Reasons for Trump, Trumped by Reason

Christians and the 2016 Vote


By Jeff Laird



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The prior post briefly discussed spiritual arguments related to this issue.
I recently gave explicitly spiritual reasons for my refusal to vote for Donald Trump. My view is certainly not that no "real Christian" supports Trump. Or that any Christian who votes for him, for any reason, has some kind of spiritual problem. I fully understand the struggle this kind of election presents to the Bible-believer. But, as I see it, the balance of reason and faith makes any vote for him unwise.

That's the point of this post: to show how the "yeah, but" arguments in favor of Trump simply aren't enough.

Late-night comediennes and other hacks notwithstanding, this view is not rare among evangelicals. Mainstream media frequently marries evangelicals to Trump, but actual data indicates the opposite. Rather, the myth of Christians flocking to him is just that: fictional. As in, "contradicted-by-actual-statistics" fictional. For starters, in the primaries, most evangelicals have chosen a different nominee. Poll respondents who indicated a more serious involvement in their faith were less likely to support Trump. In fact, survey participants who self-identify as evangelical Trump supporters are disproportionately uninvolved in the faith.

Reference to those facts does not mean (or imply) that support for Trump is somehow evidence of a Christian who's spiritually shallow. It does mean, despite what some like to think, Trump is in so sense whatsoever the "Christian's candidate." In truth, even those evangelicals who plan to vote Trump frequently give only one justification: to "vote against" a potential Clinton presidency.

That being said, other than blowing up the false media narrative, this data should at least give the undecided Christian voter pause. Please consider that, as things stand now, a considerable proportion of those who put serious thought into their faith consider him off-limits, for any reason.

As an aside, some Christians I know plan to vote Democrat, just to block Trump. My perspective makes it hard to justify that choice, which I find a little upside-down. But that's a discussion for another time.

As a Christian writer, teacher, and apologist, I think positive Biblical principles are enough to settle an issue. The prior post, for me, does just that. But I'm aware of the myriad arguments being put forward, by Christians, to vote for Trump anyway. Below are contentions to that end I've heard, from evangelical Christians in particular. In my analysis, these all fail.

Christians can't overlook Trump's blatant faults simply because we...

1) ...think every non-Trump vote is a vote for his opponent. This isn't true literally, or morally. If you could have voted for X, but did not, then your vote was "for" only who it was "for," which was someone other than X. Period. This, always linked to #2 and / or #3, is probably the most common Christian argument for voting Trump, and the most frustrating.

In reality, this is right from politicians' bag of dirty tricks. It's the reason our two major parties feel no pressure to change. Voters have succumbed to the parlor trick that your vote is either "Republican," "Democrat," or "wasted." Myths notwithstanding, you are not responsible for candidate X winning simply because you choose not to vote for the most competitive alternative. Christians should not let their votes be held hostage.

This mindset is so ingrained that people often assume there really are only two candidates. I've told people I would never vote for Trump, then watched them go bonkers assuming (wrongly) that I'm voting for the Democrats' nominee. Or, (wrongly) that I'm not voting at all.

Note, also, that those of us planning to vote third-party can make the same accusation: candidate X is going to win unless you all unify behind my guy. Why does popularity get to decide who other people ought to vote for?

2) ...want to block the Democrat Party's nominee (i.e. Hillary Clinton). This is distinct but closely related to argument #1. Some Christians feel a moral obligation to prevent the "worse" candidate from taking office, so they plan to vote for that person's most competitive opponent.

This is the "lesser of two evils," in a more literal form. But it's based on a deceptively false premise: that God wants me to do "evil," as long as it's "less evil" than something else. The prior post showed why this is self-refuting, and certainly not a biblical attitude. In truth, it's blatant moral compromise, even "scheming" (Ephesians 4:14). Can we really claim God wants Christians to actively aid a wicked person's climb to power, ever? Even if we think it stymies another evil person?

Voters who routinely "vote against" give major parties no pressure to provide quality candidates. Or to supply a legitimate platform. Rather, they need only convince voters that "the other guys" are worse, so you "have to" vote for party X. That con job is why we're in this mess in the first place: repeatedly voting for lousy candidates because we're convinced the other party's candidate is even lousier.

3) ...worry about the Supreme Court. Admittedly, this is the only argument for Trump I find even remotely sensible, because I get how Game Theory can apply to the situation. There's no doubt that every single Clinton / Sanders appointee will be a poor fit for Christian principles. On the other hand, we really don't know how Trump's will fare. When the options are "bad" vs "unknown," the better bet is on "unknown." Here, again, this comes in various proportions with reasons #1 and #2.

Once again, though, this not only assumes license to do "small evil," it ignores the real foundations of a legal system. In truth, every single law is based on moral principles. Courts, by and large, only do what their parent culture allows them to do. Rather than scheming to get our hands on one President — and five Justices — what Christians should be worried about is our influence in the culture which controls those politicians!

SCOTUS decisions have been overturned. Justices come and go. Public perception shifts. If we, as Christians, dissolve our moral integrity trying to finagle who wears the black robes, we lose our ability to influence the ethos which ultimately controls how the court makes its decisions.

The more historically, spiritually, scripturally, and practically viable strategy for change is through culture, not the courts. This point can't be over-emphasized, especially if we want to make meaningful strides on issues like abortion. To really stop abortion, it has to become so morally abhorrent, so practically unnecessary, and so socially unacceptable that "legality" becomes an afterthought.

As someone, somewhere once said, "Let me write the songs of a nation, and I won't care who writes its laws."

Voting crooks and liars into office, just because they swear — "no, really, trust me, I'll, uhh...fight" — to make laws more ethically correct is as backwards a strategy as exists. We should strive for laws which are moral and upright, and judges who uphold them. But that has to happen from the individual up, not from the bench on down. Else, innocents will always be at the mercy of the next election cycle.

Our ability to effect real social change benefits more from intact social integrity than throwing the dice on a temporarily more cooperative SCOTUS.

4) ...realize that no candidate is perfect. That's all well and good, but what if your home church offered the congregation a binary choice: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton as senior Pastor? Hey, no pastoral candidate is perfect, right? Would you stand in front of the congregation and pledge support to one of them, justified by the fact that "nobody's perfect?"

Or, would you have the spiritual strength and common sense to say, "neither of these are valid choices for this particular office, so I'm not giving my approval to either." Most likely, you'd advocate a third choice, or simply leave that church.

In that scenario, there are actually other, more moral options than those being offered by the major players. Provided you don't leave entirely, your gravitas in fixing an (obviously) broken situation would be tied to holding your moral ground, without compromising. In this election, the exact same reasoning works, for exactly the same reason.

5) ...claim that God sometimes uses evil people for His purposes. Some pro-Trump voices have referenced Acts 5:3339 to justify voting for such a morally bankrupt candidate. There, Gamaliel's advice was "...keep away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!" Trump's rise to the nomination, despite harsh opposition, is cited as evidence that God might be responsible for his ascension.

Of course, that argument could just as well apply to Clinton. She's been dogged by scandal, immorality, corruption and opposition her entire career, yet here she is. Maybe she's the divinely chosen one, and those who vote Trump to stop her are the ones opposing God!

Also, remember that Gamaliel wasn't speaking about a sect he nominally agreed with, or speaking of blocking some greater evil. In his mind, those he spoke of were heretics, blasphemers, false teachers, and so forth. He wasn't suggesting Peter be given a place on the Sanhedrin; he was simply saying not to cross certain boundaries in opposing them.

In other words, this argument is actually one of the best reasons not to compromise our moral values in a desperate bid to scheme Clinton out of the White House!

6) ...need to be relevant in electoral politics. As the argument goes, "wasting" votes on a third-party will mean politicians ignoring Christians from here on out. (Aside: those paying attention know that faithful Christians are mostly ignored by mainstream politics already.) Easily, this is the most spiritually ignorant of all justifications for voting for Trump.

Sadly, and with all due respect, take another quick scan of the other arguments given above. Every one subtly implies this exact attitude: that "winning" is the most important part of our decision-making. That the ends justify the means, and we as Christians need to be "victorious" in our politics. That's not only spiritually wrong, but a vote for Trump probably won't be a "winner" anyway.

Realistically, there are only two scenarios likely to play out, if evangelicals support Trump. Neither is good.

Most likely, Trump loses (look at his disapproval ratings with women and minorities — those are not typos). In that case, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and evangelicals will be painted as politically irrelevant. We'll have sold out, and still lost. Worse, we'll have forfeited our moral relevance in the culture, cutting our own throats in a failed attempt to "win." This is the double-whammy loss.

If Trump wins, through evangelical support and a miracle (look at those polls again, please), then the media will crank their conflation of Trump-ism and "Evangelicalism" up to 11. His every misstep, mistake, crass quote, flaw and failure will be slathered all over Christianity, fair or not. And we won't have much room to disagree: if we put him there, we're taking electoral responsibility for what he does. Don't forget, this post started by showing the disparity between the media's "blame" of evangelicals for Trump with actual facts. This will only get worse.

I only see one realistic option where things work out as well as can be expected for Christians. That is to vote third-party in large numbers. Ideally, for the same third party candidate. Is that likely to happen? I wish. If it happens, will it most likely mean Clinton wins the White House? Yes. But, just imagine if she does so...

...after an election where evangelicals showed enough backbone, to reject not only her, but also her closest competitor.

...when the Senators and Congressmen she needs to make her plans work are looking over their shoulders, at a political bloc which is passionate, principled, and not for sale.

...facing a GOP sweating under the pressure of evangelicals who want integrity, not pandering.

...amid a rising tide of alternative parties sick and tired of Red vs. Blue, and willing to go through a dogfight to get their people into office (there are similar conversations among the Left at this point, believe me).

...opposed by a community which can not only influence an election, but has the moral authority to change the culture.

In other words, imagine the social, spiritual, and political power of millions of Christians who vote as Christians, rather than as political commodities to be bought with cheap tricks.

For those worried about how, or if, we can be "salt and light" in such a dark time, there's my answer. We can be unashamedly, bravely, potently, brilliantly defiant in the face of a false choice between two evils. Two thousand years ago, a handful of men and women transformed the world in spite of being politically, and socially marginalized. It was integrity and faithfulness which resulted in victory, not compromise and conniving. Our battle today is nowhere near as lethal, but it's just as crucial.

Historically, those Christians with the greatest cultural influence were those who focused on being obedient, and faithful, not "in control." Victory in 2016 is not about who wins the election, but whether or not we acquit ourselves as faithful disciples of Jesus Christ. That's a tough spot to be in, but imagine how much easier our choice is...or should be...than those faced by Christians of centuries past. They influenced culture for the good, by choosing good, in spite of evil, because they did not partner with evil.

I will not vote for Trump, even if the practical outcome is Clinton or some other Democrat in the Oval Office. I won't be "yoked" with evil, in order to borrow some of its spotlight, or because it promises to help me fight some other evil.

Integrity gives me more power, as the minority opposition, than I'd have as a majority sycophant. Integrity allows me to stand before my family, and my Savior, knowing I wouldn't shake hands with a demon just to spite the devil. My witness and ethical consistency are too valuable to fritter away defining "winning" in crassly human terms, rather than heavenly ones.

Please, fellow believers who feel led to vote for Trump, especially for any of the reasons above, I say this with love and respect...don't chicken out. Have enough faith to reject worldly and short-term thinking (Colossians 2:8), so we can show the world what real victory looks like (Ephesians 6:12).



Published 5-31-16