“What do they teach them at these schools?” – The Famous Professor Kirke
“In order for our strategy to work against Clinton, all conservatives must unite behind Trump. If you don’t, when Hillary commits [insert the horseman of the apocalypse of your choice here], you will own it. Everything that happens will be your fault.”
This is a potent argument on an emotional level. No one wants to believe that he/she could be responsible for real evil acts done to real people. Most of us would do just about anything to avoid it. Further, there is a version of this argument that actually could be correct. If a clear good faces off with a real evil in an election, we are bound to use our votes to support the former over the latter. Most of us realize this and when we’re attacked forcefully with the line above, we can’t help but fear that the speaker could be right.
Thankfully, this is clearly not the case in 2016. We need not be afraid of it, we shouldn’t feel guilty because of it, and we should do what we can to help people understand why.
The most obvious problem is with the basic facts observed. The truthful form of the argument presumes good-versus-evil. Very few Christians still maintain that Trump is a positive good. Instead, they bill him as a “lesser evil,” on a practical level. The only reason they consistently give to support him as president is because “Clinton is eviler.” Aside from the fact that we really don’t know if that’s true, this changes the whole dynamic. A Christian promoting a “lesser” evil is still a Christian promoting evil. There simply is no biblical basis for that idea. Believers have reacted to evil that others have inflicted, but they are not called to initiate it. The Bible is very clear about God’s attitude toward those who do evil. Here are three examples:
“He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.”
“The face of the Lord is against evildoers, To cut off the memory of them from the earth.”
Psalm 34: 16
“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”
1 Thessalonians 5: 21-22
Let that sink in on this current debate. These verses don’t distinguish between degrees of evil. Neither do the dozens of other verses about opposing evil (Take a look at these, for a further sampling). There may be times when God works in spite of what we intend, but no Christian can legitimately be called out for opposing evil – lesser or not. If that is so, then the argument above falls apart and instead becomes a testament to such a strong fear of Hillary that it causes the speaker to forget essentials of their own faith.
But if this isn’t a legitimate, coherent argument based on facts, what is it? Sadly, it is an attempt to shift the blame for a failed strategy. Trump’s candidacy and potential non-election are the culmination of decades of bad decision-making on the part of the Religious Right. Now, at the end, as it all seems to be coming apart, people are desperately trying to escape the realization that they are at fault for the possible destruction of their nation and the likely persecution they will face. One of the best ways to accomplish that is to find a scapegoat. A convenient one is the class of people they had hoped to browbeat into line with arguments like the one we’re examining: Christians who refuse to support Trump.
Unfortunately for their conscience, the facts and logic don’t line up behind this any more than biblical principles did. The Trump disaster is nothing more or less than a failed gamble. Rather than unite around a candidate that all Christians could vote for – virtually any man or woman on those early, Republican debate stages other than Trump – they threw their lot in with a man who exemplified the very absence of character they had previously condemned so roundly. When Trump became “inevitable”, the strategy then involved pushing this “lesser evil” onto their fellow Americans through fear of Hillary. They knew that for Trump to be assured a win, he would have to control the Christian vote. They supposed that most Christians would agree and that those who didn’t could be forced into line. They were wrong. More than a few of us refused to give into their intimidation and instead stuck fast to the principles they had abandoned, even as we granted the reality of Hillary’s evil.
Let’s be very clear: if Hillary wins, it is because of this massive miscalculation. If I have maintained from the beginning that I could not vote for a man like Donald Trump; if this was no secret, and it has been made clear from the first day Trump declared an interest in the job; if I’ve never promised to reflexively support any and all candidates from the Republican Party, then if Trump supporters, knowing they need my vote, forge ahead anyway, the fault for what comes is entirely theirs. In short, I am not responsible for someone else’s colossal failure of strategy. Neither are you, if you never endorsed it. If Trump wins and proves his worth, then his supporters can take the credit. If he fails to beat Hillary or to govern well if he does win, they own it. But, ironically, they are emulating Trump in yet another way: preemptively shifting blame.
We should be careful to express these facts politely and respectfully, but we should express them nevertheless – and firmly at that. Don’t let someone else send you on a guilt-trip he/she should be taking. If you do, you aren’t loving your neighbor. You’re simply enabling the downward spiral to continue.
Answering the arguments:
- “We allied with Stalin. Why not vote for Trump?”
- “If you can’t vote for the candidate, vote for the platform. Vote Trump!”
- “Haven’t you heard? Trump is a baby Christian now!”
- “Why is it only Bill Clinton gets away with rape? Vote Trump!”
- “Because Hillary. Vote Trump!”
- “You have an obligation to vote for the pro-life candidate. Vote Trump!”
- “Vote Trump. Because SCOTUS.”
- “But Trump is surrounding himself with good people! Vote Trump!”
- “If Hillary wins, it will all be your fault! Vote Trump!”
- “You should repent of your arrogance and vote Trump.”
- “You will answer to God if you don’t vote Trump.”
Interested in what I think we should do about it? Find out here.