My daughter is old enough to understand at least peripherally, what the Presidential election in our country is about. She has noticed the candidates on television. She has heard my wife and I talk back and forth about what is happening, the candidates themselves, and the policies that are and aren’t being put forth. Unfortunately, she has also heard some of the negative things that this campaign has brought about.
She is smart, perceptive, and asks honest questions.
How does one explain what is happening right before our very eyes to a child who is still developing a worldview? When she asks me point blank, “Daddy, which one do you want to win?” what do I say in reply? It isn’t easy.
We are truly faced with a dismal choice.
What I want to do with this space is not endorse a candidate. I do not want to persuade you to vote this way or that. I want to just note a few things that I think have been overshadowed by the shrill voices that unfortunately exist on both sides of the debate—and even exist in the camp that has distanced themselves from this election altogether.
The first thing I want to note is that when you really think about it, there is really nothing new going on here. Sure, the stakes may seem higher, and the controversies may be over different things, but really—are we experiencing something new here? Is this really the first time that real questions about candidates moral well-being have been brought into question? Surely the choice between Douglas and Lincoln was just as stress inducing.
Contrary to the opinion of the Clinton apologists in the 90’s, elections of presidents do concern the character of candidates. Character is quite important. As the right sees it, the left always has a questionable character because of the policies they put forth. On the left, the right always are failures of moral character because they are unevolved Neanderthals. Think about that for just a second: You may hear a conservative criticize his or her opponent in strong terms. They may even call them immoral. But be honest, how many times have you heard a conservative Presidential candidate call a liberal candidate evil or suggest that they are influenced by evil? Hardly ever. What you hear more times than not is a serious condemnation of their ideology and their ideas.
On the left however, you often hear something altogether different. Instead of actual discussions of policy, you hear allegations of the candidate wanting children to starve, blacks to become slaves, killing dogs by putting them on the roof of their car, or pushing someone’s grandmother over a cliff. There is often a criticism of the person—not the issues. I mean, what presidential candidate from the Republican party hasn’t been called a sexist, a rapist, a homophobe, or a war monger? Do you remember what the left was able to do to Mitt Romney? He is a stand up guy. They were able to plant into peoples minds that he killed his dog by placing it on the suitcase rack of his car. They were able to paint him as a guy who cancelled an employees health insurance because they got cancer.
Our current situation may be different from others in that we find ourselves in a situation in which the character of both candidates are not desirable. Leave the issues aside. The candidate from the Republican Party, Donald Trump, and the candidate from the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, both have questionable characters. Now, I myself, would love to vote for someone else. I could vote for Gary Johnson or Ted Cruz. Or better yet, I could vote for Calvin Coolidge or George Washington. Unfortunately, however, neither of them are on the ballot this November.
What is one to do in a situation like this? I clearly can’t vote for candidate A because of his character. I can’t vote for candidate B because or her character. I cannot vote for Calvin Coolidge—who has great character—because he isn’t on the ballot. What do I do?
For starters, I don’t go trying to make excuses for the candidate of the party I typically align with. No Christian should make excuses for Trump or Clinton’s behavior. Donald Trump from the Republican Party has been a playboy his entire adult life. Recently however, it has been revealed through a video that he has made lewd (read: unequivocally despicable) comments about specific women. In this video, which was recorded without his knowing, he boasted in a Don Giovanni-like way about his sexual exploits—some seemingly edging toward being descriptions of sexual assault.
I cannot excuse, explain away, endorse, look past, or be complacent to those facts. They are horrific and I denounce them as I would denounce my son for saying them.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has engaged in her own nefarious activity. We’ve got her treatment of women who claimed to be raped by Bill Clinton, we have her email scandal, and we have her inability to act when it came to Benghazi—resulting in the death of 4 Americans. I am not going to go into the complete sordid history of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, so let’s do this to be fair:
Both candidates have lived lives and said and done things that are completely and unequivocally reprehensible. Both should resign in disgrace.
For me to support Donald Trump at this point just because he is a Republican would be an act of obsequious docility. For me to give my vote to Clinton would be just as bad.
We are at an impasse it seems. What do I do?
In my view, and perhaps I am wrong, in a situation like this, we vote on proposed policy. Granted, in this election, neither have overwhelmingly great policies. One has horrific policies while the other has some policies I like, and some that I don’t like. The one that is least despotic, least statist, least globalist, least tyrannical, more likely to uphold the Constitution—and the one who could potentially save the lives of the unborn— is the one that I would choose. This has been my way of thinking since I began voting.
As a side note: My activity as a voter began in the 2000 election. I voted for George W. Bush. Now, I want to put this out there because I think it is necessary to say: I was not a product of the religious right. In fact, I was not aware of Jerry Falwell until after 9-11. I only knew who Pat Robertson was because I would see him on television and ask my grandmother who he was. I did not associate them with politics.
Even in the Baptist churches I grew up in, I do not remember being shaped politically. I do remember being shaped to have a certain interpretation of the scripture, end times, and a view toward certain theological issues (which I may hold different views on now). The only political issue I can remember being harped on constantly in the churches I grew up in was abortion. But to be fair, I don’t remember any candidate’s names being attached to this issue. I say that to say, I do not align with the Republican Party because conservative Christians have typically done that. Not at all.
If I were to be honest, I would say that both of my parents and my grandmother who lived with us were staunch conservatives. My dad was an Air Force pilot and as such, I grew up in a particular culture, that emphasized the greatness of America, while at the same time pointing out the truths of mistakes and errors in human judgment. I was never taught that America was perfect. I was taught that our of all the world systems of government, the one we have in the United States is the best. When it came to politics and elections, my parents never told me who to vote for. They never described my Christian faith as being something indissolubly linked to a political party. To be fair, I think I may have heard a few questions like, “How can a Christian support abortion,” or “We believe marriage is between man and a woman,” but that was the extent of it.
What I was more likely to hear was a critique from my dad about immoral taxation through threats, coercion, and intimidation for the purposes of benevolence, or a discussion about the legitimate role of government in a free society. These are ideas that hail from a classically liberal view.
I say that to say: We did not sit at the dinner table discussing why it was my duty as a human being to be a conservative Republican. My political formation happened much later.
I believe that all people are designed by God to be free. I also believe that we have the right as human beings—and certainly as Americans— to have private property. Our most basic piece of private property is ourselves. Now, I do not want to get into a theological dialogue here. I understand that all things ultimately belong to God—even me. But as a human being, I am responsible for myself. I am the one responsible for my most basic property. Because of this, I cannot support abortion in any way. Why? Because it denies the right of another person their private property. I support a mothers right to choose. What I cannot support is a mothers right to do away with the private property of another person; namely, the unborn baby. I believe we are a minority of one. For that reason, I am a one issue voter when it comes to abortion.
So, with an issue like that, I can look at proposed issues. Hillary Clinton on the one hand, wants to increase access to abortion. Trump on the other, is a bit of a mystery. For much of his life he has been pro-choice. Lately however, and many conservatives feel he is only doing it to get votes, he has shown a contrition for those views and now considers himself pro-life. He has gone so far as to chosing a Vice Presidential candidate who is one of the more highly regarded pro-life legislators, and he has released a list of 20 judges who he would nominate for a vacant Supreme Court seat. This list is a who’s who of pro-life people. That is certainly a major issue for me.
If faced with a decision to have a president who would add one more abortion each year to our yearly total, or have a president who would reduce it each year by one, I would choose the latter.
Even just one life means that much to me. One life.
Another reason I will choose from the two major party candidates is because of duty. As an American citizen who has the right and the duty to vote, not voting—or protest voting— is not an option. Too many men and women have died for my right to vote. A man in my church went to Normandy in his late teen years so that I would not be governed by a German superpower. I will not disrespect him by not voting. I would never desecrate the honorable sacrifice our soldiers have given by not voting. On the other hand, voting third party isn’t an option either. One of the two major party candidates will be our President. I could never look a serviceman or woman in the eye again knowing that from the two candidates, I did not give serious consideration and choose the one who would be a more effective commander in chief. After all, a man or woman might live or die based on who holds that office—regardless how I feel about the candidates on the ballot. For that reason alone, I will choose.
I know my argument isn’t complicated and it doesn’t invoke any of our very popular and often published public theologians. The thing is, the United States existed for quite a while before they arrived on the scene. No disrespect intended (I think highly of the men I am thinking of), but I do not need their blessing or their input into how I should vote or not vote, or their historically dubious (at times) understanding of how our Republic should choose a president. In their hand-wringing and chastising about the lamentable and indissoluble link between the religious right and the Republican party, they are guilty of that which they decry: Pairing politics with the gospel.
If I think that using the gospel to justify alliance with a political party is wrong, isn’t it wrong to use the gospel to decry alliance with a political party?
To me, and I am not intending to lay this at the feet of the aforementioned men, I see an effort by many in the evangelical community to want to seem relevant to the secular culture. I see a desire to be printed in the New York Times. I see a desire to be interviewed on CNN. I see a desire to not be thought of as a bigot. What I see in an even larger sense is to make the world look like the church. The problem I think is that the church in doing so, begins to look like the world. In this sense. They are using politics to justify the gospel.
Whether I am relevant in the culture does nothing to the veracity of the Bible. Nothing.
Hear me on this, nothing short of a full-throated endorsement of secular humanism, Marxism, abortion, gay marriage, transgender whatever, or euthanasia will be enough to be considered relevant. Nothing.
I have heard the word sin used a lot this election cycle. Often it is invoked when an evangelical is a Trump supporter—or at the very least would consider voting for him given the circumstances. I have even heard it described as being opposite Jesus. When it does come to sin, I am more offended by statism, immoral taxation through threats, intimidation, and coercion, the engaging of our country in offensive immoral wars, and the murder of the unborn than I am by lewd comments made in every Marine Corps barracks every day of the week.
We hold our heroes in high esteem, but not all are squeaky clean. Not all talk like you or I. Many are rough around the edges. To deny that Patton could be a leader of men because of his mouth would be both insane and ignorant. To assume that President Eisenhower never engaged in loose filthy talk when among other officers is naïve. Winston Churchill was a great leader, but we all know he was vulgar in his personal life. Yet, that will not stop pastors from using him as a sermon example this Sunday.
When it comes to Trump, to overlook the off-duty conduct of the men I just mentioned, and allow for their veneration because they faced enemy fire in a foreign war, but not extend to another man the same grace is inconsistent.
But it is even more troubling for me. When it comes to Christians and the American political process: Why does decency and honor matter now? There have been great candidates for president who were solid Christian men of high virtue and character, and they were rejected as a laughing stock by many evangelicals for the likes of secular men, nominal Christians, and even a Mormon.
Whatever your views on some of the particular issues they embraced (remember I do argue on voting based on issues), the day that Bob Dole was chosen over Patrick Buchanan, or John McCain over Ron Paul, has in part, led us to our current predicament. From my perspective, Buchanan and Paul didn’t endorse immoral wars—and for that, they were rejected. Their character didn’t matter. Their positions on abortion didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that Ron Paul had an orthodox statement of faith on his campaign website. What does that say? We will take our medicine and vote for the lesser of two evils as long as he has an R by his name and holds to neoconservative foreign policy.
I want to say one more thing about Trump and his heinous and sickening talk about women (of which I am sure there will be more secret audio released). If some of my words or behavior from my life showed up on video, I would never show my face again in public. I have said and done horrible things that I am not proud of. Someone may have video or audio of me in a point in my life in which I was not living for God. I would shudder at the prospect of it being released on the internet. I don’t know Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton’s heart. Both have said and done things that are heinous. What I do know is that MY sin put Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. For that, I should be disqualified from being a child of God. Despite the justice I deserved, Jesus took the wrath of God on himself—he waived my punishment. So when you get down to it, whether it be Trump or someone else: There but for the grace of God go I. Does that mean they should be president? No. What it means is that I can look at issues.
I am not in the position at this point in my life for me to stand here and point out the sin of another person, to call for the tearing down of Satan’s strongholds. How can I call for the vanquishing of Satan and his evil while I refuse to cancel my own television subscription?
Just a rhetorical question: I wonder if those who are quick to condemn another person’s sin would be willing to have their internet search history made public—or to have their life story shown on camera?
We should certainly hold these candidates to a high standard. The problem comes when we hold them to one that we aren’t held to. It costs something to hold ourselves to a high standard. It costs less to hold others to it. While I denounce Trump’s words from 11 years ago and demand differently, it doesn’t cost me to say it. It does cost me to turn the camera around and look at myself. I voluntarily pay taxes to a government that uses my tax dollars for immoral things. Among them is abortion. By paying taxes, I have blood on my hands. Then again, so does every evangelical leader who has never led a movement that said, “Stop the killing, stop the crime, we won’t pay another dime!” Not another dime until abortion mills are defunded. You might say, they couldn’t ever do that? Sure they could. Sure we could.
It might cost something. It might cost everything, but you could do it.
I think if nothing else, this election is putting a microscope on the Church as never before. We are impotent in the West to be an authoritative voice in the culture. Jesus said that the gates of Hell would never prevail against his Church. There is a church on every corner in America. There are seminaries all over the place. There are tons of pastors, deacons, elders, Sunday school teachers, and members. Why does it look like Hell is winning? Answer: Most of the aforementioned aren’t working for or living for the Lord.
Perhaps we need to hit rock bottom. After all, for many, it isn’t until they hit rock bottom that they learn that Jesus is THE Rock at the bottom. Maybe we as Christians need to live in a society in which it costs something to claim the name of Christ.
Right now it costs nothing. Our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East put us to shame. They are tortured and killed for the name of Christ, but they keep on living for Him.
I wonder—how would it look to the world if it cost everything to be a Christian? How would Christians look to the world? How many of our current Christian brothers and sisters would refuse to pay that cost? How many of our churches would become office buildings or community centers?
Whoever you vote for, remember, there is a much at stake. You can look at issues. You can look at character. You can look at both and see who would be more trustworthy. What you cannot do, in my opinion, is call another Christian “opposite Jesus” for doing what he feels is his responsibility as an American.
I leave you with this quote from John Lennox:
Christians in the New Testament lived under oppressive regimes guided by such figures as Augustus Caesar, Herod the Great, Nero, Caligula, Pontius Pilate, and others. Christians were persecuted, had few rights, no vote, could not run for public office, and were even killed for their faith—and yet Christianity flourished, eventually concerting the emperor himself. God has dealt with bigger problems before.