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?

Warning: Binary Choice Syndrome Epidemic in USA

WARNING: There is a dangerous epidemic spreading across America. Binary Choice Syndrome (BCS) is a condition where voters believe they only have 2 choices for President. If they don’t vote for one, then they are actually voting for the other. The condition, prevalent on both the right and the left, has caused feelings of alienation and frustration. In more acute cases, the people afflicted with BCS have shown symptoms of rabid, illogical support for one candidate over the other. It is in this state that they are actively spreading the syndrome. Be very cautious when dealing with anyone who says the presidential election is a binary choice.

Binary Choice Syndrome plays on your fears about the two major party candidates. If you find yourself in the position where you don’t want to vote for either politician, those with BCS try to scare you into reluctant support of their candidate. They hope you will hold your nose and vote against the horrible politician by voting for the less horrible one. Should you think about not doing that, they trot out the binary choice. It’s your duty to vote for the less bad candidate, or you are helping the worse candidate get into office.

The premise of BCS is this: If you don’t vote for candidate x, then you are voting for candidate y.

3 reasons why Binary Choice Syndrome should be destroyed.

  •  It’s illogical. Obviously, if you don’t vote for X then X get’s one less vote. But does that mean Y get’s an extra vote? Of course not. Just just means X doesn’t get a vote. You might chose to vote for Z or even not to vote at all. (I encourage everyone to vote their conscience, but that’s your choice.) Voting for Z does not add votes to the tally for Y or X. It just adds votes for Z. In a 2 party system it may feel like you are throwing away your vote but you are definitely not adding to the tally of another candidate.
  •  It cheapens your vote. Binary Choices limit your options. Who are they to say you must choose between one or the other? Who are they to say that a vote for a candidate you support, no matter how unlikely to carry the day, is actually a vote for someone else? It is your right as a citizen to participate in the election process in the way you feel is required by your conscience. If that means voting for someone not represented by the two major parties, then that is your right. BCS is often spread by those in leadership of one of the two major parties because BCS keeps them in power.
  •  It is only valid if voters allow it to be valid. The ultimate cure for Binary Choice Syndrome is to realize that as long as we vote for the lesser of two evils we will get one of the evils. Every voter has the power to break free of the binary choice and vote for someone they actually support. If enough voters did this, the 2 party system would fall. We are not required to vote Republican or Democrat, just as people in elections of the past were not required to vote Whig or Democrat. Parties can change, the system is what we, the individual voters, make of it. We have all the power. We choose to remain in a 2 party system by voting for the two major party candidates. We don’t have to.

Be careful, one of the more slippery symptoms of BCS is the Issue Related Binary Choice. Sometimes, BCS sufferers will not talk about particular candidates, but will choose an issue to present as a binary choice. Recent cases of this have centered around the US Supreme Court. BCS sufferers will present the concern over the Court and then point to a binary choice as the only way to protect us from this runaway government branch. Previous cases have centered on the issue of abortion, LGBT rights, immigration, and many other social and economic issues. While concerns about issues may be valid, the binary choice is not.

You can be vaccinated against BCS by realizing that your vote matters, and you can choose who you will vote for based on your values, not your fears.

Trump is Not The Big Brother, He’s the Bully

Everyone knows the big brother is the one who stands up to the bully for you.

Imagine you had a big brother who was always telling you that he would protect you, and look out for you. He was going to right all the wrongs. He loves you. Pretty great, right? The world is a messed up place, and he is going to fix it. Then you find out that he does that by threatening people, by calling people names, by forcing them to do things they may not want to do. He says that if anyone hurts you, he will not only hurt them but hurt their family as well. To make matters worse, you realize that a couple of years ago he wasn’t even your brother, he was a part of the people who are doing the things you don’t like.

That is Donald Trump.

He says he wants to make this country great again. And I’m sure that’s a part of what drives him. He says that he wants to help Republicans. But he also does all those things I mentioned: Yesterday he tweeted about people he knows in Chicago that shouldn’t work against him, because they have things to hide- implying those things would come out of they continue. He routinely calls people liars, and has used stronger language for his opponents and news reporters as well. He has said often that he will make Mexico pay for the wall and he has flip flopped a couple of times the the insurance mandate. He has said, and then not backed off when given the chance to, that he will not only kill terrorists but he will kill the families of terrorists.  And up until a short while ago, he could have been described as a Democrat, based on his donations, positions, and comments about policy. He’s generally a jerk who tries to force his own will into ever situation.

That’s not leadership, that’s being a bully.

Being a bully might work some of the time. But every time a bully comes up against someone that stands up to them, they back down. Don’t believe this will happen with Trump?

A few days ago Trump was making noise about how Ted Cruz was lying and playing dirty politics. He threatened that if Cruz didn’t pull a TV advertisement, he would file a lawsuit claiming Cruz was ineligible to serve as president. Typical bully move, do as I say or I will hurt you. Cruz didn’t back away, he stood up to Trump. He dared him to file the suit. Trump, like all bullies will, backed down from the issue. The point isn’t whether Cruz was or wasn’t lying; it’s that Trump made a threat, a show of political and legal force, but backed down.

Now, imagine Trump negotiating with Iran, or even just Democrats. Imagine them getting tough with him when he tries similar bullying tactics. Trump will back down.

I know, politics and diplomacy always has some give and take. But bullies always back down, they never stand firm, even when they are talking about core issues/values.

We need a candidate who will stand firm, and not back down on issues that are important to us. We don’t need a bully.

 

Journalism is Dead, So Who Moderates GOP Presidential Debates?

Journalism used to be informing the public about what it needed to know. If you’ve ever seen the first couple of episodes of HBO’s “Newsroom” then you’ve seen a drama about the clash between modern “journalism” and real journalism. Now, that show went on to depict a heavy bias in it’s story line, but the conflict they portrayed in those first episodes was pretty accurate.

Journalism is dead. Instead, we have reporters and news sources that write to get page views and publish for ad revenue. I’m not naive enough to think that journalism used to not be about making money, but there doesn’t seem to be anything resembling journalistic integrity in the American news anymore. I’m sure there are notable exceptions, but, in general, news article and reports are slanted, left or right. Or toward whatever pet passion the author has.

Plus, many people think that an opinion piece, which might be written about the news, actually is the news. My blog is all opinion. Not news. I might report something, but I almost always cite an opinion about it.

Because we have almost no unbiased news sources to get the news from, we tend to find sources that match our own biases. I don’t go to CNN or CNBC, I go to Blaze or Fox or a conservative news source. We all succumb to something called “confirmation bias” where we search for, and interpret information in a way that confirms our preconceptions. I don’t want to read the bias of a news reporter I don’t agree with, so I tend to read those that are like me. And they tend to report news that affirms my view of things. Journalism, as we once knew it, is dead.

If journalism is dead, who should moderate the GOP Presidential debates?

The current election cycle has brought this issue to the forefront. It started with Fox and continued until this most recent debacle on CNBC. These debates, which should be about informing the public, have become focused on generating ratings and entertainment. And reporters are more interested in delivering a stinging opinion than asking pertinent questions about a candidates policies and politics.

Much has been (angrily- don’t click this link unless you are OK with rough language) written about this last CNBC debate. I will post just a couple of the questions from news reporters to the GOP Presidential candidates to illustrate this:

To Carly Fiorina, regarding reducing the tax code to three pages: “You want to bring 70,000 pages to three? Is that using really small type? Is that using really small type?”

 

To Donald Trump: “Is this a comic book version of a presidential campaign?”

Just two of the actual questions asked by reporters to Presidential candidates in this last debate. The tone of disrespect is just incredible.

So, obviously, Republicans are lviid. They have already pulled from a future NBC debate. And have begun talking about how they want to handle other debates. And the press has gotten it’s hackles up in defense. They claim it’s their job to ask hard questions.

And that’s true, but these were not hard questions, These questions would be more at home on a reality TV show than a debate platform.

So, what do we do?

The American people deserve to have hard, legitimate questions asked of candidates for the highest office in government. The current model isn’t working, and I don’t think we should have the campaigns run the debates either.

How can we hold a Presidential debate that would reflect a wider political bias?

-The Jury System– The major news networks still get to be a part of the debates and the associated ad revenue, but they don’t get to pick all of the moderators. Instead the GOP and the network get to propose 4-6 potential moderators each. And each gets 3 strikes. The network selects one, the GOP can accept or strike for any reason. (And the selection process is off the record.) The GOP selects one, and the network can accept of strike. The process continues until all 4 spots are filled. Both the GOP and network can strike moderators they dislike, but each gets at least one on the panel they like. The moderators select their own questions, and while they all know the questions in advance so they won’t double up, no other moderator can veto someone else’s question.

-The Youtube Debate- Youtube is a major online video platform. If anyone can handle the traffic, they can. The GOP works with Youtube (Or another platform). Major news networks can take a feed. By taking a feed, they are allowed to submit 2 questions that will be asked of each candidate. Americans are allowed to submit questions for the debate, and the GOP and Youtube pick from those questions. Youtube sells advertising, The networks agree to air a portion of Youtube’s ads, and then insert their own ads over the rest to cover their costs. GOP and Youtube split the cost of the venue. GOP and Youtube pick the actual moderators, who agree to ask the questions as submitted. Everyone can watch, either online or on TV. No one network can have influence over all the questions. The GOP doesn’t have say over all the questions.

Either of these models would result in a wider range of biases being represented in the questions. There would probably be some questionable questions, but that would be the exception, not the rule. It’s sad that we even have to worry about how to hold a fair debate, but at least when it comes to politics, journalism is dead.