Who Should Christians Vote For? A 3 Part Series

To be honest, before this election cycle I hadn’t really looked very hard at what the Bible says about voting. I can defend positions on various political issues based on scripture, but I hadn’t searched the text on voting and qualifications for candidates. But with prominent theologians and average Christians alike weighing on on why we should or shouldn’t vote for particular candidates, I was finally motivated to see what the Bible says.

Before I begin, know that I am looking for the truth. Like many, I’m wrestling through a horrible choice in the 2016 election. I have been a follower of Jesus Christ since 1982. I graduated from a conservative Baptist seminary. I know the difference between eisegesis  and exegesis. The last thing I want to do it “proof text” my way through this. Let me be the first to tell you, I could be wrong. I have friends that I respect who will disagree with me. Obviously, I believe I’m right, but I could be wrong. Instead of just accepting or rejecting my opinions, I encourage you to do your own study on the biblical passages I have discussed in this series of posts.

Christians find ourselves once again faced with voting for the lesser of two evils in the presidential election. I won’t go through each candidate’s litany of faults and reasons they are not fit to be president. Others have done that thoroughly. Suffice it to say that I approach these two candidates with the understanding that both lack the character I want in a leader. I disagree with many positions held by both candidates. I believe the character of both candidates disqualify them from leading our nation. I know that both will definitely implement policies I think are very wrong for our nation. Just like every previous presidential election, the GOP hopeful/faithful say I must support their candidate because the Democrat might get elected. She would ruin the Supreme Court, the 1st and 2nd Amendments, and basically destroy the nation. Hillary Clinton will be a disaster for conservative ideals.

I don’t dispute that Clinton would be a terrible president. Therefore, should I vote for the slightly better of the two very bad choices?

I freely admit that in previous elections I did just that. I pulled the lever for whoever the Right said I should. I ignored the primaries and assumed that the Republicans would always nominate someone that was decent. I don’t think anyone, Republican or Democrat, was fully prepared for just how bad both nominees would be this year. Faced with these two choices I have to look deeper. Must I vote for one of them to stop the greater evil? Is there a line that can be crossed where neither candidate should get my vote?

I believe that voting for the lesser of two evils is a pragmatic approach to the situation. Faced with hard circumstances, we make the best of them to keep something worse from happening. I get that approach. I also understand that since people are flawed, no candidate will be perfect. I see that in a sense, every election is a choice between two bad people, because we are all sinners.

But is there a line that Christians should not cross? What if neither candidate meets even the minimal biblical standard for a civil authority? It’s not a high bar. Based on what I’ve found a candidate should generally be God-fearing, trustworthy, respected, honest, wise and competent (see Part 1). This is certainly not a list “only Jesus” could equal.

So, approaching the Bible for help, I looked for incidents of civil authority being selected from between two “evils”  (Part 2) and I looked at incidents of pragmatism. (Part 3) Understand that looking at history, these stories are not prescriptive, but descriptive. I want to see what lessons we can learn from biblical examples.

The posts below are not exhaustive, but are representative. They reflect what I believe scripture teaches about these things. I would love to see other passages that support or refute my understanding.

The biblical standard for civil authority that I can find is not very high. Many candidates for office have exceeded it. Some of the people running for President right now exceed it. But not the two main party candidates.

The examples of choosing between two evils in the Bible did not end well. I’ve had conversations with people who acknowledge that choosing an evil isn’t ideal, but fall back on issues. They are afraid of whatever horrible end the Right has said will come if we don’t support their candidate. Have you ever noticed that every single election the fate of the free world hangs in the balance?  We are always told that we just have to choose the lesser evil one more time, next time we can find someone who we actually support.

It’s the pragmatic thing to do. I see that. Yet, every single example of someone being pragmatic from biblical history ends badly. Every example of someone doing what they believe God wants instead of the pragmatic choice ends up glorifying God.

Again, these are descriptive passages, not prescriptive. This is not what you are commanded to do, but you can learn from these examples. Pragmatism itself isn’t bad. Violating God’s principles is.

So, who should you and I vote for?

This election is heated. People who don’t fall right in line on the Right, and agree to vote for Donald Trump, agree to vote for the lesser of two evils, have been called un American, holier-than-thou, and pharisaical. I’ve been told I’m asking too much of a candidate. I’ve been told I am going to elect Clinton. I’ve been asked how I can face my children knowing I didn’t do everything I could to stop Clinton.

I have friends who love Trump. They have been big supporters since the primary. They have looked at his record and character, and decided that he represents their values. He is who they want to lead our country. I disagree with their decision, but applaud them for finding a candidate they can support.

I have friends who have chosen the lesser of two evils approach, they hate to vote for Trump, but hate to vote for Clinton even more. They are essentially voting out of fear. I understand this decision. But that’s not something I can do.

I also have friends who believe that, while they greatly dislike the Republican nominee, they must support a Republican platform that more closely matches what they value than the Democrat platform. So they will vote for the GOP while wishing the nominee was someone else. A minor distinction, but one that’s important to them.

I have friends who are voting for Clinton for many of the same kinds of reasons people are choosing Trump.

If you ask me who to vote for, I will tell you this: Pray. Find candidates that meet the minimum standard. Then evaluate their values and positions on issues that are important to you. And vote for the one that best fits your values. If that’s Trump, great. Hillary? Good for you. Someone else, go for it! That’s the beauty of our system. We each decide how to use our own vote.

What I will not do is take seriously any suggestion that it is my duty as a Christian to vote for the lesser of two evils. I can find no scriptural backing for this position. I understand why people make this decision, but it is not a something I have done. Nor is it a biblical imperative for me to do so. In fact, the evidence I have found suggests that a pragmatic decision that goes against your values is not what you should do. I would welcome biblical examples I have missed that show the lesser of two evils or pragmatic choices in a positive light.

What if the worse evil gets elected because you or I voted for a 3rd party? What if it’s Nader/2000 in Florida all over again? Do you believe that God is sovereign? If you really believe that, then you know that He has a plan. I don’t know what that plan is, but I can promise you it isn’t for you to violate your values with a pragmatic choice.

What if now, in this horrible election, believers in American said they wouldn’t listen to the narratives from the Right or the Left. Starting right now they would find candidates who reflect what they value. And only vote for those people. They refused to be bullied into voting for a lesser of two evils. What if on the local, state and federal level we all voted for people, and didn’t choose the lesser evil? What would our country look like in a few years?

What is the Biblical Standard for Choosing Civil Authority? Part 1 of Who Should Christians Vote For?

[I’ve gone out of my way to not talk in specifics about this election season, but instead look at principles that should frame our votes in every election, for every office.]

Part 1 of a 3 part series: Who Should Christians Vote For?

Americans have the great privilege of choosing their own civil authorities. Christians in American still have to submit to those in authority over us (Romans 13:1), but every so often we get to choose who those people are. The first Justice of the Supreme Court, Honorable John Jay said, “God is the One who has given us the privilege in this Christian nation of selecting our leaders.”

Since we have such an honor and privilege, how then should we choose our leaders? By what standard should they be held? How should we decide who to vote for?

In a time when there are many conflicting messages, I turned to the Bible. What does it say about rulers and civil authorities? Voting for a civil authority is not like voting for a pastor. It has often been said that the US President is not the Pastor-in-Chief. What does the Bible say about selecting civil authorities? How should we expect them to lead?

There are two significant examples of civil leaders being selected from the among Israelites. Before we examine them, let’s agree that these are descriptive passages about what happened, and not prescriptive passages about what we must do. Let’s also agree that if we hold the Bible to be true, then these passages contain lessons that can be applied to our own modern selection of leaders.

Exodus 18:21a “ But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain”

Deuteronomy 1:13 “Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.”

In the Exodus passage, Moses needed help dealing with civil matters, with disagreements among the people. Jethro, his father-in-law, suggested looking for these qualities in the people selected to help;

  • God Fearing– They needed a healthy respect for God and the things of God.
  • Trustworthy– They were faithful, honest, and could be relied upon.
  • Hating dishonest gain– People of integrity.

Similar situation in Deuteronomy, when God told Moses what sort of people to choose:

  • Wise– People who were not just knowledgable, but wise.
  • Understanding– People who could understand the situation they were presiding over.
  • Respected– People who have earned the respect of the community.

That seems like a pretty smart list of qualities to look for in a candidate for any office. Based on those passages my personal list looks something like this:

I will vote for candidates that respect religion and religious freedom. They will be honest, and people I can believe will do what they say they will do. They will be people of integrity. I will look for people who are wise, and competent to fill the office they are running for. I will vote for people who I believe are capable of earning and keeping my respect.

For me, this is the minimum standard for my vote. Notice I didn’t mention specific social or economic issues, no foreign policy or immigration or any other political issue. That’s not because I don’t care about them, I very much do. But issues change as society changes. The bedrock of biblical truth upon which we build our worldview does not.

The 6 qualities of a civil authority listed here are immutable and timeless. You and I may disagree on nuances of issues, but we can agree on this short list. Plus, people who respect religion, and who I consider wise and competent will, in my view, hold positions on issues similar to my own. But if they don’t meet the standard of this list, I should keep searching no matter how much they might share my views on issues.

The book of Proverbs is also full of wisdom about civil authorities:

  • A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor. Pr 28:16a
  • When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. Pr 29:2
  • If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked. Pr 29:12
  • Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. Pr 11:14
  • Wicked behavior is detestable to kings, since a throne is established through righteousness. Pr 16:12 (HCSB)
  • When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue. Pr 28:2

This isn’t an exhaustive list of verses, but you can get a biblical picture of the person we should be looking to vote for. It can be hard to hold to this sort of standard in our current political climate, especially on the national level. It’s very easy to allow fear to color your decision.

What if none of the candidates can live up to this standard? What if that horrible candidate wins? I point you to Romans 8:28, and encourage you to remember God is sovereign. While he cares about everything, God’s primary purpose is not to fix earthly governments. The Kingdom of Heaven is not about one nation, it’s about something far more important.

Dr. Russell Moore from the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission was talking about the 2016 Presidential election and he said, “If you lose an election you can live to fight another day and move on, but if you lose an election while giving up your very soul then you have really lost it all, and so I think the stakes are really high.”

Who should you vote for? It may be that you have several choices that biblically qualify for an office, or you may feel you have none. I think the process starts with prayer. Ask God to lead you to the candidate for each office. No one will be perfect, but it’s doubtful God will lead you to a candidate that is completely contrary to this simple biblical standard. He won’t lead you to a candidate who is not wise, not trustworthy, does not have integrity, is not respectable, who does not respect religion. But you may have to look beyond candidates who get the most media attention.

I encourage you to stick to what you value and vote for someone you can support. Much more important than which party holds what offices is your own relationship with God. Don’t betray your values over an election. You have the privilege and the responsibility to participate in choosing your own civil authorities; do it well.

 

Vote Your Values, Not Your Fears

The wonderful thing about a representative form of government is that we, the voters, can put people who represent us into positions of leadership. These elected officials have the power to represent the things we hold dearest. They have the power to lead our towns, counties, states and nation in a way that reflects who we are.

Unless we vote based on our fears. On the national scale, in our 2 party/binary choice elections we seem to always hear about voting against the worse candidate. If we don’t vote for candidate x we will have horrible consequences. These tactics play on our fears.

If we elect people based on our fears, they will govern based on our fears. Is what we fear the best representation of us? Do we really expect our government to improve if we put people in office who represent what we are afraid of, rather than what we value?

I propose a radical alternative in the political climate of 2016: Don’t vote against someone you are afraid of. Don’t vote against ideologies you fear. Vote for what you value, for the things you hold dear. Vote your values, not your fears.