A Vote for Truth
I had a discussion last night, with several people whom I greatly respect, about politics and our responsibility as Christians to vote. As per usual, I did some thinking after that conversation, and it’s fleshed out something that’s been on my mind for quite some time. And so, as we near this pivotal election, I have a suggestion for my fellow believers in Christ. It is just that, a suggestion, and one I direct at myself as much as at anyone else.
I think it’s time for us to stop trying to tell each other who to vote for. I’ve been doing it for months, and I don’t know that it is necessarily wrong in and of itself. But Facebook has become littered with arguments about why Christians should vote for Trump, why they mustn’t vote for Trump, why they’ll lose their salvation and be eternally damned if they don’t fall in line or if they sell out. (Okay, maybe not quite to that extreme, but it’s close.) And while I’m not sure if any social media post has ever swayed a vote in a presidential election, I’m pretty sure they have riled and angered people, have caused lasting rifts and divisions. And my greatest fear is not that “45” will be a disaster, but that the church of Jesus Christ will be torn apart by its stance on “The Donald.”
I’ve made my stance on the issue pretty clear: I can’t in good conscience (as a Christian or an American) vote for Donald Trump for president. (Nor can I, lest there be any uncertainty, vote for Hillary Clinton.) And I can’t, in good conscience, respect people who are brazenly defending Trump as if he is the second coming of the Messiah (trust me, such people are out there). But I can respect someone who looks at Trump as deeply flawed, yet looks at Hillary as more deeply flawed, and who is voting for Trump as a “last resort.” (I don’t agree with the choice, but I can respect it). I’ve also stated this position for quite some time, and I don’t know that I’ve persuaded anyone to change their minds. Conversely, I’ve said that until I mark (or don’t mark) my ballot on November 8th, I’m not locking in that decision—I’m trying to keep an open mind, in case God should be seeking to change my aforementioned conscience—but I’m yet to have been persuaded otherwise. Maybe I’m just stubborn and lousy at making my case. Or maybe, and I suspect it is more the latter, people don’t change their minds because of blog posts and Tweets.
That being said, if you’ve read the first three paragraphs, there’s a decent chance you’ll read the rest of this. So please, hear me out. My sense is that most people have either made up their mind (and thus won’t be swayed by rousing choruses of “Immortal, Invisible, Trump Only Wise” from his loyalists or have thrown their hands up in desperation and won’t be moved by any “Ten Reasons Why Trump is the Devil” posts from his most vehement detractors). So my challenge to Christians for these last four weeks before the election—and, indeed, in the weeks, months, and years following it—is to speak the truth in love. Let’s spend more time calling truth “truth” and lies “lies” and calling right “right” and wrong “wrong”—regardless of who we’re talking about—and less time stumping for one or the other or neither candidate. After all, it is largely our failure as Christians and Americans to live up to the values we claim to embrace that has put us in this mess to begin with. Politics flows downstream from culture. If we want to fix Washington, D.C., we have to fix us first.
Christians in America should have two touchstones. First and foremost is God’s Word. Second, and subservient to the first, is the Constitution. (For the record, I’ve yet to find a place where the former contradicts the latter, but should it, God’s Word must be the ultimate authority for the Christian). Every word, every action, every promise or position of every candidate should be held to these two standards. When Donald Trump’s past indiscretions are revealed, we as Christians should denounce behavior that doesn’t match God’s standard. When Hillary Clinton espouses abortion, we as Christians should condemn that policy and position as being in contrast with Scripture. When Trump talks about curtailing first amendment rights, Constitution-loving Americans should criticize him. When Hillary doesn’t even mention the Constitution as a guide for her ideal Supreme Court justice, we should call her out. On the flip side, if Hillary were to speak up for the rights of the unborn or stand in defense of the Constitution, I would—after reviving and having a cool glass of water—give her credit. If Trump speaks in accordance with God’s Word, I’ll give him proper dues. However, I’ll also echo Ted Cruz (I can’t write a political post without bringing him up) by reminding us that Scripture tells us “by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Matthew 7:16, NIV) It is one thing to say the right thing. We need to hold both candidates accountable for doing the right thing.
Now, this doesn’t mean we can’t argue against faulty endorsements or points of view. For example, when someone proudly proclaims that they’re writing in Rand Paul or their much-respected father-in-law or Patrick Henry as a “protest vote” we can point out that they might as well not waste their time or ink, because it will do nothing but make them feel good. Or when someone argues that God used a sinner like David as a reason for Christians to rally around Trump, we can point out that A) David repented and B) David’s family was torn apart by murderous discord and his kingdom was plunged into civil war because of his sin, so maybe that’s not the model we want to follow.
Once again, I’m pointing the thumb at myself as much as the finger at anyone else. But as the Church, let’s never let our support or disdain for a candidate cause us to waver from Scripture. Instead, let us always speak the truth of God’s Word, with no political discrimination. As Americans, let’s not smugly use our principles as weapons with which to club each other over the head. Instead, let us hold our candidates and our 45th president—whoever he or she may be—to the Constitution and the values upon which America was founded.
Lastly, let’s employ a little trust. Trust first in Almighty God, that He is in control no matter what happens in this or any other country, and that He will reward those whose faith is in Him and whose actions demonstrate that. And trust, secondarily, in our fellow Christians, to have integrity and the courage of conviction to use God’s Word and the Constitution of the United States as their guides when they enter that voting booth four weeks from today, whether their vote matches ours or not.