November 7, 2016
We are in the midst of an election cycle that is probably the most unique and controversial in our nation’s history. The stakes are high and it’s imperative that Christ-followers formulate a godly, biblical response to Tuesday’s election. Without question, our American democracy is both unique and special. We can be directly involved in the political process. We have a say in who governs us and in what policies they implement. You and I are incredibly blessed and privileged to live in a free society where we vote for leadership change instead of fight for it. This is one of the primary reasons why you and I should participate in the process.
This is not to suggest, however, that democracy is without challenges, and two problems persist in our democratic system. One problem is with elected officials, while the other problem is with electing officials. First, elected officials need popularity to remain in office, but sometimes, the right decision is not the popular decision. Thus we often see politicians catering to the left or the right without consideration for what is truly right. Second, electing capable officials of character and expertise requires an informed populous, because an uninformed populous becomes dependent on the government leaders they put into office. When the populous is uninformed, they often elect leaders who are unqualified. Therefore, in order for our democracy to function properly, we need qualified persons to seek office, who advocate policies that are helpful to society, that are elected by informed participants.
The Importance of Policy
Christians should focus on the policies that govern the Democratic and Republican platforms. We have a binary election this year, which means that the next President of the United States will come from one of our two major political parties. This has not always been the case and it most likely will not always be the case, but it is for this year, so we must consider the policies that build the platform of the two major political parties. The most important policy issues are not political but moral, and the three most pressing concerns are related to the sanctity of human life, the redefinition of marriage, gender, and sexuality, and the promise of religious liberty.
What is clear from the primary season is that the Democratic Party in general, and Mrs. Clinton in particular, stand in opposition to the clear biblical teaching on the sanctity of human life and the definition of marriage, gender, and sexuality. Concerning the sacredness of human life and policies related to abortion, Mrs. Clinton’s position is deeply troubling. She is on record as saying that unborn children do not have constitutional rights, that “religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” to expand abortion, that she will “stand up for Planned Parenthood and women’s access to critical health services, including safe, legal abortion.” She is also on record supporting late-term abortions for emotional health reasons. She advocates for abortion on demand, at any stage of gestation, without parental consent for minors. She also expects you and I to fund abortions on demand through Planned Parenthood and the tax-payer dollars that fund it. Those who fall in line with Mrs. Clinton see children as negative consequences of pregnancy, arguing that an unborn baby has value only if the mother wants him or her.
The Democratic Party platform and Mrs. Clinton also oppose the clear biblical teaching that marriage is a union between one man and one woman. Moreover, they are working to eliminate gender distinctions altogether. When the Democratic National Convention met over the summer, Mara Keisling, a D.C. based transgender advocate and member of the platform committee, called the DNC platform “the most progressive platform on LGBT and trans rights in the history of the United States.” The reach of such a platform is incredibly troubling. Mrs. Clinton, and the Democratic platform on which she stands, would continue the push to forever change our culture’s view of marriage, gender, and sexuality.
Mrs. Clinton also poses a growing threat to religious liberty, a threat that will be actualized by her judicial appointments at the federal level. If she is elected, the Supreme Court will take a significant turn to the left that will threaten our religious liberties for at least a generation. We know that the next President will appoint at least one justice to the Supreme Court and possibly three. The consequences of these appointments cannot be overstated. Staff members and advisors who are close to Mrs. Clinton recently referred to religious people as “backwards.” They seem to be unconcerned about the Bill of Rights, which begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Notice that religious liberty is mentioned before the freedom of speech or of the press. Our founders knew that religious liberty was essential to the dignity of the person, but Mrs. Clinton will most certainly work against this.
The policies that lead to the murder of the unborn, the promulgation of sexual deviancy, and the prevention of Christians from exercising their faith ought to grieve every single follower of Jesus. While the Republican Party platform is far from perfect, it is closer to a biblical worldview and it does not currently threaten our free exercise of religion. When you vote for a candidate, you aren’t just voting for the person; you are voting for the party platform on which the candidate stands. I have concerns, frustrations, and disagreements with the Republican Party and with the Republican platform, but at least for this year, the RNC platform does not disqualify the presidential nominee on policy alone.
The Character of the Candidates
One of the unique aspects of this election is the flawed character of both candidates. In order for our democracy to function properly, we need qualified persons to seek office who advocate policies that are helpful to society. Mrs. Clinton is disqualified based on policy alone, in my view, but also has significant and disconcerting personal issues. Mr. Trump has made some troubling statements about policy (treatment of combatants and use of nuclear weapons, etc), but his personal failures are more troublesome than his policy ones. Concerning the well-documented flaws of Mr. Trump, many of them are indeed personal in nature. His sexual promiscuity, questionable temperament, and condescending remarks are all cause for concern. They should bother all Christ-followers because we understand that character is important. Proverbs 28:6 says, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.” Proverbs 21:29 says, “A wicked man puts on a bold face, but the upright gives thought to his ways.” Without question, the Republican nominee has shown a lack of thought concerning his words and actions that frustrates many evangelicals (for good reason). His history of boasting about adulterous affairs, inappropriately advancing on women, demonstrating an inability to endure criticism, insulting and demeaning opponents, and showing unstable temperament are unlike anything we’ve seen in a presidential candidate.
In my view, Christians cannot embrace Mr. Trump holistically without damaging our witness to the world. Many evangelicals have endorsed him without reservation or qualification, with one prominent pastor saying recently, “For Christians not to enthusiastically vote for Trump, to me, is morally inexcusable.” This grieves me immensely. Many of these evangelicals, and perhaps many of you, condemned President Clinton’s moral failures while serving as President. I suspect that many of you, along with most evangelicals at the time (including me), supported his impeachment for the immoral acts as well as the subsequent cover up. I certainly have no issue with this because character matters! Therefore, those who condemned President Clinton’s moral failures in the past, but are justifying, glossing over, or excusing Mr. Trump’s track record of moral failures in the present, are hypocritical at worst and misguided at best. The unbelieving world sees right through this double standard, which is why so many evangelicals have permanently damaged their witness during this election cycle. As Christians, we cannot gloss over such poor judgment and unethical behavior when evaluating a presidential candidate. We cannot make excuses for such ungodliness no matter how corrupt or unethical the other candidate may be. As our parents taught us when we were young, two wrongs don’t make a right.
Evangelical support for the Republican presidential nominee should be based more on the platform of the party than the character of the candidate. Christ-followers who plan to vote for Mr. Trump should denounce his inappropriate words and actions without qualification. We must show more concern for the integrity of our witness than the defeat of an opposing candidate, and we must never do anything that brings the name of our Savior into disrepute. Our highest calling is to honor the Lord Jesus and to make him famous, no matter how bad our political situation may be. 1 Peter 2:13-17 states, “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” Peter was writing to a fellowship of believers who did not have the privilege of choosing their political leaders. Many of them were heavily persecuted for their faith in a society where religious liberty was only a pipe dream. Their leaders were often immoral and unjust. Yet, Peter urges these believers to subject themselves to their institutions of authority for the Lord’s sake. Peter was more concerned for their witness than their way of life. Thus, we learn that our character is more important than our candidate, and we should never support a presidential nominee in such a way that it compromises our character or our witness.
The Participation of Christians
But the question remains, is it permissible for a Christian to vote for Mr. Trump in light of the aforementioned character flaws? How should Christians participate in this election? Apart from saying that we must participate, I believe that a vote for Mr. Trump or another third-party or write-in candidate is a matter of conscience. The #NeverTrump movement is significant and has caused many people to question the legitimacy of voting for the Republican nominee. The policy initiatives and Supreme Court nominees of Mrs. Clinton will be so harmful to our way of life that many Christians plan to hold their noses and vote for Mr. Trump as a preventative measure. In my view, a vote for Mr. Trump on the basis of his platform is permissible and should not be condemned; however, a person whose conscience will not permit him or her to cast a vote for a candidate with such glaring character flaws should not be condemned, either. It really does come down to your conscience.
My position is that a vote in a democratic society does not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not vote for Mr. Trump and no better off if we do. As I said previously, a vote for Mrs. Clinton and the platform on which she stands is not consistent with a biblical worldview. A vote for Mr. Trump on the basis of the platform on which he stands, while not perfect, is permissible and should be guided by conscience. In the same way that Paul did not provide a firm yes or no to the question about Christians eating meat offered to idols, I cannot provide a definitive yes or no concerning whether or not you should vote for the Republican nominee or a third party/write-in candidate. The one thing I can do, however, is emphasize the importance of our Christian unity and witness. We should ensure that our actions, tone, and rhetoric do not cause others to stumble, and we must ensure that we do not bring the name of Christ into disrepute. You should not be known to the unbelieving world primarily as a Trump dissenter or Trump supporter but as a Christ-follower. Your vote for Mr. Trump is not wrong unless you promote it in such a way that it hinders your witness. Your vote for a third-party or write-in candidate is not wrong unless you defend it in such a way that it hinders your witness. Remember, the ultimate battle this election season is not political but spiritual, and Satan would like nothing more than to damage our witness as the result of this election.
A Broader Perspective
None of us know in advance how the election will turn out. But this we know for sure: whether Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump is the next President of the United States, Jesus Christ will still be the Lord of heaven and earth. So we do not need to fear the outcome of this election as if the fate of the world rests on it. We have a sovereign God who reigns on high and whose will cannot be thwarted by man, no matter how great or powerful. Jesus gave us a promise that he will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. This is our confidence!
Moreover, many believers live in societies that are hostile to Christianity where Christ-followers are persecuted for their beliefs and practices. This has always been the case. This will continue to be the case, and may even be the case soon for those of us living in the United States. But we can take heart in the example of faithful believers who have gone before us. Men like Joseph and Daniel, who influenced their cultures for God. Christians who lived under Roman rule and were faithful to God in the midst of heavy persecution. Our role is to honor those whom God places in authority over us, to pray for our leaders, and to influence our culture for Christ. We are exiles in this world because our citizenship is in heaven, our hope is in heaven, and our King is in heaven.
But our heavenly citizenship is not an excuse for earthly disobedience. We must live in such a way that we participate in the processes of a democratic society, accept the results, stay focused on what’s most important, and unite together to work for the common good of our country. Listen to what the Lord said to the exiles of Israel who were living in the pagan land of Babylon (Jeremiah 29:4-7): “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
We should seek the welfare of our great country because in its welfare we will find our own. We should be salt and light in our society, fighting for the unborn, for a biblical view of marriage, sexuality, and gender, and for religious liberty. But even if we lose this election, the Supreme Court, and our current way of life, we will press on knowing that God uses suffering and persecution as much, if not more, than prosperity and blessing for the advance of his kingdom. I am mindful of Acts 8:1, which describes the situation in which the early church grew under heavy persecution: “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” The church was scattered but so was the gospel! People who were hostile to believers tried to stop Christianity’s advance but they only accelerated it! No plan or purpose of our God can be thwarted, and no harm can come upon one of God’s children without his permission. Therefore, we cannot allow this election to distract us or to divide us. May we continue to be a people of one heart, one mind, and one mission, regardless of how we vote, because the hope for the world is not an American democracy but a kingdom monarchy where Jesus rules in love, righteousness, and justice.
So when making a decision on the Christian’s choice for 2016, let’s choose to be a people whose lives are characterized by integrity, whose words are seasoned with grace, whose beliefs are anchored to Scripture, and whose fellowship is fueled by mission.