We’re six weeks away from the 2020 Presidential election- truly a momentous one for Americans, having somehow endured the grueling ninety minutes of the first of three debates between the candidates; the Republican incumbent, President Donald Trump and the Democratic Party’s candidate, former Senator and Vice-President Joe Biden.
With COVID-19, racial and civil unrest and economic uncertainty still abounding in what has been a year of social upheaval, the stakes of this election are arguably greater than they were even in 2016, when Trump – a successful if not iconic businessman, celebrity and political novice, pulled off a historic upset in defeating his Democratic opponent Hilary Clinton, herself a former Senator and First Lady in winning the White House.
The Supreme Court vacancy now available due to the passing of jurist Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has upped the stakes that much more since her possible successor, Amy Comey Barrett, a conservative and Catholic federal judge and mother of seven, has been nominated by President Trump to replace RBG, a legend of sorts among most liberals which has upset the elites and much of the electorate on the left to no end. That development may indeed impact voter turnout on Super Tuesday.
Last night’s presidential debate may have only clouded the issue for some undecided voters while partisans likely remain entrenched in support of their candidate.
In spite of the shouting match that posed as a debate this week, my aim over the next several posts leading to the election on November 3rd, will be an attempt to share ‘my thoughts held captive to Christ’, in the hopes that wisdom and sanity may be imparted to you and yours, in a way that will help you to better think biblically in the final days of the campaign, including whether or not you will vote and how.
To Vote or Not to Vote? That is the question
The right to vote as we posted in the last election cycle, was not a biblical option for citizens of the Roman Empire in the time of Christ and is not a topic explicitly dealt with in scripture.
Therefore, a Christian holding to both the sufficiency and authority of scripture (a topic upon which I preached at my church last Sunday) should refrain from being overly dogmatic or judgmental towards those who choose to vote or not to vote.
However, because the Bible is sufficient and necessary, it is not silent as to how one may arrive at a decision as to whether to vote, before even deciding on which candidate to vote for. Where the scriptures do not provide a black and white command or imperative – positive or negative on such a question, a grey issue like this one may be clarified and converted to black and white for each individual Christian, by conviction of their own conscience in obedience to the wisdom found in God’s word.
While it is true that a Christian is not obligated to vote, as there is no scriptural command or admonition to do so, I would argue there would be much wisdom in doing so. The Lord has given disciples of Jesus Christ the clear command to be a ‘good steward’ or manager of all he has blessed us with and that would seem to include the right, if not the responsibility to vote.
Although a responsibility is not necessarily an obligation, American voters have the opportunity if not the responsibility to influence their governments’ administration of the Romans 13 mandate ordained by God, to protect a society by punishing evil and promoting what is good. They do not “bear the sword in vain” and thus, unlike much of the world (e.g. Cuba, China), citizens of the United States are afforded the freedom to make a great political impact on their future, by casting a vote for a particular party platform and candidate in the hopes it will better protect the citizenry.
Voting in my view is not a ‘must’ but a ‘can do’ and a ‘should do’, meaning a privilege as well as a responsibility which should be exercised if we truly want to comprehensively love our neighbor (Gal. 6:10), since government holds such sway in the lives of our neighbors. And if you don’t vote, then please save the complaints about what ifs and why did the outcome result in this or that.
I learned in a certain presidential election – oh, twenty years ago, that an election can be swung or decided by virtually a single vote or “hanging chads,” as was the case in Florida, when that outcome was decided by a mere 700 votes or so in my state.
Avoiding politics and silencing the Christian voice heard at the ballot box has proved to be a detriment to a nation as evidenced by the historic examples of the mainline German church bowing to Hitler’s Germany and the American church failing to unify in denouncing 19th century slavery and mid- 20th century Jim Crow laws.
Person or Platform?
What makes our decision more difficult than in prior generations, can be the problem of finding a worthy enough candidate to vote for.
What is a Christian to do, when he or she must choose to vote for a candidate whose character is questionable at best and whose conduct is sinful if not rebellious towards the biblical standards we hold to?
Furthermore, how do you vote when neither candidate of our currently exclusive, two-party system approaches a moral or biblical standard of behavior that we can be comfortable with, regardless of their faith profession?
This was a similar dilemma which evangelical Christian voters faced in the last presidential election, in the choice between Donald Trump, who admittedly had committed more than a bit of fornication and adultery in his life, to say little of his acerbic if not crude rhetoric, and Hillary Clinton, who was investigated on more than one ethical scandal in her career as an elected official.
That contentious election brought us the conflict between the #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary voters. This year, character does not seem to be as big an issue as it has been in the past. Despite new allegations of prior personal income tax evasion, President Trump’s first term in office has assuaged many fears among biblically minded voters. Though Senator Biden’s past cannot be classified as ‘squeaky clean’ either (i.e. past sexual harassment rumors and his involvement in his son’s business dealings), the character of the person running for office has now seemed to take a back seat to the politics or platform of policies of the person.
If you think that we’re voting for a ‘Commander in Chief’, rather than a Pastor in chief as President, a vote for a less than ideal candidate in character, would make some sense.
But make no mistake, God’s word speaks often to the grace and benefits of a virtuous “king” or leader for a nation (Pro. 10:9a; 14:34; 16:12; 25:5).
Indeed, a Presidential candidate of a biblically sound character would be optimal, but an optimal choice is not always available in a world of decisions we have to make on what is often, ‘good, better or best.’
If you were looking for signs of presidential dignity, decorum and character in debate number one to help guide your vote, you learned that you’ll need to look elsewhere, as voters over American history have had to do on occasion in the past (e.g. Lincoln-Douglas debates).
Remember that God has sovereignly used more than one non-kingdom, national leader or authority to advance his kingdom over redemptive history (Gen. 41:37-57; Dan. 2:46-49; Ezra 1:1-4 and Est. 6; 8).
Therefore, the best option for a Christian voter in this upcoming election, may be to consider the following criteria as most beneficial for the kingdom and this country:
- Competency (is the candidate intellectually, physically and emotionally capable of doing the job?)
- Content (which policy platform of the candidate and their party best represents the moral and political values consistent with the Bible?)
- Character (is the candidate trustworthy enough to place a confident vote for?)
Though the priority of qualifications may vary from one voter to the next, the truly independent and non-partisan, Christian voter may have to accept a ‘lesser of evils’ as the best available option and prayerfully ponder which of the myriad issues we face today must be prioritized in order to vote biblically.
The rest of this month’s posts will be dedicated to dissecting those issues and each candidate’s party platform and position on them.