CHRISTIANS AND THE ELECTION
by Bob Wheeler
Well, last night Donald Trump gave his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. It was, in many respects, a masterful display of salesmanship. He addressed the fears of many Americans, presented himself as the law-and-order candidate, and reached out to key blocks of voters, including Bernie Sanders supporters, inner city residents, the LGBTQ community, and evangelicals.
It remains to be seen, however, what kind of president he would make if elected. He has no prior experience in public office, has no clearly defined political ideology, and has a reputation as a ruthless, cutthroat businessman. It is hard to see how he could keep some of the promises he made in his speech, such as ending violence (“and I mean very soon”), defeat ISIS, and end wasteful spending. It is easy for an outsider to make promises; it is harder to keep them.
Thus we are faced with an uncomfortable choice in November. Hillary Clinton is predictably liberal; Trump is unpredictable. Many evangelicals feel that we must vote for Trump because nothing could be worse than Clinton. But the fact of the matter is that we do not know whether Trump actually would be a better president that Clinton. How, then, should a Christian vote in a situation like this?
It must be remembered, first of all, that we are voting for the next President of the United States, not the pastor of our local church. A president does not necessarily have to meet the biblical qualifications for a church elder. The United States is not, strictly speaking, a Christian organization. “The kingdom of God,” we are told in Scripture, is “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17; NKJV), not a bunch of corrupt politicians catering to the whims of greedy businessmen. Biblically speaking, the United States, just like every other human society on the face of the earth, is a part of what the New Testament calls “the world” or “this age,” and in that sense any secular, human government will only be sub-Christian at best. As Christians “our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 2:20).
That does not mean, however, that civil law can be separated from morality, or that a secular government is free to do whatever it pleases. As human beings we were all created by God, we must all learn to function in a universe that was created by Him, and ultimately we are all accountable to Him. In the Old Testament the Canaanites, who had no special covenant relationship with God at all, were nevertheless condemned for their sexual immorality and infanticide (Leviticus chapter 18), and in the New Testament book of Revelation “Babylon,” the symbol of worldly power, is criticized for its arrogance and sensuality (Rev. 18). When governments engage in oppression and injustice they betray the whole reason for their very existence.
The Christian, then, lives in the world but is not really a part of it. But that does not relieve us of our responsibility to our neighbors. We are to “do good to all” (Gal. 6:10), pray for those in authority (I Tim. 2:1-4), and pay our taxes (Rom. 13:6,7); and yet all the while we are to keep ourselves “unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:27). The church’s job is to proclaim “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), which includes God’s moral standards for the human race.
Should we become involved in the political process, then? In America we have been blessed to have a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion, speech and assembly. We have the right to vote and to elect our own political leaders. It is certainly appropriate to write letters to our public officials and to the editors of our newspapers about issues that concern us.
Yet we must be careful about engaging in partisan politics. “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” (II Cor. 6:14). And yet the major political parties represent exactly that. They are attempts to form electoral majorities for the purpose of taking over the government. Each party inevitably contains a variety of special interest groups, each pursuing its own agenda. And in many cases these agendas are far from righteous. In some cases politicians can be downright corrupt.
In particular a Christian cannot vote for “the lesser of two evils” because that would still involve him in voting for evil, and that in turn would make the Christian complicit in the evil. There comes a point at which the Christian must recognize that the world system is corrupt and that he is not to be a part of it. It is no longer “God and country” but “God or country.” What Christians are told in Revelation about Babylon is pertinent here as well: “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues” (Rev. 18:4). America may very well have passed the point of no return with the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same sex marriage. Sodomy is now enshrined in the law of the land, and the decision makes it virtually impossible to return to the social norms, and the stable family life, of the past. America may now be beyond redemption, and the current election campaign may very well be God’s righteous judgment upon the nation. In situations like this, when the church finds itself in the midst of a wicked and corrupt society, it needs to be a prophetic “voice crying in the wilderness,” and speak truth to power. But what it needs to speak, clearly and unequivocally, is truth, not the corrupt agenda of some crooked politician. Voting for a seriously flawed candidate, no matter how bad the other candidate is, does not advance God’s kingdom.