Disclaimer: These are Grant’s political views, not necessarily Chris’s or Calvin’s. They’re welcome to write their own posts.
Prominent evangelical leaders are divided on tomorrow’s election. Wayne Grudem and John MacArthur have ultimately concluded (albeit along two very different paths) to punch the ticket for Donald Trump. Thabiti Anyabwile will be voting for Hillary Clinton. Russell Moore and Al Mohler will be abstaining. While this is an apparent division, I actually sympathize deeply with all these leaders, their positions, and their arguments. MacArthur and Grudem are very concerned about voting against Hillary Clinton’s platform: partial birth abortion, full LGBTQQAAIP (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Questioning, Asexual, Allied, Intersex, and Pansexual) advancement of an agenda that destroys the family and degrades religious liberty, socialistic views on entitlements and taxes, and a disposition against using the God given role of the government to wield the sword both at home and abroad. Anyabwile is rightly very concerned with Donald Trump’s character and racism (while not endorsing Clinton’s), and decided to vote for the evil he knew rather than that he could not predict. Moore and Mohler ultimately point to character as the factor preventing their votes for Trump, while wanting to oppose Clinton. The only place I significantly disagree with any of them is conclusions, and it’s eventually because of one premise I have heard no evangelical leaders mention. All these leaders agree that the character of both candidates is abominable and indefensible on far too many issues for me to even want to discuss here.
My audience at this time probably mostly listens to MacArthur and Mohler, so I want to talk about those two responses to this election. Both are well thought out theologically, and both men have pointed constantly to the sovereignty of God and the necessity of prayer. Both of them recognize the importance of using your vote as a tool to effect good in the country and make a statement on morality (MacArthur emphasizing the first, and Mohler the second). Ultimately, however, I’m forced to agree with Mohler’s conclusion despite agreeing with every premise of MacArthur, see his argument here. MacArthur’s argument essentially runs like this:
- As Christians we recognize this vote is not going to affect (or effect) the Kingdom of God.
- Our vote is a tool, a stewardship from God, to effect good in our society.
- Since our society has already caved on all major moral issues (having progressed deep into a homosexual revolution), we don’t have the option to vote for morality anymore (see the candidates).
- Thus the only good the government can do now is provide security against the evil and dangers unleashed through society’s loss of morality.
- The personality of the candidates is irrelevant to their security provided; they are public relations officers for platforms that we vote on.
- Trump’s republican platform provides much more security than Clinton’s and doesn’t actively advance immorality.
- No Christian can support the democratic pro-abortion, anti-family, anti-Christianity platform of Hillary Clinton.
His conclusion then is essentially that a vote for Trump is more useful than a vote for Clinton. I actually disagree, because he left out one premise I think is incredibly important:
- Trump’s personality could poison the republican platform in public opinion.
Why? Look at demographic polling and the differentials between Trump favorables and Clinton favorables. The only demographics that view Trump more favorably than Clinton essentially describe your stereotypical 1950s America. This is a serious problem, because this is not the 1950s, and as time progresses, that demographic’s relative size is shrinking. What’s most concerning is Trump’s 21% favorability rating with voters 18-29. Clinton is only at 33% in the same demographic, but it is more likely millenials reject the person of Clinton and the platform of Trump than vice versa. I am not personally convinced Trump is a racist in the strict sense, but his racially irresponsible provocateuring and checkered relationships with women typify all the untrue accusations the liberal media and universities have labelled republicans with for years. Clinton does not necessarily match the stereotype of the “typical democrat,” as it is unclear such a stereotype exists in such a defined way as does the false one for the “typical republican.”
To summarize, I’m concerned Trump’s character flaws are so bad public opinion against conservatism and morally/socially conservative candidates will be prohibitively bad for a generation of voters. If I vote for Trump, I don’t have the opportunity to say, “Republicans aren’t actually like that. I’m a lifelong republican and a diehard conservative. Look at my AR-15! Look at the NRA sticker on my laptop! Look at my giant study Bible that I thump people with for fun! I read the Federalist Papers and Ayn Rand and libertarian economics for fun. I’ve consistently tried to oppose abortion and same sex marriage. But Trump undermined my principles, so I didn’t vote for him.” The Republican brand, indeed, the evangelical brand, will need that in the coming years.
Now I could be wrong about all this. I don’t think I have a 100% chance of being right on this; I’d guess I have a 65% of being right. But I live in California, where my vote won’t actually change the outcome. So the statement I get to make when interacting with nonbelievers that I am as disgusted by Trump as they are is important to me. I don’t want the unnecessary stumbling block of, “You’re just a racist, sexist, anti-gay bigot,” to come up because I voted for Donald Trump before I can explain what the Bible says about sex and race and, more importantly, salvation. If I get the gospel out and then they label me a racist sexist anti-gay bigot, so be it. But I’m going to risk my country here on my gospel testimony. I believe this is applying 2 Corinthians 6:3.
This is not the conclusion all Christians should make. Perhaps you live in a swing state, or perhaps you don’t interact with as many liberals as I do. Or perhaps you’re just better at hiding your politics from people than I am. I don’t think anyone who votes for Trump is making a morally bad choice or necessarily compromising their gospel witness. But I can’t do it, and I didn’t do it. Because not only does character matter for leadership, but it also matters for branding. While I logically can vote for Trump and condemn his evil, I don’t think it’s worth the risk to me of being tragically misunderstood. This is politics. It’s a gray area. Please go forth and vote according to the best of your understanding and conscience. Let’s pray for our country and trust in the Lord’s sovereignty together, and whatever the outcome on Tuesday, let’s bring the gospel to this dying land.