What is Our Goal?
Christians are divided about the upcoming presidential election, perhaps more than ever in the past. Should we—perhaps despite our misgivings about his character or qualifications—vote for Donald Trump as a “lesser of two evils” compared to Hillary Clinton, or should we refuse to endorse or cast a ballot for someone who doesn’t meet our standards, even if the consequence is four to eight more years of liberal policies in the White House? For months now, I have been part of the #NeverTrump movement, but not without misgivings. I have been plagued by the consequences of that choice, because if we all (typical Conservative/Republican voters) don’t vote for Donald Trump (and maybe even if we do), Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States. I have prayed about what to do, I have thought through choices and ramifications, I have sought the opinions of those I respect. And that has led me to what I think might be the key question for Christians to consider as they contemplate what to do come November.
What is our goal?
Is it to win an election? Is it to preserve a political party? Is it to maintain our way of life? Is it to slow our rate of descent? Is it to avoid something really bad? If our ultimate answer is a yes to one of those questions, then I suggest we’re pursuing the wrong thing. Because our purpose as Christians is not to win elections, preserve political parties, maintain a way of life, lose as slowly as possible, or avoid bad things. That doesn’t mean those things are totally bad. I want to maintain the freedom that has become synonymous with America. I want to spare future generations (and, in all honesty, my generation!) from calamity and catastrophe. But that is not (or should not be) my purpose as a Christian. My purpose as a Christian is to let my “light shine before others”(1). It is to “[speak] the truth in love”(2). It is to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [my] God”(3).
Therefore, as Christians, what is our goal on a larger, political scale? If our individual purpose is to shine a light and stand up for truth, to be “the hands and feet” of Christ to the world, then what is our purpose in electing a president, in electing senators and representatives, mayors and sheriffs and school board members? What is our goal in being engaged in our community and involved in politics at all? Is it to win, make sure the R’s outnumber the D’s, make our lives comfortable, and keep America from crumbling? Or is it to take those principles (speaking the truth, shining the light of the gospel, and combining justice and mercy in a humble walk with God) and make them the basis from which we govern? In other words, is it to restore America to its original state, when pilgrims sailed across the Atlantic “for the Glory of God, and advancements of the Christian faith”(4) and declared “we all came into these parts of America with one and the same end and aim, namely, to advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the Gospel in purity with peace”(5)? Is it to once again “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”(6)? Is it to see the day when America proclaims “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us”(7)? I think the answer is obvious. (And by the way, seeking these objectives will also serve the purpose of preserving our freedoms and sparing America from destruction.)
The founding fathers weren’t perfect. In fact, it’s pretty easy to find their flaws. But you cannot deny their courage. They risked their lives to “[bring] forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”(8) They famously declared, “Give me liberty or give me death” and “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” They stood firm for what they believed in. Even more so, biblical heroes of the faith did likewise. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego didn’t bow to King Nebuchadnezzar, even when it meant being sent to “certain” death in a fiery furnace. The apostles repeatedly faced ridicule and beatings and imprisonment and ultimately death rather than not proclaim the gospel. I certainly don’t mean to compare bowing to Nebuchadnezzar to voting for a particular candidate nor to conflate the apostles’ suffering for Christ to potential consequences we might experience for holding firm political positions. But I do think we can learn two very important lessons from both biblical role models and our founding fathers—lessons that will guide us as we weigh our vote this fall. One, stand for what is true and virtuous. And two, stand no matter what.
One thing Scripture never teaches me is to hold my nose and choose the lesser of two evils, to compromise my principles to stave off disaster, to hold out only until the going gets tough. That’s also, for what it’s worth, not the “American way” first modeled by the pilgrims and early patriots. Read Hebrews 11—“The Hall of Faith”—or biographies of the founding fathers. Both depict men and women whose consciences and, in the case of those listed in Hebrews and also true of many of the founding fathers, faith compelled them to do the right thing, even when it was unpopular and downright dangerous.
There will never be a perfect political candidate. There will always be some degree to which we have to choose someone who is less than ideal. One could say, we will have to compromise our perfect standards. But as Texas Senator Ted Cruz said during the Republican debates, you don’t compromise “when it comes to core principles and convictions.” Or as Thomas Jefferson put it, “On matters of style, swim with the current, on matters of principle, stand like a rock.”
I mentioned earlier the consequences of the #NeverTrump movement—namely, a Hillary Clinton presidency. A fair question of those who refuse to vote for Trump is if they are willing to live with another Clinton administration. My answer, as much as I abhor the thought of it, is yes. Because I would rather live in an America where Hillary Clinton is president but is opposed by a strong, committed core of principled conservatives and Christians than live in an America where Donald Trump is president and also the face of a milquetoast “conservative” party that will go for anything—even selling its soul—just so long as it isn’t that. Or, to quote one more founding father, Alexander Hamilton, “If we must have an enemy at the head of Government, let it be one whom we can oppose, and for whom we are not responsible, who will not involve our party in the disgrace of his foolish and bad measures.”
1) Matthew 5:16, NIV
2) Ephesians 4:15, NIV
3) Micah 6:8, NIV
4) Mayflower Compact; November 11, 1620
5) The Articles of Confederation of the United Colonies of New England; May 19, 1643
6) Declaration of Independence; July 4, 1776
7) Isaiah 33:22, NIV
8) The Gettysburg Address; November 19, 1863