“What do they teach them at these schools?” – The Famous Professor Kirke
Photographer: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
For our final argument we’ve descended to rock bottom. (It will take a while to dig back out, so my apologies in advance for a long post.) This argument, essentially, presumes that the speaker has a prophet-like line to God’s mind, and therefore he/she is able to pronounce judgment on fellow believers.
There are two renditions worth mentioning, one more reasonable than the other.
“Trump is God’s chosen! ‘God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called!’ [this from an actual comment on this site] God will use him like he used Cyrus, another unbeliever, to bring His justice to this world. Accept Trump or face God’s judgment!”
“We face an essential choice between two candidates. Clinton is clearly evil – perhaps more evil than any candidate in living memory. Trump is at worst an unknown commodity and at best he is promising to do some important things. He’s our only chance of preserving religious rights. If you choose anyone other than Trump, you are inviting persecution. Therefore, God will not hold you guiltless.”
I won’t pretend to know the mind of God. I won’t venture to guess how people stand with God; that is between them and their Creator – and what I believe Christ meant when He said “Judge not, lest you be judged.” (Matthew 7: 1-3) At the same time, Proverbs 17:15 tells us that “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” Anyone who employs the arguments above is doing both. Therefore, I feel comfortable taking a look at whether or not they succeed, offering some responses, and leaving you to judge between the two.
We can dispense with the first version summarily, and yes, it really exists. (Consider this extreme example.) It isn’t based on reason, therefore a reasonable response will avail you nothing. Further, though it puts on airs of being scriptural, it is no more biblically based than it is reasonable. What is happening, essentially, is the speaker desperately wants Trump to be a messiah-esque figure and so he/she simply wills it to be so. He/she then concludes that if he/she wants it, God must want it too. Self-delusion quickly follows, enabled by false teachers happy to offer ear-tickling services (2 Timothy 4: 3-5). From what I believe we’ve demonstrated on this site – not to mention good commentary from many others – there is very little reason to believe Trump will make good on his promises. Further, as usually stated, the speaker gives no evidence to actually draw a connection between Trump and Cyrus (or any other biblical figure). The speaker simply wants me to vote for Trump and has gone fishing through scripture to find any justification. There is literally nothing here to refute but the arrogance of an ego that demands “God must think like me, and therefore my thoughts are His.”
The second version of the argument is one with which we can engage and answer. It is offered by usually thoughtful Christian leaders such as Eric Metaxas and even William Lane Craig. In short, it is a calculation. The speaker looks at Hillary and Trump, and treats Hillary as a known evil commodity. Therefore, in a desperate attempt to ward off that evil, he/she projects an obligation to vote for Trump, who is at least an unknown. We’ve dealt with several hidden presumptions in this series, and we find one here: it is that Christians living in a democracy have an obligation to vote for the lesser evil. That is the key premise with which I take issue.
Evangelical Christians take their direction from the Bible, which they (in theory) acknowledge is the inerrant Word of God. Does the Bible distinguish between greater and lesser evils? It does not. Consider just a few examples:
- You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice…. (Exodus 23:2)
- Moreover, you shall not follow the customs of the nation which I will drive out before you, for they did all these things, and therefore I have abhorred them. (Leviticus 20:23)
- The face of the LORD is against evildoers, To cut off the memory of them from the earth. (Psalm 34: 16)
- For evildoers will be cut off, But those who wait for the LORD, they will inherit the land. (Psalm 37:9)
- There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers. (Proverbs 6:16-19 – Note that there is, perhaps, one of these six that you aren’t supporting when you endorse Trump)
- Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways. (Proverbs 3:31)
- Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. (Romans 1:32)
- Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?(2 Corinthians 6:14)
- Abstain from every form of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
- You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. (1 Corinthians 10:21)
I could go on. So far as I can tell, the biblical witness is consistent – Evil is evil and Christians are called to avoid it and oppose it whenever possible.* We are not called to try to manipulate evil to our own “good” ends or to game the political system. If that is true, I don’t believe, based on what I see in scripture, that God intends to hold to account Christian believers for following the straightforward instructions of His Word (which Craig in particular maligns as “immature”). On the contrary, He may well ask Metaxas and Craig why they did not take it seriously.
The fact is that Christians have a different, transcendent perspective on most political equations. We are given clear, strong, moral guidelines, and God expects us to stick to them. What’s the worst that can happen? We may face serious persecution – something I fear as much as anyone else. But that doesn’t release us from our obligations to God any more than it did the martyrs before us. In fact, persecution and even death are exactly what we were promised by Christ Himself, exemplified by Christ Himself, plainly spelled out in scripture. It is a testimony to how far the American church has fallen that our leaders – and indeed we ourselves – are so quick to abandon that example at the first hint of real hardship. In that sense, many in the American church have a severe case of selective memory loss.
I have a further, philosophical problem with this argument. If Christians are called to reflexively choose the lesser of two evils out of principle, where does it stop? If I must vote for Trump because Hillary is “more eviler” than he, what happens if the next person who comes down the pike is “eviler” yet still? For example, if the choice were between Hillary and Pol Pot, am I bound to be “with her”? What if it were a choice between candidates on the level of Pol Pot and Mao Tse-tung? Pol Pot, then? If so, then you have a Christian sponsoring the murder of millions. I’ve yet to see anyone who actually puts forward this argument give me a sound, reasoned response to that problem, especially one that lays out specific biblical standards for where we are to draw the line. It is useless to respond that the scenarios proposed are “silly” as they occur throughout world history. (We used to believe that an election like this happening here was “silly.”) If your argument can be used to support any evil as long as there appears to be something worse in the offing, you are following in the path of tyrants.
In the end this argument, like all of the others we’ve examined, is offered not for any good reason but because the speaker is afraid. He/she wants to foist that fear onto you and me. He/she is willing to sacrifice, reputation, and character on the alter of republican king making. We should look at the Bible and take our cues from there, not from a spooked evangelical leadership as afraid of the future as it is to admit its past efforts to reclaim the culture have failed. Remember, God’s power extends far beyond either a Trump or a Hillary White House.
*We could perhaps offer the examples of Rahab and the Israelite spies (Joshua 2:14) or the the midwives who lied to protect Moses (Exodus 1: 20-21). There are various responses to this (examples of which can be found here and here) but my own response is simply this: the charge that God considers all deception a sin is based on a popular mistranslation of the Ninth Commandment, which renders it “You shall not lie”, which is a broad, sweeping, indictment. The actual translation is better rendered “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” That makes it clear that God is concerned with a specific type of deception. If that is true, then neither of the examples given were sin, and therefore they don’t serve as an example of choosing a “lesser” evil over a greater.
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.