it particularly sensitive to issues of discrimination because I have experienced them myself. So you need to not assume about me any perception you might have of what Evangelical Christians might think politically and socially.
Second, my first allegiance above all else is not too political party or a social movement or anything like that it is to Jesus who reveals the God of the Bible completely because he is the God of the Bible. As an Evangelical, I consider Scripture authoritative when interpreted properly. There is absolutely no direct connection between Christian faith and a political party, any party. God is not on the side of Republicans he is not in the cited Democrats he is on the side of any party. From that perspective, I don’t per se want to consider myself a member of any political party and I certainly don’t expect my Christian faith to be shaped by political convictions. That certainly happens a lot not just with the Christian faith but with many face but it is in my view the distortion of any religious belief system unless it was built into the system as it is in Islam, for example. So I reject being theoretically logically messed up views that connect say God and gun control or garden. Or God and whatever. I understand that at some point in the past the head of the national Association of Evangelicals made their first most important issue tax reform. Sorry but the tax system you live under is not a theological matter it is not high on God’s priority list of our as I can discern we need to not make political social interests into doctrine that shape our view of God or how to live for God.
Since I am a Christian first and a natural born US citizen second, my perspective is that the kingdom of God is more important than greater than any political system it’s essential that we accept that biblical principle. Paul said that we should obey the government. However as we know from other portions of the Bible such as Daniel went through six there are definitely times when rejecting the government’s position on something is important. So before I consider what I ought to do from a political standpoint such as who to vote for, I need a clear grasp of what it is I think that God’s will as revealed in Scripture is where I see gray areas I’m going to treat them as gray areas things that I can’t know for sure. When there is explicit data with the instructions and it’s appropriate for me as a Christian to follow those, I’m going to follow those and I am going to look for political candidates who express those. I do not expect or intend to establish a Christian government. I am not even sure that such a thing can really exist. Can you become a powerful US Senator while fully observing biblical morality? Not sure. What I can do, however, is look for candidates to vote for who exemplify moral virtues, based upon a biblical perspective or extended from Scripture. So, for example, creating a lie by voter fraud is contrary to Scripture.
So if I do not want to align myself as a Christian with any specific political party, how should I go about choosing whom to vote for? There are many hot button issues of our day and I want to be careful about this but here’s my perspective someone who is a politician who promotes unrestricted abortions is likely a moral virtue from a biblical perspective. Someone who wants to lessen the number of abortions that take place is, in my view, much more virtuous morally than the first person. So I’m going to look for the candidate for particular office who I think most reflects biblically grounded moral virtue. Doing the most that will align with God’s kingdom.
It is important to distinguish between things that are explicitly moral issues like life-and-death matters or sexual matters or bribery or theft or duplicity or hypocrisy. Matters I can come up with clear biblical assertions or trajectories about. On the other hand, there are matters that are important to me as an American or perhaps more properly, a “USer,” as lots of countries are in North America and South America. Are Canadians Americans, eh? In some sense yes, but the common usage is to call those who live in the U.S. Americans. So I will go with that. Having seen lots of governmental systems around the world and how they treat their people, I prefer the U.S. Constitution-based government of the United States. That is not a statement that the U.S. government is virtuous morally. It is to say that I appreciate freedom of religion, speech, and press. I appreciate due process. Of late we have seen politicians who clearly don’t care about due process for others, but I digress. I like living in a country in which the leader, the U.S. President, cannot direct the Army to do actual law-keeping within the borders of our land. That is the job of non-military organizations. The U.S., compared to most of the world, prospers financially. Obviously, not all prosper. I do think it is a matter of morality that about 98% of the wealth in the country is owned by the top 1% and they use their influence to make sure things stay that way. However, being patriotic is not a function of being a Christian.
So when I vote for candidates, I have two considerations. First, which of the two candidates had seems to have the most moral virtue, or from the negative side which of them seems least evil to me? Speaking patriotically, which candidate reflects most the values of the founding fathers, the authors of the Constitution? Those are two separate items.
So if I choose one candidate over another, it is either because I consider that candidate to have less or fewer evil intentions or values because, in equal in depravity to the other candidate, which candidate is most going to support the values of the founding fathers. Sample California because the course almost everything except being morally upright acceptable in California. The California state legislature voted to outlaw the therapy for minors who did not to have same-sex attraction or who did not want to have gender dysphoria. Without going off into a discussion of morals, this law contradicts freedoms guaranteed at the federal level in the U.S. Constitution. So whatever party made that a law, I am going to reject candidates from that party for political office. They are not supporting the values of the founding fathers although they want to continue to benefit from those values. The same legislators also voted for a Harvey milk day and forced upon all minors in public schools from kindergarten through 12th grade. A fundamental problem with this law is that it explicitly prevents or forbids a teacher to talk about negative actions by Harvey Milk. Since he said you should lie to get what you want, and was a sexual predator of young boys, I consider this immoral. They should not be celebrating someone who is so reprehensible. Though again the political party that did this is going to be a party whose candidates I oppose.
Many are saying illogical things, such as, if one voted for Donald Trump, and is an Evangelical, this is far from showing that Evangelicals or even some Evangelicals thought that Mr. Trump was a great person and everything about him was proper Christian behavior. If anyone thinks that, they need to do some serious study of Scripture, and read a book or two on biblical ethics, e.g., The Moral Vision of the New Testament by Richard B. Hays. Supporting Donald Trump now that he is the U.S. president does not mean that supporters think everything that he does is wonderful. As I will describe below, supporting a politician can be confidence in the person to do the right thing always or it could be a position that this politician is better than the person who might have won some election. Further, because political decisions for Christians ought to be guided as far as possible by Scripture, it is unreasonable to believe that any Evangelical who supports Donald Trump approves of everything he does. Similarly, I would hope that any Evangelical who voted for Hillary Clinton nevertheless rejects abortion on demand with no restrictions. An Evangelical might approve of Bernie Sanders’ embracing of socialism, which entails a rejection of life in the U.S. as we know it, but I would hope that does not mean this person accepts the Democrat position that anything sexual is fine except to object to some behaviors as immoral. These are illogical positions and I reject them.
I can give examples of problems with either Hillary or Donald but essentially, I would have voted for the presidential candidate who I saw as either less evil or more virtuous or more supportive of US constitutional values. Given that no political system is perfect or righteous, I want to hold on to biblical values first but also want the country overall to be as its founders intended it. (Those who disagree with our form of governments are welcome to move to Russia, Afghanistan, Cuba, or North Korea, where government systems are very different.) I have mentioned the issue of abortion above. From the Didache, written about 100 A.D., forward, Christians have opposed exposing babies or aborting them. I think they are right. So when I heard Hillary Clinton in a presidential debate in 2016 essentially say she believed in having no restrictions upon abortion, while her opponent did believe in placing restrictions on it, that pushed me toward voting for her opponent.
The U.S. Supreme Court was not granted the power of “judicial review” in the Constitution. However, it has had that power for over 200 years. Nevertheless, there is a difference between saying a law is contrary to the Constitution and inventing things in the Constitution because it is seen as a living document that always will agree with liberal progressive values. That is not what the Supreme Court is supposed to do. It is not supposed to create law. It is supposed to determine if a law has been broken and whether that law is constitutional. That’s all. So when a political party’s President nominates judges who believe in inventing laws, I oppose that president’s actions. When the U.S. President nominates Supreme Court justices who will not seek to invent rights not in the Constitution, I support that president’s actions
. Given that the last President nominated judges who in some ways opposed our Constitutional form of government, when a presidential candidate asserts that he will nominate judges who take a more conservative approach to the U.S. Constitution, I am going to support that candidate.
I don’t have a clear biblical perspective on what the tax laws should be like or whether coal processing is good or bad. Such decisions are made on extra-biblical grounds primarily. God is not a Republican or Democrat and no one should wrap the U.S. flag around their religious beliefs. I imagine, however, that Jesus would be content to meet with all the members of the U.S. Congress, given that he regularly hung out with tax collectors and sinners. If I, not having God’s wisdom, think that one party’s values, generally speaking, cohere more with my view of biblical virtue and preservation of the values of the founding fathers, there is not a contradiction between my faith and whom I voted for for President. Every election is, in my view, a choice between the greater and the lesser evil. I prefer to vote for whom I deem to be the lesser evil, and that might not include following news reports, fake or otherwise, about all the things a candidate does or says. I cannot vote for anyone who is perfect because there are no such people.
This might not be a perfect analogy but.. I am a Star Wars fan. Given a choice between being ruled by Emperor Palpatine or by one of the red-robed imperial guards, which would you choose? The guards I imagine are less evil and twisted than Palpatine. So I would choose an imperial guard. Sometimes, the choices of candidates feel like that to me. Voting for a particular candidate, in this case Donald Trump, was not for me at least, because I thought that Donald Trump as a person was great or virtuous. I don’t affirm that he is. Some Evangelicals have hailed him as an Evangelical. Whether he actually has saving faith in Jesus I do not and cannot know. God knows, and that’s sufficient. I am tempted to say he is not because of things he has said. However, almost anyone who claims to be a Christian could have the authenticity of her/his faith challenged based upon something they have said or done. Likewise, Hillary Clinton claimed to be a lifelong Methodist. With what has happened to the United Methodist Church, that does not promise very much, and again, whether Ms. Clinton has saving faith in Jesus is something that God alone knows, but based upon her words and deeds, I think such a claim is open to challenge. Certainly John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, would have serious questions about her faith.
There are many books one could read about this topic that go well beyond this single blog post. I do not claim to have the last word on the topic by any means. I do think however, it is important for Christians not to ask first, what party is this person in, but ask first, is this person virtuous? Political questions are complicated but we should ask them. I am using virtue as a standard. I am not using Christian faith as a standard because, as recent scandals show, claiming to be a Christian, and living like one are two different things.
I got an email message from Fuller Seminary, from which I graduated. There was an “After the Election” conversation. The purpose was, “to help us live more faithfully as Christ’s disciples in our current political milieu.” Amen to that.