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.

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.

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.

The Party is Dead, Long Live the Party!

I’ve been thinking a lot of the future of politics in the USA. As the Republican Party moves in a direction I cannot follow, I wondered about the demise of another political group, the Whigs.

The Death of the Whigs
It was the 1830s. Large, organized political parties were a relatively new thing. The Whig party was ardently opposed to many of the actions of Democrat Andrew Jackson. For example, Jackson changed how the presidential veto was used. Before his administration, generally it was only used if the President felt the law passed by Congress was unconstitutional. Jackson set the precedent that a President could veto for any reason. He also picked his own cabinet, which hadn’t been done before. The Whigs felt that the office of the President was overshadowing the Congress.

The Whigs ultimately died because of a division over slavery. Southern Whig leaders wanted it, Northern ones didn’t. After the Compromise of 1850, which expanded slavery into new territories gained in the Mexican-American war and reworked the laws about retrieving fugitive slaves, many of the Northern Whigs left to join the Republicans. In 1856 the Whigs fielded their last Presidential candidate.

It seems that the reason the Whigs died was that they could not agree on one pivotal issue. Slavery. And that there was a clear alternative for members to move toward. Obviously, nothing is that simple and there were surely other factors, but slavery played a major role in the Whig’s eventual demise.

The Birth of the Republicans
On March 20, 1854 the founding meeting of the Republican party was held. Former members of the Whig party, upset over it’s inability to deal with slavery, were creating a new party along with Northern Democrats. After 2 years of planning and winning elections in the North, on Feb 22, 1856 the first organizing convention of the Republican party began. June 17 of that same year, the first nominating convention of the Republican party kicked off. This eventually led to the election of Abraham Lincoln, the first Republican President.

The Death of the Republicans?
Over the following years, the Republican party became synonymous with the conservative movement; limited government, and conservative social and economic policies. In an environment that created a polarized electorate, party leaders increasingly failed to deliver on their promises to Republican voters. After the 2008 presidential election many were frustrated with the established GOP. In 2009 the Tea Party emerged within the ranks of the Republican Party. For a few years it seemed like there would be a revolution within the party by those wanting to return to more conservative values.

But by 2015 the Tea Party was largely sidelined, stifled and squelched. The Republican Party was back to business as usual. In turn, Republican voters in 2016 ignored traditional Republican candidates by in large, and narrowed the GOP primary down to 2 candidates: Ted Cruz a Constitutional conservative, and Donald Trump, a life-long liberal who claimed a recent conversion to conservatism but held positions on issues that differed greatly from many conservatives. Fueled by a platform that catered to voter anger and over $2 Billion worth of free media time on top of 100% name recognition, Donald Trump successfully won enough delegates to eliminate Ted Cruz from the Republican nomination. Barring massive rule changes and maneuvering at the national GOP convention, Donald Trump will be the 2016 Republican nominee for President.

I believe that many of the positions espoused by the presumptive nominee are directly contradictory to conservative values. I have said that when it comes to character, competence and core values, candidate Trump falls far short of what is required to be a conservative president. I am not alone in that belief. According to polls taken during the primaries, over 35% of Republican primary voters refuse to vote for Donald Trump in the general election. Some are turning to the DNC candidates, but many are looking for other options.

I do not believe that the Republican Party will ever swing back toward conservatism. It had already drifted away before this nomination. Trump will do nothing to bring it back to the party of limited government and conservative social and economic policies. The most conservative nominees from the Republican party are behind it. Future Republican nominees will be moving further away from conservatism.

While the GOP may remain in existence, the Republican party I knew is in its death throes.

The birth of a new party?

The Party is dead, long live the Party!

Before jet travel and the internet, it took less than 2 years for the Republican party to go from dream to reality. Within 6 years it had given us one of the most important presidents in our country’s history. Is it so crazy to think that this year a candidate could emerge and challenge the RNC/DNC nominees?

There are lots of people that might be interested. Senator Ben Sasse recently wrote an open letter about finding a 3rd party candidate. People who claim some affiliation with the Tea Party were at 10% of the population in 2014. 35% of 2016 GOP primary voters are already searching for another candidate. Both Hillary Clinton and Trump have horrible unfavorables. People don’t like them. Independents and principled conservatives are up for grabs in 2016. More people this election cycle will be voting 3rd party than any in my lifetime.

In 1992 Ross Perot– the most successful 3rd party candidate since 1912- got over 19.7 million votes, but he didn’t carry a single state or get a single electoral vote. Perot actually dropped out of the race for several months, and the re-entered it and still won almost 19% of the vote. Ross Perot’s limited success was a reaction to George H. W. Bush and a shift away from what Reagan accomplished. (In many ways Trump is similar to Perot, in background and economic positions.) But Trump as the GOP nominee has negatives so far beyond Bush, he’s not even in the same league. Perot never recovered from dropping out, and his performance in the national debates was very poor. Exit polls said that he drew equally (38%) from Bush and Bill Clinton, with the rest of his voters from those who had not planned to vote for the two main parties.

The conditions for a more successful 3rd party run are ripe. The right candidate could perform much better than the flawed Perot campaign.

What if a new political party was formed? Made up of discouraged Tea Party members, the #NeverTrump camp, and any other conservative that doesn’t want to see Clinton or Trump in the White House. Like the Republicans did with the Whigs, we could bleed off conservatives into a new party. Let the GOP do as it will, we can start something new, that reflects our principles.

Do I really expect a new party to win the 2016 general election? No. That’s not the goal. The goal is to win enough electoral votes to keep the other candidates from getting 270 electoral votes. If no one wins, then the House of Representatives chooses from the top 3 candidates, in this case Trump, Clinton or the new party nominee. A Republican controlled House will not choose Clinton, so either Trump or the new party’s candidate would win. No matter who the House chose, the new party would immediately be a player in the midterms and in 2020.

Who would the new party’s presidential candidate be? Someone who is the opposite of the other two candidates. Both Clinton and Trump are of similar age, have similar ethics and ideologies. The new party’s candidate would need to be young, an amazing and energizing communicator with high moral standards and conservative core values. And because the people this candidate would be running against have 100% name recognition, they would need to already have a decent sized platform or following. And they would need to be able to bring in deep pocketed donors in order to withstand the media onslaught from the other two parties. Could it be one of the existing 3rd party candidates? Sure, if they meet these criteria, it could work.

Time is short. If there is not a viable campaign in motion by mid Summer or before, there won’t be a viable 3rd party campaign in 2016. But we live in a time when communication and access to potential voters has never been more open.

With both Democrats and Republicans nominating candidates that are so disliked, there will never be a better time to launch a new political party. There will never be a better time to break the two party system that results in a choice between the lesser of two evils.

The GOP we knew is dead, long live a new, better political party!

Chance favors Hillary: Democrat Iowa Caucus was Decided by 6 Coin Tosses

That’s right, Clinton edged out Sanders by 5 delegates in the Iowa Caucus. The incredibly close race was literally decided by 6 tosses of a coin. 6 precincts were tied and had to be called based on a coin toss, as is Iowa regulation for Democrat caucuses.

How crazy is the Iowa process, in general? It’s not a regular primary, where people vote all day. Instead voters go to their precinct, and if you are a Republican you cast a ballot, which is apparently counted in whatever receptacle is available since there were images of popcorn buckets and plastic tubs in use, and the winner of the precinct is decided. For the Democrats, you go to a large room, and stand in various spots to indicate your support of a candidate. If a group doesn’t reach a certain size  (15%) then representatives from other candidates can come and try to get you to move to their group.

And finally, in the case of a tie, with a delegate in question, the winner of that precinct and  the tie breaking delegate is determined by a coin toss! Amazing. 6 times this happened last night, and all 6 times the coins fell for Clinton.

So she technically won the Iowa Caucus. But I guarantee you that there will be some major changes in the Clinton campaign. In a state where Clinton was leading by dozens of points a few months ago, she won by mere chance. And most young voters were overwhelmingly for Sanders. She has to change her strategy.

Will it be attacks on Sanders? or will she move more to the left? Will she pick up some of the ideas that Sanders is pushing in order to woo those younger votes? I don’t know, but expect some changes in the message from the Clinton camp in the wake of this “win” in Iowa.