Christians in the Age of Trump: A Contrasting View

Donald Trump rose to power amid controversy. Two and a half years into his administration, there is no sign that’s ever going to change. No doubt, he’ll continue to be a controversial figure long after his administration has moved into the history books.

I agree with much of what Greg Barkman had to say on the topic yesterday, particularly the negative assessments of President Trump’s character and behavior. I agree also that some of the President’s policies have been helpful to the nation and sensible in the eyes of conservatives. I concede, too, that in an election, deciding what candidate to support can be difficult—especially if we only consider those who have a chance of winning. If we accept that constriction, we’re stuck with what the parties decide to offer us.

Those are the primary points of agreement. Philosophically, I’m sure we agree on much as well. Most of the controversy among conservative Christians has to do with how to apply principles we share. Still, these principles are often not articulated in the more Trump-friendly perspectives I hear from fellow-Christians. I believe that if these truths are more front-of-mind, they’ll have more influence on how we evaluate presidents and make electoral choices.

1. Christian perspective is long and deep.

I’m using the word “Christian” in this post in a particular sense: not “the way Christians actually are,” but rather, “the way Christians ought to be,” that is, the way we are when we’re true to what Christianity is.

When I say the Christian perspective is long, I mean that Christian thought always puts now in the context of the whole story of humanity—which is God’s story. So our analysis of consequences should be quite different form the analysis that is normal in our culture. Rather than, “If we do X today, what will happen tomorrow?” Christians should think, “If we do X today, where does that fit into eternity?” From there, we work backward to the present: “What’s the consequence generations into the future? What’s the consequence in twenty years?” Admittedly, we often can’t answer those questions. But it gets easier when we get down to, “What impact does this have in a decade? Or in eight years?”

But I think we rarely start our analysis of consequences with the question of eternity. How will my choices in this moment matter when all this is over? (and they will matter—Matt. 12:36, 2 Cor. 5:10). When it comes to public policy and elected officials, we just about as rarely consider political outcomes a couple of election cycles down the road. This is a failure to look through the Christian lens.

The Christian perspective is long. It’s also deep. When we’re looking at things Christianly, we’re not only driven by our relationship to the God who sees the end from the beginning, but also to the God who sees and knows the real essences of things and is never fooled by mere appearances (Heb. 4:13, among many others).

The deep perspective takes some work. “Man looks on the outward appearance” (1 Sam 16:7), and by default, surface realities are what’s most real to us. But at the current political moment, we’re called to look past both the bashing of left-leaning punditry and the cheerleading of right-leaning (or right-off-the-edge!) punditry to sift out what’s really factual and wise. We’re called to tune out the noise and dazzle and hype, and read thoughtful, reflective considerations of the issues we face in our times.

2. Christian ethics looks beyond results.

Genuinely Christian ethics does include results when evaluating the rightness or wrongness of actions. “Love does no harm to a neighbor” (NIV, Rom. 13:10). “It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble” (ESV, Rom. 14:21).

But outcomes are not the only consideration, or even the primary consideration. This is because everything a Christian does is personal. Worshipful service of our Creator is supposed to be an ever-present motivational layer in all we do (Rom. 12:2). The apostle Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 6:16 that Christian sexual ethics is not only driven by the goal of holiness but by the fact that Christ Himself is joined in some way to everything we do. Elsewhere Paul describes his own motivations in life as a drive to “please” a real person—Jesus Christ, whom we call Lord (2 Cor. 5:9).

Whatever else we might say about Christian ethics, we have to acknowledge that what ultimately determines right and wrong from our perspective is how Somebody feels about it. This shatters the popular utilitarian reasoning that whatever brings about the greatest good for the greatest number is the morally right thing to do.

Because Christian thought takes the long and deep view, we know that discerning what really brings about the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run is often impossible to know. Because we evaluate our choices through a personal grid—the good pleasure of our God—human good isn’t even mainly what interests us.

It’s possible to accept all that and still believe that a Christian should (a) vote only for a candidate that can win, and (b) vote for the least objectionable candidate that can win. But there’s a lot of thinking and evaluating that should happen before we even get to that point. In the long, deep, and Personal analysis, what really constitutes “winning”?

3. Christian values emphasize persuasion over coercion, understanding over compliance.

If we managed to put the ideal candidate in office—one who lacks all the character and conduct negatives of a man like Donald Trump—there’s still only so much he could get done, and only so much that would survive the next swing of the electoral pendulum. There’s only so much external constraints can accomplish.

Christian thought understands that faith in God-revealed truth is eternally transforming (Rom. 10:9-10, 17). There isn’t anything on earth more mighty than genuine Christian faith, because that faith is a heart-soul-mind surrender that permanently entwines us with the Creator God.

No law, or set of rules, or series of court decisions can do that.

And even on the time-bound plane of social concerns and public policy, only winning hearts and minds—genuinely persuading people of enduring truths—can produce changes that endure through election cycles.

A president who can get some policies enacted but who does it in a way—and from an ethos—that closes minds to important ideas and values may well do more harm than good. On the other hand, a president who is opposed to Christian views of society and justice (as those on the left are) but who provides a clear and sharp contrast with the ideas at the core of both conservatism and Christianity, may unwittingly persuade many to reject leftist beliefs.

To sum up, none of us really knows beforehand what the long and deep outcomes of a presidential election are going to be. We often don’t even know that years afterwards, with much confidence. What Christians should do then, in the electoral ethics department, is ask ourselves what pleases our God. And though that also doesn’t make the decision obvious, it does change the equation. We know that our Lord is at least as interested in how we get somewhere as He is in where we arrive.

“…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” (Eph 5:8).

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Jay's picture

Voting is simply selecting a product. If I go to the grocery store to buy a box of cereal, I might buy Cheerios if I feel I need the oats to reduce cholesterol. If I have other perceived dietary needs, I might choose Raisin Bran. But I don't have to endorse General Mills or Kelloggs to vote for the box I take home. In 2016, I walked into the voting booth, and chose the option of possible conservative judges against the other option of liberal/socialist judges.

I'd love to know what kind of political leader a box of Cheerios is. I suppose it could lead me to make more breakfast or eat bacon instead. 

Seriously, while I understand that some say that a vote is not an endorsement, I think that is one of the silliest positions I've ever heard.  You are making a moral decision to elect someone who leads the nation and vast amounts of power, including the power to make war and potentially use nuclear weapons. It is absolutely a moral judgement to deem that Trump is more worthy of leading than Clinton was.

That's not a long-term strategy for success. Even if he manages to win a second term and all his judicial appointments live up to conservative expectations, he's not convincing young minds to embrace conservativism and pursue long-term goals. You may look down on it, but my vote was very much made with my civic duty in mind. 

Exactly.  You're fighting politics with politics.  If / when Trump loses in 2020, what's to stop the new Democratic President from adding two or four (or more) SCOTUS judges and packing the bench to the left of RBG?  It's something that is already being debated by their party.

All of these political appointments are nice, but they'll be undone.  It's not a cause to throw our hands in the air and say all is lost, but I don't think that allying with Trump is the right solution either.  He's done more damage to the evangelical / Christian 'brand' in America than ten thousand atheists have/could.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Larry wrote:
Some will be quick to point out that no state was decided by one vote. But that is to miss the point entirely. And yes there are states where the voting is so one-sided that a person can legitimately make a "protest" vote. I have done it. But there is a bigger picture going on.

I am convinced that there are a number of well-meaning people who are, dare I say, selfish. Their own idealism actually hurts the country and community they live in by refusing to vote wisely. They have satisfied themselves while hurting others. I think civics and voting is about more than us as individuals. It is about our community, our so-called social contract with one another to pursue a better society. When one votes only for themselves, it is a dangerously selfish thing to do.

I don't understand the reasoning on this at all.

So two people vote. One believes his choice is best for the country in the long run. So does the other. They made different choices on the ballot. So one is selfish for not choosing an "electable" candidate?

To reason this way you have to assume several things:

  • Winning an election is the only way to do what's best for the country in the long run
  • The result of the election is the only factor to consider in weighing the ethics of the choice
  • People have the power to force either-or choices us and make us morally responsible for the outcome

I reject all three of these premises.

The third one takes some explaining. I've already done it in another thread, but maybe it helps to repeat it here.

Suppose an evil madman kidnaps me, chains me to a chair and puts a box with a red button on it in front of me. He says "If you press the red button, you'll blow up a maternity ward at county hospital, killing 12 newborns. But if you don't press the red button, I'll blow up this other hospital's maternity ward and kill 100 newborns."

Am I responsible for the outcome if I say, "Sorry. You're the evil one here, and anything that happens is your doing not mine. I'm not playing your game"... and he blows up his bomb? (Or maybe both of them?)

I don't believe that it's Christian to analyze the morality of choices solely in terms of outcomes. Sometimes an act is just wrong regardless of what it accomplishes, and regardless of what the alternative would indirectly advance.

But even in the "outcomes only" calculation, it's far from obvious that electing a man who is bad for the country in 9 ways is better than indirectly helping another candidate who is bad for the country in 9 different ways. So, it's far from obvious that "winning" an election is the only way to do what's best for the country. (There are many ways to demonstrate this, but one more: sometimes a political party needs the discipline of losing in order to get in touch (or back in touch) with what it ought to be doing.)

It remains to be seen whether there is any hope at all for the GOP or if there will be any such thing as a conservative party in America for years to come. Many on Trump's right are opposing not only the left but the basic liberties and principles that made America great in the first place (ironic.... vs. MAGA). We no longer have conservatism in many of the institutions where it used to flourish. We now have Trumpism... which isn't quite the fascism many on the left try to make it out to be, but it is frighteningly anti-freedom and anti-virtue in many, many ways.

Conclusion: There is nothing selfish at all about doing what one believes to be morally right. It's the exact opposite. It's choosing the option that one believes meets a moral standard that transcends all of us.

I accept that excessive idealism in voting is damaging. But even the excessive idealists are not selfish to do what they believe is right. In this case, though, there is no excessive idealism in refusing to support Trump. He is far, far more problematic than anyone the GOP has nominated in a very long time.

Jay's picture

Great post.  One question, though.  When you say this:

I don't believe that it's Christian to analyze the morality of choices solely in terms of outcomes. Sometimes an act is just wrong regardless of what it accomplishes, and regardless of what the alternative would indirectly advance.

Aren't we really talking about buying into good ol' fashioned pragmatism?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

mmartin's picture

Regarding the thinking of rejecting Trump because he isn't a principled conservative or does enough to promote conservative values.

OK.

You know who definitely isn't a principled conservative or WILL most definitely destroy conservative values . . .

Biden, Harris, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, et al  You know, the folks who will support late term abortion, will open our borders, would never, ever appoint a conservative judge, who support the Green New Deal, who support tax-payer funded abortions for transgender males, would not support convicting illegals who commit crimes, etc., etc.

And we're concerned about Trump?????

We're concerned that Trump isn't conservative enough or that he's conservative in name only when the alternative is the outright destruction of conservative values.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I hesitate to use the term "pragmatism," because it has become kind of a bogeyman. It's a weaponized word that tends to be used for trying to dismiss an idea/behavior rather than explaining what's wrong with it. Plus, I've experienced plenty of frustration with what I'll call anti-pragmatism, or maybe better termed "anti-practicality."

I believe we're all pragmatic/practical/outcome-based much of the time, and reality requires us to be. The problems come from...

  • Not looking beyond short-term outcomes
  • Not looking beyond superficial/apparent outcomes
  • Not properly weighing outcomes for which matter most
  • Forgetting to consider factors that aren't outcome based, or if considering them, not properly weighing their importance relative to the outcomes

So, compared to some, I'm a pretty pragmatic guy--and not very idealistic.

In public policy, for example, I'm an incrementalist about abortion restrictions because I think it's the more effective way to move toward a culture of life. And in presidents, I've never been a single-issue voter or even a "top ten conservative convictions" voter. I've often voted for candidates I thought were inadequate on conservative principles and/or effectiveness at getting good policy accomplished. I've never voted for a candidate who was brutish, disloyal, ignorant/confused on basic American principles like freedom of speech and freedom of the press, or of fundamentally bad character.

Even that is partly for pragmatic reasons: the outcomes of a commander in chief who is mean spirited, crude, and to borrow a phrase, "bellicose and pugilistic"--are far more pervasive and enduring than just what laws get passed or what executive orders are handed down. So my thinking on this is almost as outcome-based as anyone else's: I'm just looking at different outcomes--less obvious and immediate ones. Less policy-focused ones. I'm looking at how we get policy done, not just what gets done.

But where I differ from pure pragmatists is in factoring in that an act can be morally wrong even if it has desirable outcomes--sometimes, even if it has more desirable outcomes than undesirable outcomes.

A good question to test for "excessive/lazy pragmatism" would be this: How despicable would a GOP nominee have to be before you'd see it as wrong to vote for him? If the only answer I have is one that is relative to the other electable candidate, my ethics needs reevaluating... that's pragmatism of the worst sort.

pvawter's picture

mmartin wrote:

Regarding the thinking of rejecting Trump because he isn't a principled conservative or does enough to promote conservative values.

OK.

You know who definitely isn't a principled conservative or WILL most definitely destroy conservative values . . .

Biden, Harris, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, et al  You know, the folks who will support late term abortion, will open our borders, would never, ever appoint a conservative judge, who support the Green New Deal, who support tax-payer funded abortions for transgender males, etc., etc.

And we're concerned about Trump???

 

We're concerned that Trump isn't conservative enough or that he's conservative in name only when the alternative is the outright destruction of conservative values.

I find this characterization ridiculous. Of course we're concerned about Trump. What do I care about all the God-haters on the other side? None of them will ever have a chance to earn my vote with that platform.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Yes, as Christians we have to be "concerned" about everything we do. That would have to include how we do our part of governing: who we identify with, who we vote for.

Biden, Harris, Booker, Buttigieg, Castro, et al  You know, the folks who will support late term abortion, will open our borders, would never, ever appoint a conservative judge, who support the Green New Deal, who support tax-payer funded abortions for transgender males, etc., etc.

And we're concerned about Trump???

There are some assumptions here and it's our duty to examine our assumptions and see they're true. Among them:

  • Are policy outcomes the only things that matter in deciding who we support?
  • Is what gets done all that matters, or does how we get it done matter?
  • Does damage to the nation's ability to conduct productive public discourse count for anything?
  • Do frequent attacks on basic liberties such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press matter less than these other policy concerns?
  • Does the ability to actually make a coherent case for policy and reach future voters with persuasive ideas matter for anything?
  • Does contributing greatly to a culture of disrespect, lack of restraint, and lack of reflection count for anything?

I could go on. But the current array of notions coming from the Democratic array of candidates is really mostly just desperate efforts to get the party nomination. Right now, both parties are dominated by the most combative and extreme elements, so winning a nomination means pandering to fringe elements. Unfortuantely, on the right the fringe elements are now the establishment.

Darrell Post's picture

"Seriously, while I understand that some say that a vote is not an endorsement, I think that is one of the silliest positions I've ever heard.  You are making a moral decision to elect someone who leads the nation and vast amounts of power, including the power to make war and potentially use nuclear weapons. It is absolutely a moral judgement to deem that Trump is more worthy of leading than Clinton was."

Is it silly because you have never considered it? I would invite you to consider re-training your conscience. It is not a moral decision to cast a ballot for a candidate. You have trained your conscience to think this way, so of course you would feel guilty if you voted for someone less than ideal. Both Clinton and Trump were a danger in respect to leading the nation with all its power and making war. One of them promised to deliver the product of conservative judges, and the other promised to fill court vacancies with young socialists. The high courts are not lost for the rest of my life because Clinton didn't win. 

Darrell Post's picture

"How despicable would a GOP nominee have to be before you'd see it as wrong to vote for him? If the only answer I have is one that is relative to the other electable candidate, my ethics needs reevaluating... that's pragmatism of the worst sort."

The question that matters is which candidate has something to offer. If both candidates are exactly the same and neither has anything worthwhile to offer, then I see no reason to vote for the GOP nominee. That wasn't the case in 2016 as Trump promised to deliver conservative judges whose influence will be around long after Trump is out of office and even in his grave. 

Again, I assert that voting is simply not the same as endorsing. If I need to buy a sheet of plywood, I can go to Home Depot in good conscience and buy it, even though this company has chosen to endorse things I would never stand for. Trump offered a product different from Clinton--a meaningful difference in an area that affects society for years to come. By voting, I simply said, yes, would rather have that outcome than the alternative. It does not mean I endorse Trump's boorish behavior, his immorality, his temper, etc. Clinton was all these things too, though expressed in different ways. But the product she offered was 6-3 socialist supreme court that would likely last the next 20 years or so, along with all the lower courts stuffed with socialists as well. 

In the New Testament, the apostles never had the chance to vote for Caesar, who was never up for election. But based on how Paul utilized his citizenship, I have ever confidence that had there been an election for Caesar and both candidates for Caesar were personally immoral, but one wished to tolerate Christians and the other wanted to persecute Christians, Paul would have had no problem voting for the candidate who offered the product of tolerance. 

The voting booth is simply a place where a voter decides which of the options offer a product that the voter would prefer be their future as a society. I wished the GOP had someone else be the nominee who would have delivered on the judges as well as so many other areas of leadership that would have benefited society. But that wasn't an option. I voted simply to choose one product over the other. That product was defective in many ways, but it was a choice of one or the other, and it simply had nothing to do with my personal morality, my personal ethics, or giving an account before the Lord, or any of those things. It was simply a vote--a vote that in the end counted for nothing because all 13 of Virginia's electoral votes went to support Clinton. 

 

Jay's picture

Is it silly because you have never considered it?

We've been discussing Trump's run through the GOP primaries, the general election, and since he won.  Yes, I understand your position pretty well, I just disagree with it.  I don't think that electing Trump is worth the payoff of court justices.  I'm not sure what else there is to consider. 

I would invite you to consider re-training your conscience. It is not a moral decision to cast a ballot for a candidate.

I would invite you to respond to my rationale as described in an earlier post.  I don't think that my conscience needs to be "re-trained" on this matter, and have to wonder why you're even phrasing it that way.  It's a little heavy-handed.

You have trained your conscience to think this way, so of course you would feel guilty if you voted for someone less than ideal. Both Clinton and Trump were a danger in respect to leading the nation with all its power and making war. One of them promised to deliver the product of conservative judges, and the other promised to fill court vacancies with young socialists. The high courts are not lost for the rest of my life because Clinton didn't win. 

I know this is hard to understand, so I'll say it again - electing Trump is not worth the gain of SCOTUS and lower court justices. Full stop.

I'm not counting HRC because we can't know what she would have done since she lost.  Christians need to stop leaning on political power to defend our rights and freedoms.  Those are given by God, and the church needs to come to grips with the reality that we are not going to be able to retain them in 21st Century America.  Electing Trump to get good justices is like building a bigger wall around a sandcastle when the tide is coming in. 

The collapse of this civilization that we love is already happening.  Let's re-frame and retrain to part of a hated minority (cf. John 3:19-21, John 15:18-25) rather than to unequally yoke ourselves to someone who is an embodiment of the things that we tell people to repent and turn from.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Larry's picture

Moderator

I’m just not willing to vote for the guy that is one percent to the right of the democrats which would be necessary from the position you are advocating.

But is it only 1% (assuming we can measure it with such a metric)? Was Gorsuch 1% better than who Clinton would have nominated? Or other judges all the way down? And how many percents better would it need to be until you are willing? 

And remove the specifics of 2016 and talk about the principle. How do we give our children a chance? By abandoning it and cashing it all in? Or by voting for someone who can stave off the ultimate for a while in hopes of fighting another day?

Everyone has to make their choice on where the line is drawn, but my point is that there is something bigger than self in this. In a few years, I will be gone and you will too. But what will we leave for those behind us? 

If Bernie was the Democrat candidate and Biden the Republican would you vote for Biden to fight the left?

Possibly, depending on a bunch of factors. 

 That’s the problem of course with a person who lies continually.

There's no doubt that Trump lies a lot. He's a politician. That's a regular occurrence. It's not real difference with some other politician. The other option lied repeatedly including to Congress and attempted to obstruct justice, if the reports are accurate. But again, I think we have a civic duty to maintain something in hopes of a future chance.

 

Larry's picture

Moderator

pvawter wrote: That's not a long-term strategy for success. 

But a long-term strategy for success is give the courts to liberal and progressive judges with lifetime appointments? Let's say you give up the election to a liberal/progressive but manage to convince everyone to become conservative. It won't matter much because our country is being run from the courts now with lifetime appointments. There is not much "civic" left at that point. 

I understand the concerns. I don't understand capitulation. It's one thing to lose. It's quite another thing not to even fight. There comes a point where giving up kills it rather than giving an opportunity for a reboot. I think minimizing damage and surviving to fight another day is a better option. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

electing Trump is not worth the gain of SCOTUS and lower court justices. Full stop.

This seems so fundamentally misguided it almost has to be a parody. It is hard to fathom that this is a serious argument. The courts are where the future of law is. Even in the two years, we have seen the courts have tremendous power. Legislatures around the country are passing laws knowing that SCOTUS will determine if they are legitimate laws. Remember the Alabama abortion law? That has the potential to change the abortion debate because it does the very thing Powell said was necessary to overturn Roe. When that gets to SCOTUS, would you rather have Gorsuch and Kavanaugh? Or two of Clinton's nominees? 

I think what the courts are doing is totally unconstitutional. But it is the current way and the way of the future most likely. To say that isn't worth it is something I can't fathom.

Christians need to stop leaning on political power to defend our rights and freedoms. 

This is a fundamental error in understanding two kingdoms and civic duty. Our rights and freedoms are not God-given per se; else everyone around the globe would have them, and everyone in history. They are part of our constitutional system. And Christians are not required to voluntarily give them up.

The collapse of this civilization that we love is already happening. 

But I think you can't see how your approach is hastening this. And how can we say we love our civilization if we don't do what we can do to protect it? Again, I don't get it.

Darrell Post's picture

Jay, fair enough, we have radically different world-views and radically different opinions as to the importance of the courts as they relate to our society and the direction the country is headed. Of course you are free to vote for whatever future you want, just as I am and will continue to do so. But its still true that voting is not endorsing, and it is certainly not yoking ourselves.

Larry's picture

Moderator

I don't understand the reasoning on this at all.

It seems so simple. I think perhaps the difference is that you elevate belief to the status of reality, that if someone believes something it is therefore okay. I know you don't actually believe that, but that seems the essence of the argument you make here--that if one believes his choice is best, it is the right choice to make.

Am I responsible for the outcome if I say, "Sorry. You're the evil one here, and anything that happens is your doing not mine. I'm not playing your game"... and he blows up his bomb? (Or maybe both of them?)

Yes, you are responsible for 88 deaths that would not have occurred had you made a different choice. That doesn't make your culpable in the same way as the kidnapper, but still culpable because people died who didn't have to and you passed on the chance to save some. But consider this: You see a child kidnapped on your street, and you walk in your house and do nothing. Are you culpable? Of course, to some degree you are because you had a duty to life and to human dignity to at least try, even if you failed. You aren't the kidnapper but you had the chance to stop it and you didn't. How are you not culpable in some way?

I don't believe that it's Christian to analyze the morality of choices solely in terms of outcomes. 

I agree.

But even in the "outcomes only" calculation, it's far from obvious that electing a man who is bad for the country in 9 ways is better than indirectly helping another candidate who is bad for the country in 9 different ways.

I think it's pretty obvious if the 9 ways are substantially different, particularly if the good is substantially different. Look at it this way: You will get a bad person either way (and will until Jesus is on the ballot). And you have to weigh the bad against the good or the better even if not good. And that's what I think you aren't doing. 

Your argument seems the type that would not take $1000 because it isn't $10,000. I say take what you can get and work for more later, in most cases.

Conclusion: There is nothing selfish at all about doing what one believes to be morally right. It's the exact opposite. It's choosing the option that one believes meets a moral standard that transcends all of us.

I think this is wrong. It can be incredibly selfish, even immoral and wicked to do what one believes to be morally right. This is the argument used in support of abortion: "I think it is morally wrong to bring a child into this world that I believe I am unready to have. Therefore I will abort him or her." Yoiu would gladly say such a belief is wrong, even if the person really, really, really believes it.

As I said above, this puts right and wrong in the area of belief rather than in the area of reality. Something is right or wrong regardless of what one believes it to be. Belief does not make something right or wrong. 

In an ideal world, my preferred candidate would have been on the ballot. Or yours. Or anyone else's here which surely would have been better in many ways than Trump (though probably not in all ways). But in the end, we had the choices we had. And I think we had and have a duty to make the best possible choice, even if it isn't ideal.

Jay's picture

Aaron, I see your point about the term "pragmatic" - thanks for explaining your thinking.  I think that the argument can be made that it is, in fact, pragmatism but it's probably too inflammatory to use here.

Jay, fair enough, we have radically different world-views and radically different opinions as to the importance of the courts as they relate to our society and the direction the country is headed. Of course you are free to vote for whatever future you want, just as I am and will continue to do so. But its still true that voting is not endorsing, and it is certainly not yoking ourselves.

It's fine if you disagree with me - we all give accounts for our actions to God.  But I'd still like you to respond to the points I made earlier rather than just saying that we have "radically different worldviews" or that I need to "re-train my conscience".  Deal with the substance of what I'm saying.

As for not being equally yoked - 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 isn't simply talking about marriage.  It's talking about making any kind of alliance with unbelievers and their gods.  There's all sorts of warnings in the OT as well about the people of God leaning on political alliances to protect them instead of leaning on and trusting in God.

You say that we aren't 'yoked' with Trump.  I'd ask you to spend some time googling or binging Trump and Evangelicals and looking through the results.  Whether we want to admit it or not, one of the core alliances in Trump's political base has been and will always be Evangelical / Fundamentalist support; Pew Research put it at 69% in March of this year.  We can disavow it all we want, but the unsaved world sees it that way, and that's who we are supposed to be reaching out to.  We should be different, blameless, holy, and unspotted from the world, not equated with an adulterer, liar, gossip, and impulsive person.  

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Darrell Post's picture

"As for not being equally yoked - 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 isn't simply talking about marriage.  It's talking about making any kind of alliance with unbelievers and their gods."

I agree its more than marriage. I also would say I wouldn't be comfortable being Trump's VP. But a vote simply is NOT yoking. Its saying of the two candidates, I would rather have this one, because this one promises to deliver a product more in line with the sort of society I would like the country to be. Following your standard, you should not shop in most stores, because if you buy a 2x4 at Home Depot, you have yoked up with them and their behavior of supporting things that go against God. And a purchase Home Depot actually involves the exchange of money. To vote you don't even have to put down a $20 bill. You just walk in and mark a ballot. 

And its also incorrect to suggest most fundamentalists/evangelicals supported Trump. If you go back and look at the GOP primaries, it was abundantly clear that most GOP voters were in favor of someone else, as I was. I had Trump at 16th out of the 16 GOP candidates. I lobbied hard for the party to choose someone else. I know there are the Falwells out there, and I scratch my head in disbelief that they supported Trump during the primary. But the majority of evangelicals and fundamentalists were for someone else. When it came to the general election, the options were Trump or Clinton. I wasn't going to vote for Trump at first because I simply did not trust him, and I didn't think either candidate was fit for the office. But when polling showed VA could be close, and then Trump made the promise to appoint conservative judges, I decided there was enough value there to vote in favor of conservative judges. 

"We should be different, blameless, holy, and unspotted from the world, not equated with an adulterer, liar, gossip, and impulsive person."

I agree wholeheartedly with this statement. Voting for Trump did not equate me with him any more than buying a 2x4 at Home Depot equates me with the ownership who gives a portion of the money I spend there to godless organizations. 

 

 

 

 

Darrell Post's picture

Furthermore, a vote for Trump was more that a vote for one man and his promise of conservative judges. It was also a vice president who breaks ties in the senate, for all the many staff positions, from Secretary of State on down. These appointments do affect our society greatly as many decisions made by these departments are binding without even a vote from congress. The Secretary of Education for instance has tremendous power to affect what goes on in our country in terms of rules and regulations. 

GregH's picture

Some of the angst here is stunning. Is it really so hard for some people to understand that some of us will not support Trump because we think his "winning" is doing incalculable damage in other ways and that in the long run, we would have been better off without those "wins"?

I am not asking anyone to agree. I am just wondering why it is so hard for some to even understand the rationale. It is not a hard or complicated rationale and it is most certainly a credible one.

Jay's picture

The Woodward book was on sale yesterday at my local library for $1; I almost picked it up but passed.  Do you think it's worth picking up, Tyler?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Darrell Post's picture

Its hard for some of us to understand how others are so quick to dismiss the incalculable damage that would have been done by a 6-3 socialist SCOTUS for the next 20 years. We are never going to agree on this. But the courts have incredible power, and the judges put in place by Trump will have a lingering positive effect long after Trump and his temper are gone. As I said before, I ranked him 16th out of the 16 GOP primary contenders. But am very thankful we have a 5-4 conservative majority on the SCOTUS, and that the lower courts have been stuffed with conservative appointments. 

Darrell Post's picture

The GOP primary numbers do not lie. They have not changed no matter who writes what book. Most GOP voters, evangelical or otherwise, preferred one of the many other options throughout the GOP primary. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

Yes. But, I'd just check it out from the library - you'll never read it again. It'll end up like Woodward's Bush trilogy, clogging the shelves at a Goodwill near you in a few years. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

josh p's picture

Larry wrote:

I’m just not willing to vote for the guy that is one percent to the right of the democrats which would be necessary from the position you are advocating.

But is it only 1% (assuming we can measure it with such a metric)? Was Gorsuch 1% better than who Clinton would have nominated? Or other judges all the way down? And how many percents better would it need to be until you are willing? 

And remove the specifics of 2016 and talk about the principle. How do we give our children a chance? By abandoning it and cashing it all in? Or by voting for someone who can stave off the ultimate for a while in hopes of fighting another day?

Everyone has to make their choice on where the line is drawn, but my point is that there is something bigger than self in this. In a few years, I will be gone and you will too. But what will we leave for those behind us? 

If Bernie was the Democrat candidate and Biden the Republican would you vote for Biden to fight the left?

Possibly, depending on a bunch of factors. 

 That’s the problem of course with a person who lies continually.

There's no doubt that Trump lies a lot. He's a politician. That's a regular occurrence. It's not real difference with some other politician. The other option lied repeatedly including to Congress and attempted to obstruct justice, if the reports are accurate. But again, I think we have a civic duty to maintain something in hopes of a future chance.

 

I mentioned above that Trump did some things I wasn’t expecting. The conservative judges was one thing (although I have some doubts about Kavanaugh). The percentage thing was a point I was making. Obviously it’s not quantifiable in that way. If they are virtually indistinguishable (from my perspective) I would not pull the lever for either option. My duty is to honor God with my whole life, which of course includes voting. I don’t take the “civic duty” argument as far as some do (not necessarily saying you). It would not be a sin to abstain totally from voting. Your selfish argument doesn’t hold water imo. I had my children in mind when I voted for someone besides Trump. I’m more and more convinced I made the right decision. YMMV. 

pvawter's picture

Larry wrote:

In an ideal world, my preferred candidate would have been on the ballot. Or yours. Or anyone else's here which surely would have been better in many ways than Trump (though probably not in all ways). But in the end, we had the choices we had. And I think we had and have a duty to make the best possible choice, even if it isn't ideal.

By accepting the choice of Trump/Clinton, you virtually guaranteed that your preferred candidate will not be on the ballot in the future either. Your children and grandchildren will likely see far more Trump-like candidates in the future because "He fights!" and "You may get tired of winning!" So voting for Trump was not necessarily playing the long game, judicial appointments notwithstanding.

Darrell Post's picture

"By accepting the choice of Trump/Clinton, you virtually guaranteed that your preferred candidate will not be on the ballot in the future either. Your children and grandchildren will likely see far more Trump-like candidates in the future because "He fights!" and "You may get tired of winning!" So voting for Trump was not necessarily playing the long game, judicial appointments notwithstanding."

It wasn't a matter of "accepting" the Trump or Clinton ballot...that was the reality whether you accept it or not. Those were the options if you wanted to have a say in the outcome. I totally do not buy the argument that Trump will lead to more Trump-like candidates in the future. Andrew Jackson was much like Trump, and so was Theodore Roosevelt who once boasted about his frustration with a Japanese diplomatic delegation, how he wanted to jump up and knock their heads together to get them to understand. 

GregH talks about the incalculable damage Trump is doing. I think that's a bit over the top, but accepting the premise that he is, then with the choices of Clinton or Trump, incalculable damage was a foregone conclusion. So if both options on the ballot will do incalculable damage, why not at least get conservative judges out of it--judges that will long outlast Trump's presidency?

Again, I am far from a Trump cheerleader. I wish we had had one of the other 16 options who ran in the GOP primary. The thrust of what I have been saying is that there is simply nothing wrong with voting to get what you can. Voting is not endorsing, and that many have trained themselves to think so, and so they cannot in good conscience vote for less than an ideal candidate. Looking forward at the rapid decline in our culture, I am wondering if many of you should just turn in your voter ID card right now and never bother to vote again--given that we will likely never again see a candidate running who is close to the Christian ideal. 

I get it that it was a tough call for many to vote or not vote for Trump, but for those who chose not to, and continue to be resolute in that decision, I am glad that you too will be able to benefit from the fruits of the conservative judges for years to come--whether or not you wanted them. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I can't quite keep up with all the back and forth, but a couple of arguments I can revisit:

  • The "it's selfish" argument
  • The "vote is not an endorsement" thesis

[Aaron's] Conclusion: There is nothing selfish at all about doing what one believes to be morally right. It's the exact opposite. It's choosing the option that one believes meets a moral standard that transcends all of us.

[Rebuttal] I think this is wrong. It can be incredibly selfish, even immoral and wicked to do what one believes to be morally right. This is the argument used in support of abortion: "I think it is morally wrong to bring a child into this world that I believe I am unready to have. Therefore I will abort him or her." Yoiu would gladly say such a belief is wrong, even if the person really, really, really believes it.

A few things about that:

  • An act can be unselfish and still be wrong for completely different reasons
  • An act motivated by desire to conform to a moral standard is not usually a selfishly motivated act. Some believe "morally right" = "what only I can judge for myself," but most do not. In any case...
  • Trying to discern and do what's morally right in the eyes of God cannot be construed as a selfishly motivated act. In this debate, those who see backing a candidate who lacks the basics of good character as morally wrong are people who believe the standard of moral rightness and wrongness comes from God, not themselves.
  • If we're talking about something other than motivation, it's unlikely that "selfish" has much meaning. The word is usually a motivational word.
  • This debate isn't helped at all by claims that those who see it differently are acting with selfish motivations.
  • Even if true, it's a classic case of the ad hominem fallacy. ("Ad hominem" is not synonymous with "personal attack"--I'm not offended or anything like that.) The fallacy reasons that a claim must be false because the person making it has some negative quality. Truth doesn't work that way.

On the vote is not an endorsement thesis

  • I don't think the vote has to be an endorsement to be wrong.
  • We may choose not to call it an "endorsement," but it is certainly "an act aimed at putting an individual in power."

One might object that, "No, it's an act aimed at keeping another person from gaining power." I certainly respect that, and that's often how I vote. If who I'm acting to keep out of power were the only factor in evaluating the ethics of voting, that would be the end of it. (But I have to add that there is really no separating the two: a vote aimed at preventing candidate A from gaining power is also a vote aimed at helping candidate B gain power.)

But my thesis is that:

  • The outcome of who is prevented from gaining power is not the only ethical factor
  • Election outcomes (as in who wins and loses) are not the only factors
  • Long term consequences and non-legislative/executive/judicial consequences are important but aren't the only factors either
  • Some acts can be wrong independently of outcomes
  • I believe helping a man such as Donald Trump gain power is wrong independently of outcomes (though I also believe there are many widely-overlooked negative outcomes as well)

If someone wants to characterize that as "selfish," they can do that, but I really don't think it's possible to make a very persuasive case for that claim, or that, even if true, it renders the argument false. (People can be selfish and correct and also unselfish and incorrect.)

josh p's picture

Darrell Post wrote:

"By accepting the choice of Trump/Clinton, you virtually guaranteed that your preferred candidate will not be on the ballot in the future either. Your children and grandchildren will likely see far more Trump-like candidates in the future because "He fights!" and "You may get tired of winning!" So voting for Trump was not necessarily playing the long game, judicial appointments notwithstanding."

It wasn't a matter of "accepting" the Trump or Clinton ballot...that was the reality whether you accept it or not. Those were the options if you wanted to have a say in the outcome. I totally do not buy the argument that Trump will lead to more Trump-like candidates in the future. Andrew Jackson was much like Trump, and so was Theodore Roosevelt who once boasted about his frustration with a Japanese diplomatic delegation, how he wanted to jump up and knock their heads together to get them to understand. 

GregH talks about the incalculable damage Trump is doing. I think that's a bit over the top, but accepting the premise that he is, then with the choices of Clinton or Trump, incalculable damage was a foregone conclusion. So if both options on the ballot will do incalculable damage, why not at least get conservative judges out of it--judges that will long outlast Trump's presidency?

Again, I am far from a Trump cheerleader. I wish we had had one of the other 16 options who ran in the GOP primary. The thrust of what I have been saying is that there is simply nothing wrong with voting to get what you can. Voting is not endorsing, and that many have trained themselves to think so, and so they cannot in good conscience vote for less than an ideal candidate. Looking forward at the rapid decline in our culture, I am wondering if many of you should just turn in your voter ID card right now and never bother to vote again--given that we will likely never again see a candidate running who is close to the Christian ideal. 

I get it that it was a tough call for many to vote or not vote for Trump, but for those who chose not to, and continue to be resolute in that decision, I am glad that you too will be able to benefit from the fruits of the conservative judges for years to come--whether or not you wanted them. 

Speaking only for myself, I am not looking for the  “Christian Ideal” I’m looking for a politician with acceptable (to me) political positions. The person that I voted made less Christian pretense than Trump. It would of course be preferable to have an honest man but as Larry pointed out those are rare in politics. Trump comes across as an ignorant megalomaniac which I do think hurts the country. That would be my moral concern as it directly affects the credibility of the nation. 

Jay's picture

[Rebuttal] I think this is wrong. It can be incredibly selfish, even immoral and wicked to do what one believes to be morally right. This is the argument used in support of abortion: "I think it is morally wrong to bring a child into this world that I believe I am unready to have. Therefore I will abort him or her." You would gladly say such a belief is wrong, even if the person really, really, really believes it.

I would argue that these are different examples.  One (abortion) is tied to the moral choices of a mother and whatever ethical code they individually hold to...usually selfism or something like that.  There is no objective moral standard in play other than what the individual wants.

For those of us who are Never Trump, the moral standard that we are basing our decisions on is (roughly) "neither of these options are acceptable to God, therefore I will vote third party or not at all because I don't want to be associated with either."

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

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