Rand Paul and other Trump defenders are lying to you about the sixth amendment

"The scope and reach of the Sixth Amendment has been extensively litigated, and it most assuredly does not apply to the House’s impeachment inquiry." - David French

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Don Johnson's picture

and I don't share the opinion.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I did some digging a while back on whether all human actions have moral significance. It seemed obvious as the nose on my face (not quite Jimmy Durante, but still pretty obvious!) that they are. How could  beings made in God's image, who exist for the purpose of demonstrating His glory, do anything that doesn't matter?

But when I got a few leagues into Aristotle and Aquinas (not what I'd call a "deep dive" at this point), they suggested when a person does something completely thoughtless, like blink or scratch their nose, it's probably not moral.

They seemed to think just about everything else would be though.

In any case, I can't believe that something as important as participating in the process of putting a ruler in power can be dismissed as not moral (no, "moral" and "political" are not mutually exclusive categories!). Maybe we're not using the same definition of "moral." 

In any case, I wanted to say a bit more on the dilemma I introduced earlier... which is being, as usual when I press for thoughtful analysis of the ethics of voting, interestingly ignored. Smile

My thinking on this is getting lengthy, though, and I should probably put together something systematic for the main article section. 

Here's what hit me this morning:

  • It's probably not possible to properly weigh the ethics of an action in the context of its alternatives unless you have first weighed the ethics of that action without considering its alternatives.

Here's why: in the case of the dilemma I posted, we intuitively understand that the option of killing the woman in order to save the crowd requires justification. But we only understand this because killing the woman would normally be wrong if we considered it apart from alternatives and indirect consequences. Looking at the act for its own sake is what tells us it needs justification. We can do it automatically/intuitively, but we still have to do it.

We all agree that killing people is, by default, wrong. It can be justified, but it's only right if it is justified.

I submit that the ethics of voting is less intuitive for many (obviously!). But the fact that we don't intuitively consider the act of voting for Person A on its own merits just means we need to do it consciously as an ethical discipline. If you look at a grown up child who rants and raves near lunacy daily in public, publicly humiliates subordinates who have been loyal to him (and mysteriously remain loyal!), executes highly questionable foreign policy deals by personal lawyer and unsecured cell phone, tolerates racists in his administration and courts them for votes, lauds evil dictators, brags about womanizing, etc. , etc. ....  If we look at this on its own apart from the alternatives, we can see that voting for such a man is an act that requires justification.

With that as a starting point, it's at lest potentially possible to evaluate whether such a vote can be justified, and, if so, what would justify it.

But many haven't even gotten to square one and recognized that it requires justification--because they never stop looking at the alternatives... even for a moment! To which I say, hey, give it a try. What have you got to lose by considering the whole thing in a different light for a bit?

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron,

I'd agree that voting for Trump is action that needs to be justified.  As many of us have discussed, since at least 2016, he was nowhere near the top for the vast majority of evangelicals.  However, I can't really consider that action in a vacuum.  God instituted government, and we know it's better than anarchy, probably even under Nero.  So if the choice is Trump vs. anarchy, that's an easy one.  If the choice is Trump vs. someone else, I have to evaluate both of them.

Unless I somehow get into a situation where not electing Trump means that God will just lead us himself, perfectly, with no human agent, I have to consider Trump in comparison with the alternatives.  Taking a life vs not doing so is something that you can much more easily evaluate on its own, but voting, kind of by definition, means there is a choice between some number of alternatives.  I have seen races on my ballots where someone is running unopposed, but out of principle, I never cast a vote for those, because I have no choice, and my "vote" is meaningless.

Dave Barnhart

Don Johnson's picture

It doesn't really matter if its a Trump or a Reagan (though I suspect it is easier to justify Reagan).

Even then, one votes with incomplete information, based on a wide range of considerations, and votes the way one thinks will be best for the country going forward. You aren't voting for sainthood. You are voting for someone to be the national administrator (in the case of a president).

You may not like any of the choices offered for any number of reasons. In such a case, you have to decide, first of all, whether you will vote at all. (I've always maintained there is NO moral obligation to vote. Not voting can be a kind of vote by itself, it is "none of the above," and is the only way you can express that choice.)

If you decide to vote, based on whatever information you're able to gather, you vote and see what happens. I don't see how you can be held morally responsible if the guy you voted for wins and turns out to be a louse, or more of a louse than anyone else who might have been elected. You make a decision based on all the information you can get.

As it stands, if I had a vote in 2016, I would have voted for someone other than Trump. This time around, I think I would vote for him, given the information we currently have. He's not my favorite as a person, but I think he would do the best job of those currently running. I don't like the fawning adulation that many Christians give to him. That's kind of disgusting. But of the choices available, he is doing and will probably continue to do a better job.

And I'm quite happy to continue to disagree with Aristotle, Aquinas and any other alledged thinker you can trot out!

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Some things I agree with...

  1. Aristotle and Aquinas could be wrong.
  2. Information about candidates is always somewhat uncertain.
  3. We do have to look at election choices in the context of who else is on the ballot.

On item 1: However, it really takes some work to explain how the act of helping put a ruler in power could be morally neutral. It would be hard work to explain how any motivated action could be morally neutral. If you think about it and do it for reasons, then the act of thinking, tying in your values, using your judgment... I can't see how these could be performed in a morally neutral way. I'm trying to be open on this, but how would it be possible? It's not like Aristotle and Aquinas were slouches who didn't put any thought into their ideas about ethics.

On item 2: I can't see how that changes anything. We make decisions and act on them daily in reference to things where the outcomes are less than entirely certain. They're still right or wrong things to do... or can be decided in right or wrong ways. I don't know if borrowing money to fix some safety features on my car is going to turn out to have been smart or not. Still, my decision is right or it's wrong. But in the case of Trump, it was never what we didn't know that was important. It was what we did know, and know with even more certainty now. There can be little doubt what sort of man he is.

On item 3: It's both-and. So we need to look at candidates both in the context of the alternatives and also on their own merits. If we do both, the second evaluation (which really ought to be first) raises important questions: What are the duties of American citizens? What obligations does the design of our system place on voters? What sort of people are supposed to be rejected as candidates? What are the long term consequences of backing a candidate who remakes an entire party in his own image--and that image is contrary to the core of what that party used to be about?

I could go on.

If it can be wrong to back a candidate because he lacks the basic qualities necessary in any just ruler, then we have to consider whether a particular candidate fails that test. If Trump doesn't fail that test, who would? How damaging and dangerous would he have to be? I know for many the answer is "only less damaging than the other guy," but that angle ignores the case I've been making (most of the pieces of which have been acknowledged in one way or another) that it's possible for a person to be so ill suited for leadership that there is no opponent bad enough to make voting for him justified.

The Bible is pretty clear that bad rulers do damage and people are hurt. So this is not a trivial or hypothetical question.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Because I believe acts can be wrong in an of themselves, no matter how much worse the alternative(s) may be or seem to be, evaluating whom to vote for has a different starting point. I do not begin with "What will happen if I don't?" I begin with "Is it wrong in itself?"

But that assumes that the vote is wrong in itself, which seems to be a fundamental misapplication of the Bible to civics. I think this is where you go off track. I can agree that we have individual consciences about voting and we must live by them, but we also must recognize that consciences can be poorly trained so that one sees something as sinful that isn't sinful at all. 

Once you admit that the all votes are for "the lesser of two evils," you have lost the core issue of the argument. Then the question becomes very simple. Any vote you cast is sinful (given your paradigm). You are electing a person deficient in character to office. You are willing to tolerate a certain amount of deficiency of character.

So, if there are two and only two outcomes--More evil and less evil--and both of them involve someone of significant lack of moral character, which one is sinful? Isn't is clearly sinful to vote in a way that increases evil rather than to vote in a way that decreases evil or limits evil? In other words, you could vote in way that limits evil or vote in a way that increases evil. Which is the more righteous vote?

Let's try this: There are two people running for government in Germany in the 1930s. Both are equally bad in terms of economics. Both are equally bad in terms of social issues. Both have horrible character. Both are adulterous leaches. One of them wants to imprison and kill Jews and one of them wants to protect Jews and allow them to function fully in society.

Which vote is more righteous than the other? 

I appeal to Nazi Germany for a reason. It is easy. Every single person here intuitively knows that the one who will protect Jews is a more righteous vote than the other, even if everything else is wrong. 

Now, if you exchange "Jews" for "unborn babies," you can see how much easier this discussion becomes. While people sit around and diddle with their consciences about how morally corrupt someone has to be to preclude voting for them, others voted in a way that increased protections for the unborn and made such protections more likely, though not guaranteed. There was no "third" option that was going to do that. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Because I believe acts can be wrong in an of themselves, no matter how much worse the alternative(s) may be or seem to be, evaluating whom to vote for has a different starting point. I do not begin with "What will happen if I don't?" I begin with "Is it wrong in itself?"

But that assumes that the vote is wrong in itself, 

How does asking assume something? It's the opposite of assuming. Assuming is what happens when we look at a situation and decide we must do A or B without considering whether there are alternatives and without considering A and B individually for whether (1) they require justificaiton and (2) can in fact be justified.

Once you admit that the all votes are for "the lesser of two evils," you have lost the core issue of the argument. 

There is some unfortunate lumping together here. The phrase "lesser of two evils" needs clarifying. Consider the difference between these two phrases:

  • Lesser of two imperfect options
  • Lesser of two sins

In the case of the first phrase, there is nothing whatsoever that precludes the possibility that one of the imperfect options is right--by the same token, there is nothing that precludes the possibility that one of them is wrong. There is also nothing that precludes the possibility that, when examined, they may both be wrong and some third alternative necessary.

In the case of the second... it's unbiblical to say we sometimes have to choose a smaller sin over a larger one. We're supposed to figure out, as best we can, what's not sin--what's right--and do that.

In any situation where there is time to reflect, this requires considering all the possibilities and evaluating each for the possibility that one or more options requires justification or should be taken off the table because it's wrong in itself. ("In itself" here meaning "regardless of what the alternatives are or seem to be.")

So, if there are two and only two outcomes--More evil and less evil

This goes back to the assumption that the choices must be evaluated only in terms of outcomes and alternatives. None of us lives this way, normally. We just, oddly, lock into it when elections roll around.

Which vote is more righteous than the other? 

Assumes one must support one or the other. This has not been established.

 

Kevin Miller's picture

Larry wrote:

Let's try this: There are two people running for government in Germany in the 1930s. Both are equally bad in terms of economics. Both are equally bad in terms of social issues. Both have horrible character. Both are adulterous leaches. One of them wants to imprison and kill Jews and one of them wants to protect Jews and allow them to function fully in society.

Which vote is more righteous than the other? 

I appeal to Nazi Germany for a reason. It is easy. Every single person here intuitively knows that the one who will protect Jews is a more righteous vote than the other, even if everything else is wrong. 

Since you brought up Nazi Germany, it's interesting to note that the Nazis increased restrictions on grounds for legal abortions and imposed the death penalty for the illegal termination of unwanted pregnancies. If both candidates were anti-Semitic, would the Nazis be the more righteous vote since they increased protection for the unborn?

Larry's picture

Moderator

If both candidates were anti-Semitic, would the Nazis be the more righteous vote since they increased protection for the unborn?

It would seem to be obviously so, wouldn't it? Would anyone really question that? Again, the bar has been set pretty low so "more righteous" isn't all that great. 

But should you refuse to save any because you cannot save all? It would seem to be basic morality.

Mark_Smith's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:

If it can be wrong to back a candidate because he lacks the basic qualities necessary in any just ruler, then we have to consider whether a particular candidate fails that test. If Trump doesn't fail that test, who would? How damaging and dangerous would he have to be?

This is where we disagree Aaron. It has not been established that Trump is that bad. He tweets a lot. Some see it as rude. Ok. How is that bad or evil? He uses crude language. How is that evil? I don't follow your logic. His policy proposals are usually rock solid in my view. Israelite kings were evil because they worshipped foreign gods and killed people. Trump? Not so much. Roman emperors were dictators who held life and death in their hand on a whim. Trump? Not so much. Napolean invaded Europe...twice. Trump? Nope. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, PolPot...do I really need to write it? So I don't see the evil. Even the consensus evil president Nixon merely ordered a break-in and obstructed justice. Relatively light on the scale of "evil."

Aaron Blumer wrote:

I know for many the answer is "only less damaging than the other guy," but that angle ignores the case I've been making (most of the pieces of which have been acknowledged in one way or another) that it's possible for a person to be so ill suited for leadership that there is no opponent bad enough to make voting for him justified.

The Bible is pretty clear that bad rulers do damage and people are hurt. So this is not a trivial or hypothetical question.

Once again. Perhaps you see Trump as annoying. How is that compared to Warrens $52 trillion dollar tax plan for health care? The implications of Buttigieg if he won? Bernie and his overt socialism. Once again, I fail to see that Trump's personality faults are anywhere near as bad as the society wide implications of any Democrat.

I really don't get it Aaron.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Mark_Smith wrote:

How is that compared to Warrens $52 trillion dollar tax plan for health care? The implications of Buttigieg if he won? Bernie and his overt socialism. Once again, I fail to see that Trump's personality faults are anywhere near as bad as the society wide implications of any Democrat.

The last part of this, I'm fully in agreement with you.  As to Trump's language, I think it's pretty clear that "corrupt communication" is not to be excused, and could be classified as evil, even if not to the degree of things like promotion of abortion.  There's certainly something to be said for not using such language in public, and maintaining decorum, even though that's no excuse for those who still use it privately.  Probably most of our recent leaders have used that type of language in private or when they thought they were not being overheard.  Now, is Trump worse than his opponents in this regard?  Hardly.  Just read all the comments in the press from the opposition candidates.  So again, while I wouldn't be voting for Trump for sainthood or membership in my church, those are not the choices before me next November.

As to considering actions in the absolute sense rather than tying them to outcomes, sometimes that's just not possible.  If I'm working on my roof and carelessly throw down something heavy, it may be foolish, but it's not going to be evil in the same sense as it would be if I knew people were walking down there and did it anyway.  And what about if I hit someone and injure or kill them?  The outcome (and even possible outcome) most certainly matters, and with some actions, must, I believe, be considered with the action itself when trying to determine the morality of that action.

Dave Barnhart

Mark_Smith's picture

dcbii wrote:

 

The last part of this, I'm fully in agreement with you.  As to Trump's language, I think it's pretty clear that "corrupt communication" is not to be excused, and could be classified as evil, even if not to the degree of things like promotion of abortion.  There's certainly something to be said for not using such language in public, and maintaining decorum, even though that's no excuse for those who still use it privately.  Probably most of our recent leaders have used that type of language in private or when they thought they were not being overheard.  Now, is Trump worse than his opponents in this regard?  Hardly.  Just read all the comments in the press from the opposition candidates.  So again, while I wouldn't be voting for Trump for sainthood or membership in my church, those are not the choices before me next November.

I agree that Trump's language is "evil" in the biblical sense of corrupt communication, worldly, etc. I do not think it is evil in the political sense, as in Hitler. Nor is it evil in the sense of committing a crime. Plus, if you are going to judge Trump for his coarse language, at least he is open about it. I GUARANTEE YOU Obama dropped f-bombs all the time in private company. I also GUARANTEE recent presidents did the same. Is that more polite? Yes. But we are judging morality here, right?

So, language is a "minor" issue, and not something to throw out the future of our country over.

Mike Harding's picture

Trump has been profoundly pro-life in his presidency and administration. That's almost a miracle when considering his past.  He has appointed two conservative, pro-life Supreme Court Judges and 182 Federal Judges who are Constitutional Originalists.  This is an amazing record and all in three years.  He has spoken out aggressively against partial birth abortion and third trimester abortion.  Comparing that to his occasional use of the King James English in out-of-context settings and meanings, I think we are talking apples and bowling balls.  I wish Trump would have the charm and decorum of Ronald Reagan, but he grew up in the streets of New York City and still has a lot of baggage from his upbringing.  I didn't care for General Patton's language either, but when it came to destroying the Nazis, he was the best.  I pray for Trump's conversion.  It would make him a much better president, husband, father, and a better man.  More importantly, it would make him truly love the Lord. Thankfully, Trump chose Pence to be his VP.  That speaks volumes.  If Trump gets impeached or murdered by his enemies, we have Pence as President until the Left and the media destroy him as well.  When compared to the hard core leftists in the democratic party, I will vote for Trump.  If for personal reasons someone chooses not to vote for Trump, I understand.  However, voting for a presidency is voting for the Supreme Court, Federal Judges, Presidential Cabinet, and a political platform.

Pastor Mike Harding

TylerR's picture

Editor

Mike wrote:

I didn't care for General Patton's language either, but when it came to destroying the Nazis, he was the best

Actually, the Soviet Army was the best. They suffered more casualties and engaged in many more extended campaigns against the Germans than the Allied armies did. But, to the point, we didn't seem to care too much about Stalin's moral character at the time, either

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?

Kevin Miller's picture

Larry wrote:

If both candidates were anti-Semitic, would the Nazis be the more righteous vote since they increased protection for the unborn?

It would seem to be obviously so, wouldn't it? Would anyone really question that? Again, the bar has been set pretty low so "more righteous" isn't all that great. 

But should you refuse to save any because you cannot save all? It would seem to be basic morality.

No, it doesn't seem "obvious" to me that a vote for the Nazis would ever be a morally appropriate vote, even if the other side wasn't wanting to put tighter restrictions on abortions. The restrictions the Nazis put on abortion only applied to German women, so yes, they were saving some, but not in any "basic morality" way.

Larry's picture

Moderator

No, it doesn't seem "obvious" to me that a vote for the Nazis would ever be a morally appropriate vote,

So you think it is okay to let people be killed when you could have done something to change it? That's the moral calculation I don't understand. It seems to me that we ought to work for the best possible world, the best possible situation. 

After WW2, in some places German citizens were made to walk through the concentration camps so they could see what went on. Can you imagine walking through there and knowing you could have done something to stop it but you didn't because you prioritized your own sensibilities over human life and the image of God in man? 

Or to put it differently, and perhaps more starkly, can you imagine saying, "I love God and worship him, but I don't need to anything to stop the stamping out of God's image through murder. My conscience prevents me from doing that."

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

What Kevin has illustrated is what happens when we only analyze the ethics/morality of act in light of outcomes and alternatives + ignore the moral significance of indirect vs. direct + don't accept that an act can be morally wrong in itself. (What happens is that things are not "obvious" -- I'll say clear -- that really should be.)

Going back to the cave scenario I described, I'll modify it a little again, to make the point even more "obvious." Suppose that instead of a women blocking the entrance of the cave, it's an infant or it's your wife or one of your children, and you can only unblock the entrance and free everyone from drowning if you directly kill and remove this person stuck in the cave entrance: is it morally right to kill a baby or your own wife or child to save everyone in the cave?

The truth is that we are not responsible for all indirect outcomes of our actions. There are both plain logical cases and theological ones for this. Theological first: God is sovereign and what happens is ultimately up to Him. Logic: intent counts in moral evaluation (there's a theological case for this also), and the unintended indirect outcomes of our actions don't have the same moral significance/moral weight as the direct, intended ones. An additional point to the logic is that quite often indirect outcomes are the product of many more factors than our actions: someone created the dilemma to begin with and the fact that the dilemma exists is their responsibility, not ours.

In the case of the cave, I choose not to kill the person blocking the opening. It isn't my intent to kill everyone inside the cave, nor is it my action that kills them. A natural phenomenon does that. I contribute to it, yes, but it is not my intent to harm. I did not put everyone in this situation to begin with and I am not responsible for their deaths if choose not to directly murder a human being in order to save them.

In the case of the Nazi vote scenario, I didn't create the situation where only evil, racist, human-torture/experimentation, genocidal leadership is available. I choose not to vote for anybody with the intent that I not support or empower any of these people. The indirect outcome of the worst candidate winning is not a direct outcome of my action, not my intent, and not my moral responsibility.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

This is where we disagree Aaron. It has not been established that Trump is that bad. He tweets a lot. Some see it as rude. Ok. How is that bad or evil? He uses crude language. How is that evil? I don't follow your logic. His policy proposals are usually rock solid in my view. Israelite kings were evil because they worshipped foreign gods and killed people. Trump? Not so much. Roman emperors...

No, this is not actually where we disagree. We disagree on (a) how to evaluate truth claims, (b) how to evaluate the ethics of a vote and (c) Trump's character. I haven't used the word "evil." He simply lacks the basic character requirements for the office of President as intended by the Constitution and its authors/ratifiers.

A few times I've started to create a list of all the reasons why I believe Trump is below the minimum character threshold for the office, for writing up an essay. It becomes overwhelming pretty quickly. ... and I increasingly think it would be pointless because the "he's not so bad" crowd have already achieved and demonstrated Olympic skill in tuning out and explaining away what they don't want to see. I don't think I can overcome that, so I would only be creating a big ugly bullet list that would only be honestly faced by those who don't need it, because they're already aware.

Dan Miller's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
...A few times I've started to create a list of all the reasons why I believe Trump is below the minimum character threshold for the office, for writing up an essay. It becomes overwhelming pretty quickly. ... and I increasingly think it would be pointless because the "he's not so bad" crowd have already achieved and demonstrated Olympic skill in tuning out and explaining away what they don't want to see. I don't think I can overcome that, so I would only be creating a big ugly bullet list that would only be honestly faced by those who don't need it, because they're already aware.

I do think this would a good exercise. And I wonder if it already has been. You started a list. But as you made it, you yourself came to see it as increasingly pointless because Trump proponents would explain them away. 
I read that as you yourself seeing (along with a very understandable reluctance to see) that they are explainable

We've been over some of this before and I think we agree that a candidate doesn't have to be perfect. (And won't be.) 

 

 

Dan Miller's picture

The discussion of "in what situation would you vote for a nazi"? Ahhh... crazily extreme example. Frankly I'm not sure how useful that is.
And whether Patten or the Solviets were better at killing nazis. (It was Patten!) I get why it was brought up. 
We made an alliance with the communists against the Nazis, which was IMO the right (necessary) thing to do. But it wasn't a lasting alliance and everyone knew it. Because communism is evil. And Socialism is evil. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

The discussion of "in what situation would you vote for a nazi"? Ahhh... crazily extreme example. Frankly I'm not sure how useful that is.

I think it is very useful because it illustrates the fallacy of the premise Aaron is trying to advance. Yes, it's extreme and intentionally so. Once we establish an extreme that is obvious (and I can't understand any case in which it isn't obvious), then we can work backwards towards a line and put some proverbial meat on the bones. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

The truth is that we are not responsible for all indirect outcomes of our actions.

But you are responsible for some. This is basis of negligent homicide. It is a well-established biblical principle in the Law, that if you can reasonably foresee an outcome and fail to take steps to prevent it, you are liable to at least some degree. Are we not responsible to make the best possible choice among the choices we have? And then live with the outcome that God has decreed? To abdicate that seems a violation of God's call to be faithful in the world in which he has placed us. To say that unintended indirect outcomes do not have the same moral significance as intended direct outcomes it obvious. But that does not mean that intended direct outcomes have no moral significance. If you could have done something and didn't, you are responsible to at least some degree. If you see a child freezing in the snow alongside the road and drive past in your warm car on the way to your warm house because you didn't put the child there and it is not your responsibility--it's just natural outcome if the child freezes to death--there is clearly a moral depravity, a depraved indifference for which we are responsible. Again, an extreme example? Sure. But another obvious one. 

I agree with Dan that I think your view of your list is evidence against you--that there are explanations for it which are certainly reasonable. Remember, most evangelicals did not want Trump. He was the best possible candidate.

If your contention is that Trump does not deserve blanket support, then most of us certainly agree. But that's not your contention, is it?. Your contention is that it would be better to give hundreds of court appointments and decades of judicial tenure to a liberal because Trump is bad in some areas. Your contention is that not voting for Trump is more important than the lives that will be saved through is actions. That is, to me, an indefensible position. And I have read the defenses. I realize this is strong language so I say it carefully and with all due respect, but I contend (as I have before), that those defenses are inherently self-centered: "I must satisfy myself even if hundreds, thousands, and millions of others are adversely affected, and even if our constitutional way of life is damaged." I want to be able to see that as a legitimate option. I just can't find any basis for it. This is someone putting themselves above the good of the whole. 

Yes, God is sovereign and he is in control. But remember, God works out his sovereignty through human choices, and the sovereignty of God is not fatalism. Your position seems to amount to a civil mix of hyperCalvinism and que sera sera. We are responsible for the lives we lead and the input we have on the society around us. 

Dan Miller's picture

Larry wrote:

The discussion of "in what situation would you vote for a nazi"? Ahhh... crazily extreme example. Frankly I'm not sure how useful that is.

I think it is very useful because it illustrates the fallacy of the premise Aaron is trying to advance. Yes, it's extreme and intentionally so. Once we establish an extreme that is obvious (and I can't understand any case in which it isn't obvious), then we can work backwards towards a line and put some proverbial meat on the bones. 

Aaron's argument is that there may come a situation in which the "less evil" choice is still too evil to receive a vote. 
- I agree in that in a case of significant evil on both sides, neither is significantly less evil. And in such a case, I would condone voting for neither (eg, third party). I would put a Nazi vote in this category. But also, I find it doubtful that the nazi's silver lining of prohibiting abortion was a significant campaign slogan. 
- Further, I object to anything here at SI that will end up in anybody's internet search and give them a chance to quote Christian Fundies as in any way pro nazi. Yes some would be happy to take it out of context. 

My counter-argument to Aaron is that it's good to vote for the "better" candidate. Aaron agrees with us that no candidate will be perfect. And that none will be completely evil. So in every case that we vote, we're voting for "evil, but less so." And we're voting for "better, not perfect." 

Even lately, Aaron wants to talk about a pregnant lady stuck in a cave entrance. He's stuck on the idea that some actions are evil, even If necessary to save life. I'm not so sure I agree. But regardless, Aaron's point is that if it's evil to kill her, then saving people doesn't change that. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, his point is that voting for Trump is evil enough, and his superiority over Clinton or now one of the socialists coming down the pike is insignificant enough that it's wrong to vote for him. That I find preposterous.
In 2016, I held my nose and voted for Trump. I am much happier with him now than then. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

 

Aaron's argument is that there may come a situation in which the "less evil" choice is still too evil to receive a vote. 

Yes, and that is where the argument lies. Is there ever a situation in which there is neither side (or any side) that is better than the others, all things considered? I can't imagine what that situation is. Yes, there are value judgments of various types and varying weights. But in what case isn't there something that pushes us one way or the other?

- I agree in that in a case of significant evil on both sides, neither is significantly less evil.

Perhaps, but that case would have to be made and it hasn't been made here.

- Further, I object to anything here at SI that will end up in anybody's internet search and give them a chance to quote Christian Fundies as in any way pro nazi. Yes some would be happy to take it out of context. 

I object to stupidity and dishonesty and anyone who would come across this in a search and quote it out of context would be as wicked as Trump, and probably stupider. I am not all that worried about it. People who can't think won't learn to think by us not exposing them to ideas they haven't considered. When we refuse to give argumentation on the basis that someone might be bothered by it, we have given in to the Nazi mentality. They, in such a case, would more similar to the Nazi's.

The Nazi's were unthinkably wicked. The exercise here is simply one of thought for comparison. It can't be missed by anyone who is semi-intelligent.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

With Dan, I'm not too concerned about the hypotheticals being taken out of context... thought experiments have a long tradition and sometimes you can't really achieve clarity without using them in some form.

About "too evil"...

I'm not really making a "too evil" argument in reference to Trump, though that does work to illustrate the more general idea that an act can be wrong all by itself, even if it would have better outcomes than the alternatives.

... and that bolded part is 90% or more of what I've been trying to sell, though I've tried to say it different ways in hopes of better success.

To pull the pieces together again, maybe a bit differently:

  • Some acts require justification because they would normally be wrong: and outcomes can justify them
  • Some acts cannot be justified by any set of outcomes
  • An act that requires justification but is not justified is wrong... it's sin
  • When an act is not justified by the likely outcomes, we are not responsible for the consequences of rejecting that act (sin is never not sin)

So all of that is aimed at establishing how the moral reasoning should be carried out.

In the case of a U.S. election, there's another layer of principles that really ought to be established before going to the particular case of 2016.

  • We've been blessed with a system of governance that is better than what most nations have had through the centuries

    • Blessings are God's gifts
    • We're stewards of those blessings
  • The system we're called to be good stewards of was designed to work a particular way
  • The design includes electing an executive that meets certain basic character requirements
  • Those requirements include things like trustworthiness, honor, good judgment, thoughtful decision-making, a basic level of self-control, respect for fellow human beings, able to make agreements in good faith, etc. A leader is going to say things he genuinely believes that later turn out to have been in error... he should very rarely lie to the American people or our allies in other nations. He should interact with foreign nations in a way that puts national security ahead of personal benefits. Etc.
    • To summarize all that: shouldn't be "evil," but also needs to have a basic level of maturity and skill (the founders had a higher standard than that in mind though!)
  • American citizens should not work against the design of their system of governance by voting for leaders who don't meet the minimum character/maturity/skill requirements

I'd just like to see all that be part of the moral reasoning rather than just "either A or B is going to win, and B is worse than A so I should vote for A."

Hey, I can dream, can't I? Smile

Joeb's picture

Wow.  Aaron what you said is fantastic.  In this area you speak my language.   God blessed you with a lot of wisdom.  I hope I'm not scaring you Aaron.  Good job.  

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Joeb wrote:

Wow.  Aaron what you said is fantastic.  In this area you speak my language.   God blessed you with a lot of wisdom.  I hope I'm not scaring you Aaron.  Good job.  

You're too kind. ... and already convinced. I'm not sure it's persuasive to anyone already committed to a particular approach to voting decisions. But maybe it can help someone who hasn't yet made up his mind.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

One example of inaction being called wrong is in Esther 4.  Mordecai wanted her to go to the king, but she knew it was against the law to appear before him without being called.  When she told this to Mordecai, you know the response:

"Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews.  For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

She then agreed to disobey the law to try to save the Jews.  Sure, you can claim that this was justified.  But she could have obeyed the law and done nothing.  Would she have been guilty of sin by doing so, or should she have ignored Mordecai's counsel to instead obey the lawful government and thereby do right?  I think the whole point of these verses is that our inaction and refusal to make hard choices can have consequences for which we would bear the responsibility, and we can't simply take refuge in the idea that we didn't do anything wrong by choosing to obey the law we know without considering the outcome.

Dave Barnhart

Dan Miller's picture

Now I'm just more confused. You have been talking all along about morality and right and wrong and killing pregnant women with dynamite. Yet now you shy away from "evil." 

So perhaps this would be better:?

We're in a cave; the only entrance is blocked and cannot be cleared. One small exit hole remains, which has water pouring out of it. It will soon be underwater. People have queued up for the small hole. At the front of the line is an obese woman. Our tour guide (leader) tells a couple of us, "That lady is too fat to fit through. Once she gets in that hole, with the water pressure, we won't be able to pull her out. I'm going to tell her she's too fat to try."

Someone says, "You can't call her fat. That's rude. There's no place for rudeness. If you're rude enough to call people fat, you shouldn't be our leader."

 Now I would agree that it is generally rude to call people fat. But in this case, it should be done. 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think where I confuse people at times is that I'm always trying to reason from principles. So a particular application gets conflated with the prinicples. I'm a "principles first" guy (I hope!). That said, the point of the cave dilemma is to illustrate some principles about how we evaluate ethical choices. And I never used the word "evil" in those discussions either. I don't know why that's even in the conversation, because what we're talking about is whether behaving in a particular way is right or wrong.

The key points of the cave dilemma are these:

  • Sometimes an act must be justified, because it would be normally be wrong (killing someone to save more people)
  • Sometimes the outcomes can justify it. (e.g., self defense, defense of some innocent third party)
  • Some acts cannot be justified by their outcomes (e.g., directly killing a child to unclog the cave and save the occupants)

I pointed out some implications, also principles:

  • An act that requires justification but is not justified is wrong... it's sin
  • When an act is not justified by the likely outcomes, we are not responsible for the consequences of rejecting that act (sin is never not sin)

In applying the ethical evaluation process to a voting decision, whether one or both of the candidates is "evil" is really not relevant. We're talking about whether our behavior is right or wrong. So the questions would be:

  • Does voting for a candidate who is of very poor character and skill require justification?
  • If it does, can it be justified?
  • If it can, do the likely outcomes actually justify it?

etc.

About Esther

I've never made the claim that no acts can be justified by outcomes. My claim is that some acts must be justified in order to be right; some of these in fact can be justified but aren't (but the particular outcomes); some can't really be justified by any outcomes; some can be justified and are, by the likely outcomes.

In the case of Esther, there are lots of ways to analyze it, but what you did above was mostly the process I've been describing: decide whether her actions required justification; decide whether they were, in fact, justified by the outcomes.

But this is not the ethical evaluation process evangelicals have, for the most part, been applying to the voting process. When we come to voting, suddenly we abandon all that and reduce it to "who is the worse of the two electables; the right thing to do is vote for the other one."   ... but we don't evaluate whether that:

  • needs justifying
  • is justifiable at all
  • if justifiable, is really justified by the outcomes 

(I think I should try to make a flow chart, maybe)

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