VOTE: A Guide for Christians in The Strange Place a Post Christian American Election Cycle

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The most surprising thing to me about content of the “Trump Tapes” that were released on Friday is that anyone is surprised by the content of those tapes. Here is a man that has publically belittled women his whole life, who publically and regularly uses vulgarity, who has had numerous affairs and has publically bragged about them, and who has publically made much of his money in the casino industry (a business notoriously tied to prostitution) and we are surprised that he would crudely belittle women in what he thought was a private conversation? Why are we just now concerned with this man’s character and judgment? Why is it just now wrong for evangelicals to support him?

People have long looked for a messiah among political leaders. This was true of Obama in 2008, and it is certainly true among Trump supporters today. “Trump,” they say, “is going to save us from the oppression of the politically correct left.”[1] The problem with this type of thinking on both sides of the political aisle is that it tends to deify the political leader that you may be for, and to demonize the political leader that you may be against. If there is anything that I am grateful in this particular election cycle is that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have made it very difficult for anyone to deify either of them. What Christians and especially evangelicals must realize is that no political leader can save them or the country. Sadly, many evangelicals have been held captive by political leaders (particularly from the GOP) for the past 35 years. Remember no party line holds up against the Kingdom of Christ, and no leader can stand in his way. Jesus is the only true messiah and he is the only true king.

But as Christians in American what we have been left with is a responsibility to help elect political leaders and that is a great responsibility and an amazing privilege. Many of our Christian brothers and sisters through the history of the Christian faith would be amazed at the kind of voice and the kind of freedom that our country allows us to have. Considering this responsibility that God in his good providence has given to American Christians we really have three choices in this presidential election cycle: vote for Donald Trump, vote for Hillary Clinton, or abstain (I am including a vote for a third party candidate, or a write in vote, in absentia as at this point in the election cycle it is clearly only a two candidate race). I have talked to Christians that have carelessly chosen one or another of these three options, but I have also talked to many different Christians who deeply love the Lord and love his word who have prayerfully and thoughtfully decided to vote for Clinton, Trump, or to abstain (write in another candidate). While I am not excited about any of the particular options of the 2016 presidential election, I am glad that we have an election cycle where thoughtful Christians can agree on the bible and disagree on their political choices. I think that speaks to the beauty of the American experiment, and maybe even to the beauty of the American church.

The easiest thing to do in this election as a Christian is to abstain. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have less than “Christ-like” records. I can understand why a Christian would not want to attach his or her name to either of them or to their platforms, but is abstaining, or writing in a name, or voting for a nonviable third party candidate the right thing for a Christian to do? You may say that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton is fit for the White House and that may be true, but “fitness” for the White House is your idea as an American and is not a biblical idea. Now, clearly neither of them are fit to be elders or deacons in a church (1 Timothy 3:1-13, Titus 1:5-9), but the bible doesn’t speak to who or who isn’t “fit” for a particular political office. Actually when you consider the New Testament (Matthew 22:21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:25, Romans 13:1-2, 1 Peter 2:13-17) both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump may very well fit the biblical idea of a political leader as we are told in scripture to honor the emperor even if the emperor is Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, or Nero (all men who were far more evil than Hillary or Donald). Abstaining may be easiest, but is it the right thing to do? At the end of the day, unless something totally unexpected or unprecedented occurs, on Friday January 20th, 2017 either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be taking the oath of office to become the 45th president of the United States and God has given you and me as citizens of the United States a stewardship to be a part of making that decision.

So in deciding between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump I think it is important to keep in mind the job of the presidency, what does the president do? Now obviously the president does many things, but as you consider your vote consider these seven roles that our constitution gives to the president of the United States and honestly ask yourself who would do a better job at each other these roles:

  1. The president is to be the chief citizen, in other words he or she is to be a model citizen for every other citizen.
  2. The president is to be the chief of state, which means that he or she is the leader of the country. In many ways the president is the chief teacher of the country, and in many ways he or she sets the pace or the morale of the country, and he or she has the enormous potential to either unify or divide our country.
  3. The president is the chief diplomat of the United States. He or she is our global representative and most of the world will view our country through the lens of our president.
  4. The president is the commander in chief. He or she has the responsibility to oversee the military in keeping our country’s citizens safe, but the president also has the almost incalculable responsibility of commanding the strongest military force in the history of the world.
  5. The president is the chief executive. When you elect a president you don’t just hire one man or woman, you hire 10,000 people that will move to Washington to make up the executive branch of government.
  6. The president is the chief legislator. He or she works with both houses of congress to pass new laws for the citizens of America that can drastically change our culture and day-to-day lives.
  7. The president has great influence over the chief justice as he or she appoints the men and women that make up the judicial branch of the federal government. This of course includes justices for the Supreme Court, of which there could easily be 3 appointments during either a Clinton or Trump presidency, and all other Federal judge appointments.

In considering all of these seven responsibilities, honestly and prayerfully ask yourself who is the better choice?

There is so much at stake in this election and in God’s good plan he has given you this wonderful responsibility, the vote. It is easy to talk about this election, but it is much harder to own this responsibility that God has given you and make a decision that will have lasting consequences. My hope is that the Christians of this country would be thoughtful, biblical, and humble as they make the hard decision that is before us. I am praying for myself, for my family and friends, and for my fellow Christian citizens of the United States that this wouldn’t be a time of panic or discouragement, but that in this time God would grant his church great wisdom, grace, and gratitude as we take hold of the weight that He has placed in our hands and vote.

[1] For an excellent summary of this see Bryant Wright’s introduction to Political Correctness vs Biblical Truth October 2, 2016. http://rightfromtheheart.org/sermon-series/hot-topics/?id=10845