See Luminosity

You Can’t Be A Christian And Vote For…

You Can’t Be A Christian And Vote For…

If you’ve been on social media at all, you know that everyone is ABSOLUTELY SURE of how you must vote if you are a Christian.

I have heard that you are not a Christian if you vote for the baby-killing, corrupt liar extraordinaire Clinton, and I have heard that you are not a Christian if you vote for the racist, misogynistic narcissist Trump. I have also heard that you are not a Christian if you vote for one of the third-party candidates, such as McMullin, because doing so only hands the election to the other evil Presidential option. And, finally, I have heard that you are not a Christian if you vote for ANYONE, because aligning yourself with either major candidate undermines your Christian testimony.

So, pretty much, you can belie your Christian testimony if you vote for the Democrat, vote for the Republican, vote for a third-party candidate, or abstain from voting all together.

Or…maybe something about the way Christians are understanding how we should be advancing the cause of Christ within our sociopolitical system is a bit off.

 

We Must Be Better Than This

While I lament that this is the most despicable, debased election I have seen in my lifetime, and while I believe the outcome of this election is going to have tremendous, high-stakes impact on the nature of our country, I am chagrined at not only the abysmal options people of faith have before us, but at the dogmatic, simplistic, and downright hateful ways we have handled our own decisions about voting, and our responses to others’ voting determinations.

I believe Christians must show a better way.

 

So Much At Stake see-luminosity-3563

Yes, I get it. There is so much at stake with this election. Depending on whom you talk to, our religious liberty is at stake, and the future of race relations is at stake, and the life of the unborn, and the economy, and our national security, and the well-being of immigrants and the state of the natural family and the rights of gay persons and… yes, all of it matters. Personally, I am very passionate about what I believe will be the impact of this election on my family’s future and the future of our nation. Without a doubt, we as Christians have a responsibility to live out the principles of Christ within our culture. But here’s the thing…

How we do that, in a complex social, political system, is not simple or clear. And that means others of sincere faith can reasonably make different decisions than we do and still be honoring their faith.

 

Truth is Clear, Application Isn’t

This is not to say that God’s truth is not clear. And that, of course, is a pretty important clarification in this era of relativism in which the adage “Well, everyone has different interpretations of the Bible” is a common cultural go-to. Although it is a topic for a different post, God’s guidelines for the way life should work, for what is “right” and what is “wrong” for the individual are remarkably transparent and understandable through scripture. It’s kind of the whole point of God’s Word – for God’s revelation of Himself and His will to mankind to be KNOWABLE.

God’s TRUTH, on the major issues of life, is black and white. However, how to APPLY that truth in complex systems where multiple truths compete is a disconcerting, uncomfortable grey.

 

see-luminosity-0001662743750More Complexity = More Ambiguity

God’s word tells us “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That truth is clear  – we may not hate others; we must actively work for the well-being of others. But what does “loving my neighbor as myself” look like when it comes to policy in our complex political system? Does it mean protecting those around me from evil forces that might seek to destroy them? If so, then a reasonable argument could be made that conservative policies around immigration could be a way to fulfill that command. Does it mean allowing the less fortunate to have the opportunity for an improved standard of living and live free to pursue their principles without fear? If so, then a reasonable argument could be made that liberal policies around immigration could be a way to fulfill that command.

The more complex the system and situation, the less “obvious” the most effective means are by which Kingdom truths can best be advanced within that system.

Voting complicates things even more.  The means of impact of a single vote toward advancing God’s truth in a system as complex and multifaceted as our own is impossible to ascertain. There is no one-to-one correspondence with how a vote impacts even the election of a particular candidate, much less how that vote impacts the advancement of Christian principles THROUGH that election (in spite of all “A vote for a third-party candidate is a vote for Hillary” arguments being flung from every Facebook account).

If there is already tremendous ambiguity and challenge in being able to determine how to apply a principle sociopolitically without any other complications, then adding the complexity of the voting process makes determinations about the best ways to advance Christian principles exceedingly obscure. What that means is that believers should have tremendous humility when it comes to making assertions about the “right” or “Christian” way to advance gospel principles within the public square. It means that many discipled, faithful, truth-revering Christians can come to different conclusions about how faith values should best be promoted through the political system.

 

It’s Not Just About the Person

Many Christians seem to think that voting for the PERSON is the most significant way a believer can think about using their vote to further faith values. But that is not necessarily the case.

Committed Christians can make sound, reasoned arguments for advancing their faith values by voting for Trump, in spite of the fact that he is a serial adulterer, uses offensive, crass language, responds to women as sex objects, makes fun of the disabled, has made it clear that he does not believe he needs forgiveness, and generally believes and behaves in ways that are directly contrary to scripture. And committed Christians can make sound, reasoned arguments for advancing their faith values by voting for Clinton, in spite of the fact that she is a serial liar, excuses her husband’s sexual misconduct with women, is repeatedly involved in scandal and corruption, advocates for abortion, values sexual freedom over religious freedom, and generally believes and behaves in ways that are directly contrary to scripture.

How? By understanding the utility of their vote in ways other than voting for the PERSON.

see-luminosity-2416For example, a believer can think that in spite of his or her horrendous character flaws, the values of the POLICIES for which he or she advocates will advance Christian principles more effectively than policies for which the other candidate advocates, even in spite of his or her personal flaws (Think efforts to eliminate abortion or strengthen the natural family unit for Republicans, and think efforts to ensure there is a support system for the poor or taking care of the oppressed from other countries, for Democrats).

A believer can also think that the PARTY PLATFORM the candidate stands for are more in line with those of Christ than those of the other candidate. (Think conservative nominees to the Supreme Court or liberal appointments to Attorney General).

It is possible for Christians to see the utility of their vote in advancing Christian principles as being most effective through POLICIES and PARTY PLATFORM, in spite of the PERSON – especially in a two-party system where political influence will realistically reside within one of two candidates whose character is abhorrent.

 

Voting Faith in a Faithless System

We should certainly hold each other, as Christian brothers and sisters, accountable to living by Christian principles. Christian admonition is certainly appropriate if a fellow believer is engaging in an extra-marital affair, is cheating on his taxes, or is engaged in corrupt business dealings. But Christian admonition is NOT appropriate if a fellow believer chooses to vote for a candidate who has ENGAGED in any of these activities – because in an election there are very limited options from which to choose (both of which have often engaged in multiple immoral behaviors) and there are myriad avenues by which a vote can advance faith values IN SPITE OF the particular candidate’s immoral actions.

That being said, is there a reasonable Christian argument that character is so important to furthering biblical values that it outweighs policy and party platform considerations? Absolutely. Can committed Christians reasonably refuse to vote for a candidate based on the belief that aligning one’s personal vote with a person of degenerate character does more to hurt one’s personal testimony, and the cause of Christ, than any advancement of Christian principles through policies or party platform could possibly do good? Most certainly.

Do I believe all of the arguments above are equally valid? No. I believe that some of the arguments for how to best advance Christian principles through these candidates/policy/party platform (or by abstaining from voting) are much stronger than others. But is it true that fair-minded, discipled persons of faith could reasonably make any of them from a true desire to live according to the faith principles I seek to live by?

Yes. And they can do so without being blind, stupid, or evil.

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Work Out Your Own Salvation With Fear and Trembling

Philippians 2:12-15 says, “12 So then, my dear friends… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. 14 Do everything without grumbling and arguing, 15 so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God who are faultless in a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine like stars in the world.”

I get how much is at stake in this election, and that everyone feels passionately about their choices because the stakes are so high. But we have lost the humility that comes from recognizing the ambiguity in complexity, and we are looking more like nuclear missiles than shining stars. Christians can probably agree that, from the standpoint of character and integrity, our choices in this election are abominable. But knowing how to best advance our faith values with a vote, in the reality of a complex two-party system, is incredibly difficult, and requires education, discernment, and prayer.

Oh…and quite a bit of grace, too, for those who discern differently than we.

 

see-luminosity-06287C.S. Lewis’ conversation between two demons seeking to tempt humanity, in his book The Screwtape Letters, is eerily apropos for election-crazy America:

“My Dear Wormwood,

Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure that the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.

Keep up the good work,
Uncle Screwtape

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, believers – educate yourself. Look at all sides of the issues. Weigh the pros and cons. Read and watch information from the “other” side. Carefully consider the candidates’ character. Look at your own biases and sins and focus on your own character. Take into account policy. Factor in party platform in important positions. Pray. Talk to discipled Christians further on along in their walk than you are. Read scripture. Listen for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and prompting.

And then follow through with the way you feel the Lord is best leading you to accomplish His purposes with your vote – knowing that, in a system as broken, sinful, and complex as ours, you might not get it exactly right…

because there might not be an exactly right.

 

Don’t Excuse The Wrong

Regardless of how we believers choose to vote, however, Christians may not excuse immoral behavior from any candidates – including from the candidate we hope to vote for. Although we may not be voting for their character in this election, we most certainly must be honest and informed about what their character is like, and not excuse sinful behavior simply because the candidate is on our side.

When a candidate says or does something immoral, Christians must be at the forefront of acknowledging that it is wrong, regardless of which side he or she is from. That Trump bragged about grabbing (and presumably did grab) women’s private parts is wrong. That Clinton worked to discredit the women with whom her husband behaved sexually inappropriately is wrong. That Trump used Trump University to scam people out of money without providing much of anything that his “educational institution” promised is wrong. That Clinton blamed an internet video for the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi when she not only knew that was untrue, but had significant responsibility for the security of those Americans, is wrong.

When it is wrong, we must say so. We must stop defending the immoral behavior of candidates on “our” side. And we must stop telling Christians on the “other” side that they’re not Christians if they don’t vote the way we do.

I do not know for sure what I am going to do with my vote in just a few weeks. I have struggled mightily with how to best use my vote for the cause of Christ with the disastrous choices that face us, in the reality of a two-party system. In I DO know that I will vote for neither candidate based on their PERSONS. I believe both Trump and Clinton to be morally deficient, spiritually vacuous, power-hungry elitists who seek their own well-being over the well-being of others, and I will most certainly not celebrate the win of either one.

From a moral standpoint, there is not winning in this election. However, I will be praying for both candidates, for our entire political system, and for the character of all of us Americans who have gotten our country to a place where these are our choices. And, of course, I will continue to look in faith to the One who ultimately has our nation’s future in His hands…

and it’s not Trump or Clinton.

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