What are Biblical Examples of Choosing the Lesser of Two Evils? Part 2 of Who Should Christians Vote For?

Part 2 of a 3 Part Series: Who Should Christians Vote For?

In 2016 our choice for President is truly a terrible decision between the two major parties. Approached pragmatically, of course we must do our utmost to achieved the best result. Besides, as we are often told, unless Jesus himself is on the ballot, every election is a choice between the lesser of two evils. What does the Bible teach about this?

Are there any biblical examples of choosing a civil authority from between two evils?

Because Israel had judges, chosen by God, and kings there aren’t a lot of examples of people choosing between the lesser of two evil rulers in the Old Testament. And none that I could find in the New Testament. God, it seems, is less concerned with earthly governments, and more concerned about the Kingdom of Heaven. I found no prescriptive commandments regarding choosing civil leaders. Part 1 of this series looked at the minimum biblical standard for civil authorities. Like that post, I’m looking for examples in history from which we can draw lessons that might apply to our situation today. These are descriptive in nature, They tell us what happened, not what we must do. But, those who do not learn from history are likely to repeat the same mistakes.

In my search I did find an article that claimed to show 3 examples of voting for the lesser of two evils. (This was from 2012, and about voting for the lesser evil of Romney vs Obama. If only that was the choice today…)

 Here are the 3 examples of selecting the lesser of two evils the author mentions:
Absalom vs David:
This is an attempted coup. 2 Samuel 15 outlines how Absalom gained support to try to overthrow his own father. David was not perfect. Among other things he had a man killed to cover his affair with that man’s wife. And his troubles with Absalom (who had been exiled for killing his half brother, after that brother had raped his sister) also stemmed from issues within his family.

But David was king of Israel. And David was a repentant, restored man. 2 Samuel 11,12 tells the whole story. Acts 13:22 describes David as a man after God’s own heart. This wasn’t an election, and it wasn’t a choice between the lesser of two evils.

Adonijah vs Solomon:
 1 Kings 1. David is on his deathbed. Adonijah decides he should be the next king. But David has already told Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan (same one that confronted David about his affair and murder) that Solomon is to be the next king. This isn’t a secret, although no public announcement has been made.  Adonijah knows about it because he doesn’t invite Nathan, any of David’s Mighty Men or Solomon to the event where he planned to take the throne. Since Adonijah was well liked, he likely could have become king.

Except Nathan discovered what he was doing. He knew that Adonijah would kill Solomon and his mother. So both he and Bathsheba went to David. After David learned what was going on, he made the official announcement that Solomon was his heir. Adonijh heard about this while his own feast was still going on.

So again, this wasn’t a choice between two evils. This wasn’t an election. Solomon was designated the heir by the king, and at this time wasn’t an “evil” choice. It’s not until the end of his days that Solomon turns away from God. That leads us to the last example.

Jeroboam vs Rehoboam:
You can find this story in 1 Kings 11,12. Solomon has turned from God. Rehoboam is Solomon’s son and assumed heir to Israel. God sends a prophet, Ahijah, to Jeroboam and tells him that Israel will be split. 10 tribes will be for Jeroboam to rule. 2 for Rehoboam. This isn’t an election, it’s God sending word through prophet. It’s judgement on Solomon, 1 Kings 11:39 says he will afflict David’s line, but not forever.

Was Jeroboam an evil? We know from verse 28 that he had some leadership in Israel; Solomon trusted him to lead the forced labor of the house of Joseph. That’s it. We do know that God made Jeroboam a promise:
     “And if you will listen to all that I command you, and will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did, I will be with you and will build you a sure house, as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.” 1 Kings 11:38

Jeroboam did not have to do evil, he had a choice.  Unfortunately, after an ugly division of Israel (along the lines the prophet predicted) Jeroboam did not obey God. 1 Kings 14 describes another prophecy from Ahijah concerning Jeroboam’s line because of his disobedience. From this time onward the Northern Kingdom never had a king that followed God. Judah and the Northern Kingdom never reconciled. Both Rehoboam and Jeroboam chose to do evil in the sight of God.

This is the closest of the 3 examples to choosing a lesser of two evils. Even though there was a prophecy, what if the tribes of Israel had a choice in who to follow? We knew how the division would end up because of the prophecy, but the people made a decision. What was the result of choosing between those two?

Both leaders moved their respective kingdoms away from God. The Israelites may not have known that Jeroboam would do this, but this pattern continued throughout the Northern Kingdom’s existence.  Judah sometimes had kings who tried to follow God, but often had kings who also did evil in the sight of God.

What if there had not been a prophecy? What if the people of Israel truly could have changed the course of history in the moment? Instead of choosing between the tyrannical Rehoboam or the idolatrous Jeroboam, what if they had said no? What if they had demanded a king who followed God; one who was like David, a man after God’s own heart? What if they had rejected two bad choices, and chosen a good one? What would the history of Israel look like today? We don’t know, because that didn’t happen.

What we do know is that God eventually let Israel be conquered by Assyria and Judah by Babylon. He protected the line of David and maintained a remnant, and Jesus was born into a world ruled by Romans.

God eventually allowed his chosen people to be captured and carted off as spoils of war because they kept choosing to worship false idols and do evil in the sight of God. So if Israel had a choice in this situation,what should they have done? Would it not have been better to change course and not end up a conquered nation?

I, for one, don’t want to see America keep sliding into the hole our current political system has dug for us. What makes us think that God will preserve our country as we keep blindly choosing between two bad candidates for leadership when he didn’t even protect Israel, his chosen people? Time and time again, Israel’s leaders and her people turned from God. And he eventually allowed them to be conquered.

Even though the New Testament doesn’t report examples of choosing lesser evils in civil authorities, there is one passage that relates to doing something bad in order to achieve something good.

In Romans Chapter 2 and 3, Paul was writing about accusations that preaching about grace would devalue the law. Essentially, that doing things that go against the law (like not being circumcised) because believers are under grace devalues the Law.
“And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just. ” Romans 3:8

The sentiment is the same as echoed in Romans 6:1-2. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Not just one sin, but sin in general. Not just one evil act, but do evil in general to do good.  The greek word for good in this verse is “agathos” which means “good, profitable, benevolent, useful”. Paul is talking about doing things that are bad for a good benefit. Some comments on this passage:
  • Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says, “Let us do evil, that good may come, is oftener in the heart than in the mouth of sinners; for few thus justify themselves in their wicked ways.The believer knows that duty belongs to him, and events to God; and that he must not commit any sin, or speak one falsehood, upon the hope, or even assurance, that God may thereby glorify himself. If any speak and act thus, their condemnation is just.”
  • Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible  says, “Whatever is evil is not to be done under any pretence. Any imaginable good which we may think will result from it; any advantage to ourselves or to our cause; or any glory which we may think may result to God, will not sanction or justify the deed.”
  • Matthew Poole’s Commentary says, “ The apostle doth not vouchsafe to refute this absurd saying, but simply condemns it, and those that put it in practice.”
  • Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown’s Commentary says, “Such reasoning amounts to this- ‘which, indeed, we who preach salvation by free grace are slanderously accused of teaching – that the more evil we do, the more glory will rebound to God; a damnable principle.’ thus the apostle, instead of refuting this principle, thinks it enough to hold it up to execration, as one that shocked the moral sense.”

Doing something bad for a good result? Condemning that action is just. Evil is not to be done under any pretense.

I cannot find a single positive example of something bad in hopes of a good result in the Bible. Choosing between evils never ends up with a good result, just a less bad one. How bad will we let things get before we reject the perpetual binary cycle?

I cannot find any biblical evidence that suggests a Christian should choose the lesser of two evils in an election. Many are facing that choice today.

If I may be so bold, don’t chose the lesser evil. Find someone or something to vote for.

Dear Conservative, It’s OK to Vote 3rd Party

Like you, I have always believed that we should do our duty, hold our noses and vote for whoever the Republican party nominates. The alternative would be to allow a Liberal Democrat in the office.

And also like you, I’ve been increasingly disappointed with the candidates that have gotten the nomination. Politicians that made big promises and proceeded to do little once in office. But I dutifully pulled the lever every time. I believed what I was told, we had to vote for this candidate or someone worse would get into office. I kept choosing the lesser of two evils.

By 2016 many of us were fed up.

Unfortunately, blind anger has led enough GOP voters to support a candidate I cannot, in good conscience, support. I evaluate candidates based on character, competence and core values. I remember when most Republicans felt Bill Clinton had embarrassed the presidency and didn’t have the character traits necessary to be president. Now some of the same ones want me to vote for a man who is apparently (based on his actions and words) just as morally corrupt. One who is not competent, and who does not have conservative core values. I won’t vote for Donald Trump. And I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton.

I have read that saying I won’t vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton is un American. I’ve been told that not voting for Trump is the same as voting for Clinton. I have been reminded there’s no perfect candidate so I must choose Trump. I have been told that if I don’t vote for Trump Clinton will nominate 5 liberal justices. I’ve also been warned that if I vote for a 3rd party candidate we will end up with another Ross Perot situation, where the 3rd party takes votes from the GOP and gives the election to the Democrats.

Hogwash. Let’s take these one by one:

-The 1992 Perot Effect: For my entire adult life I’ve been told that Ross Perot pulled votes away from George H. W. Bush. He is the reason that we got Bill Clinton as a president. I believed this, and have even repeated it.

But it’s not true. I was shocked to discover when doing research for this article that Perot pulled voters away from both parties equally. According to a 1992 New York Times article , Perot pulled 38% of his votes from those who would otherwise vote for Bush. And 38% of his votes from those who would otherwise vote for Clinton. The rest planned to not vote or to vote for someone else. Ross Perot didn’t kill Bush’s chances at the presidency. He also didn’t help Clinton. Let that sit with you for a minute.

Perot did not get Clinton elected. Could a 3rd party candidate draw voters from the Republican candidate? Sure, if Republicans nominate someone that conservatives cannot support, and they leave the party. I have already said that the 35% of primary voters who promised they would never support Trump will be a hard hit to overcome. This should not be a surprise, since millions of us were very vocal about this before Trump became the presumptive nominee. We weren’t joking. #NeverTrump means never.

-5 Liberal SCOTUS Judges: It’s scary to think that the next president may appoint 5 Supreme Court Justices. Our so-called-conservative court gave us same sex marriage and upheld the Affordable care Act. Imagine a court with members selected by a liberal like Clinton. Now imagine a court with member elected by a man without core values. One who has a history of changing his mind and positions on major issues for conservatives. Republicans haven’t done such a great job of selecting SCOTUS justices so far, let’s give a life long liberal the chance to pick some. I mean Trump; he’s a life-long liberal. He’s a very recent convert to conservatism. And he has been so wildly inconsistent, how can anyone know who Trump will nominate? And how can the Republican Congress stop a Republican president from getting his own justice? The Republican congress can’t even stop funding for Planned Parenthood.

Assuming Republicans can keep the Senate and House, would you rather have a bad Clinton nominee voted down, or a bad Trump nominee forced through by the leader of the Republican party? There’s no good solution here. When 40% of Republican primary voters (along with a media which gave over $2 Billion worth of coverage) voted to make Trump the presumptive nominee, we gave up the chance to place actual conservatives on the Supreme court. It’s just degrees of bad now. And this one issue, the chance that Trump might not nominate bad justice does not overshadow how terrible his presidency will be.

Regarding the power of a legislative body made up of 9 unelected judges, I would like to see the Convention of States people keep talking about happen. Part of that process could be to introduce a way for Congress to overturn a SCOTUS decision. Maybe even to set a term limit on sitting justices (as well as Congress). It’s obvious that whether the court is supposed to be conservative or liberal they won’t stop legislating from the bench. I believe we need a few more checks against their balances.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 9.09.01 AM-It’s a vote for Clinton: Not voting for Donald Trump is a vote for Clinton. The logic of this doesn’t work. I could just as easily say a vote for someone besides Clinton is a vote for Trump. That’s obviously untrue. Your vote is for who you vote for.

But what they are really saying is that in order to win, Trump requires all of us to vote for him. It’s a play at guilting us into voting for someone we don’t like. And it’s been successful for decades. Do you want Obama? Vote McCain, vote Romney. But the problem with voting for the lesser of two evils is that you end up with one of the evils.

When candidates are so far from my own core values, I don’t have to vote for them. Do you know why we have a two-party, lesser-of-2-evils system? Because millions of us keep dutifully voting for one of the 2 party candidates, even if we don’t like them.

The real question is do I owe anyone my vote? My answer is no. Candidates must earn my vote. Just as they must earn every vote they get. There will be millions of people who vote Republican to stop Clinton. But that is an individual choice. One of the greatest responsibilities of any American citizen is to vote. It’s how the Republic works. My vote counts. I don’t think my one vote will be the deciding vote between Trump, Clinton or someone else. But my vote counts, and it’s mine to give. If a candidate wants my vote, they must earn it. No party can demand my obedience, especially when I (and millions of others) warned that we would not vote for Trump.

-There’s no Perfect Candidate: Sure. I agree. I don’t expect to find one. But I do expect to find one that comes closer than Clinton or Trump. This time around, the Republican nominee is just too far from what I require in a candidate to be able to vote for them. I understand that line will be different for everyone. But this time the GOP has gone down a path I cannot follow. I won’t find a perfect candidate to vote for, but I will find one that is closer to what I desire in an elected leader.

-Un American: This is just plain wrong. It’s very American to find a candidate you want to vote for. It’s not unpatriotic to reject two candidates that you don’t want elected and go looking for a 3rd. The Constitution did not create the 2-party system. It is not un American to want to see that system broken. To vote is one of the most American things anyone can do, even if they choose not to vote for a Republican or Democrat.

It’s said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Can we hope to stop Clinton or Trump? Perot’s ill fated campaign received almost 19% of the vote, but won no states and earned no electoral votes. He announced in February, and by early Summer he was leading the polls. He bought 30-minute blocks on TV to introduce himself to voters. Mid Summer the wheels came off. He dropped out of the race for over 3 months, He performed poorly later debates, and never regained his position again. The most successful 3rd party run since 1912 was a terrible campaign. And he gathered almost 19% of the popular vote.

A smart 3rd party run would utilize the strategy of winning enough states to prevent either candidate from getting 270 electoral votes. Don’t waste resources in states that you can’t possibly win. Win enough states and the election gets sent to the Republican controlled House. The House must choose from the top 3 candidates. They would either choose Trump or the 3rd party. If Trump, then the 3rd party is in a great position for 2020. If by some chance it’s the 3rd party, then that’s even better.

No matter the result, there is nothing wrong with voting for someone who is not a Republican or a Democrat. Your vote is your own. You owe it to no one. Find a candidate that you want to support.