The Christian and Voting

Essay part:

Emotionalism rules our culture today, and Christians are not immune from its allure. As we are less than a week away from voting for many important things, this article is urgent, but as much as these concepts transcend this election and are true for all elections, this article is timeless. If your philosophy of political engagement cannot account for all political environments through all time, then it is lacking. For truth transcends time and cultures, and Christian involvement in culture and politics, is based on such transcendent truth.

We must begin with the commands of God that are upon our lives. Genesis begins with the command to populate and subdue the world, called the Creation Mandate, which starts our involvement in politics as human beings making culture. The 10 commandments give us guidelines for proper living and relating to God and our fellow man. Jesus, in response to a question, affirmed that loving God and Neighbor are the first and second (in order) commandments beholding upon man. Lastly, when Jesus ascended into Heaven, He commanded that Christians go and bring, fill in the blank your flavor of politics, to the world… No wait, He commanded that we go make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them and teaching them Jesus’ commandments.

Putting this all together means that Christians live as salt and light in the world, helping build societies, and the church, for the glory of God and to the love of neighbor. The Creation Mandate is not at odds with the Great Commission, but rather the Great Commission better prioritized the Christian’s involvement in this world to one of an ambassador, servant, and missionary while also fulfilling the Creation Mandate. We no longer are content with simply building good cities, worshiping God, and having children, but also now being salt and light, giving of ourselves for the good of our neighbors, and faithfully proclaiming the good news of the Gospel while we support and participate in the work of the local church. Our priority is the building of the Church, but this doesn’t mean we ignore the city, but we never prioritize the city over the Church.

Let us get our mindset right before we go any further. The Old Testament clearly teaches us that God is sovereign over all nations, He raises up kings and tears them down. He laughs at all those who try to shake His rule, and He personally taught this lesson to one of the greatest kings who ever lived, Nebuchadnezzar who, after the lesson was over, affirmed God’s sovereignty. Our hope and security, joy and meaning, are tied into God, not man, into HIs eternal kingdom, not this transient life.

Continued in the New Testament is the teaching that God cares for each one of us, His children, even numbering each hair. Jesus says His kingdom will not pass away, and I tend to believe men who raise from the dead and ascend to Heaven over men and women who are clearly imperfect (politicians and cultural elite). Our hope is a new heavens and earth, not America, not democracy, not socialism, not utopia, but a Kingdom not made with hands, eternal, and everlasting. Hell will not prevail against the Church of Jesus, but the Church will kick down Satan’s doors and loot him of many souls he thought were his forever. Our calling is to build a Church, not a Nation.

Yet, we find ourselves as citizens of some sort of earthly kingdom. Some are enslaved, and harshly treated by their rulers, and others are relatively free, but for both the command is the same: submit to the rulers as God puts them there, but submit to God above them; love your neighbor and build the Church through suffering, sacrifice, humility, and the power of the Word Preached, and the Sacraments administered, and Discipline met out.

Certainly God calls Christians, in their vocations, to work in politics, and clearly, as able, each is to involve him or herself in the local communities they find themselves. Politics isn’t about getting your will pushed upon others, but as a means to ultimately love your neighbor, by ensuring the best option prevails, while harm and evil is resisted. There is also a behind the scenes roll that Christians must play in making sure better options than others get put forward to the vote.

Thus the goal for all Christians in their political involvement, as able, is always the love of neighbor, as the love of God, in obedience to God’s commands. We are called to love our neighbors, but never in a way that violates God’s commands.

But even the violation of God’s commands needs to be better understood. There are commands that are universal in decree and scope, like loving God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and commands that are relative to the context in which they exist.

For example, murder is the unjustified (before God) taking of human life, it is killing in an improper context, but killing in and of itself is not forbidden, the context makes all the difference. Adultery is sex in the wrong context, but sex itself is good when in the proper context. We could go down the line, drunkenness is the abuse of alcohol, but drinking is not forbidden, nor is eating – but gluttony, and so also with obeying parents – unless they violate God’s command, tell the truth – but deceive to save an innocent life, sabbath rest – but to do good works, coveting – but desire God above all else, etc.

Thus, there may be an inferred command that Christians should promote and support candidates who are Godly, just and wise, but context makes all the difference because God does care about both what you do, and what happens. As I will explain in a little bit, America is not Israel and the President is not a king.

Do you think you would be displeasing God if you jumped out of an airplane without a parachute? I think so, it sure seems like putting God to the test (we are commanded not to do that) and something suicidal (self murder, again something forbidden). Do you think God only cared about the end result, that He was only displeased that you fell to your death, but cared less about how you got there and what your mindset was?

Surely, saying to yourself, “well God is in control so I will jump out of this airplane and trust His will,” is a sin. Or, if you were so forgetful and uncaring about your own life that you jumped before you were really prepared and had put on your parachute correctly, wouldn’t that be sinful too? So, both putting God to the test, and a lazy, rash, ambivalence are sins as you are not showing God the respect He deserves, not taking His commands and gift of life seriously, nor using your faculties how God intended: wisely and responsibly.

Would it be a sin, continuing on to make my point, if you were in a plane that was crashing, and you took so seriously God’s command to stay alive, that you wanted to make sure you did your very best to obey. Therefore, you carefully searched through all the parachutes to makes sure you found the very best one. You inspected it to make sure it would fit you in the most helpful way. Then you assured yourself it was newly made of the best materials. After that, you proceeded to inspect the canopy yourself, and then when finished with your inspection, you carefully, and expertly folded it back into the chute bag. Tying the chute snugly, you jump out of the airplane just 100ft from the ground and hit it going 600 mph. In heaven, do you think God is going to tell you: “well done good and faithful servant, you took the time to make sure you put on the best parachute, and had you had a few thousand more feet to go, you would have surly succeeded in saving your life, I am so pleased you took all that time getting every little detail right before you jumped to save your life.”?

No, God is not going to be pleased that you wasted so much time in such frivolity and lack of wisdom. There is an appropriate play between means and ends. While we are held responsible for the means we use, we are also responsible for both the ends we seek, and the ends we get. But this isn’t to say we are responsible for all ends equally. Meaning, for example, we are called to preach the Gospel faithfully, but if it gets us killed as a martyr, it isn’t considered suicide, because we were not pursuing the end of suicide, we tried to avoid death without compromising our mission and message, and were really seeking the “ends” of salvation for our hearers. Some ends are unavoidable or unknowable, and in those cases all that matters is we wisely pursued righteousness, voting may be a mix between unknowable ends, and knowable means towards probable ends.

Sometimes Christian voters are so quick, lazy, and rash, they make a decisions to vote based on emotion and what seemed the easiest thing to do at the time, while putting God to the test to mold their unwise behavior into something with a good end. While other Christians, so focused on perfecting their means towards the right ends, they miss the ends all together. We always live within the tension of doing things the right way, but also in a timely and effect way; when it comes to politics, what matters to your neighbor more is the right ends over perfect means, and I think God too. I’m not saying God wants us to forget the means towards the right ends, but I don’t think, as His children, we are condemned for concerning ourselves with the greater moral matters at the expense of the minor ones (obviously the ideal is to do both). It seems to me that Jesus would have been more pleased with the Pharisees, had they focused on justice for windows and orphans over tithing mint and dill, where He would have simply said something like, “good job focusing on the majors, but don’t forget the little things too if you can.” But because they only focused on the lesser things at the expense of the greater, Jesus has harsh condemnation for them.

We need to be careful how we apply God’s word and law, because it doesn’t always work out how we think it should. Consider this, you pay $50,000 in taxes because you are in an “unjust” tax rate of 90%. Should you “steal” from the unjust government, fudge your taxes $25,000 and give that $25,000 to the church for missions? Doesn’t that sound like a better use for your $25,000, especially if the government is going to use that money to abort babies? However, Jesus seems to think differently, and says to give to “Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”. Thus God commands you to pay unjust taxes, and obey the local city ordinances, even if it means you can’t give as much to your church, or your church cannot afford to expand and support more missionaries. God, in that case, values your civil obedience more than your using the extra money to expand His kingdom and Church, and He doesn’t seem to hold you responsible for how someone else spends your money. Maybe voting is a moral issue like this one, where it appears one way on the surface, but at a closer look it goes the other way?

Do you think God cares about the outcome of the election and what effect the new laws and Supreme court will do to your neighbor? Or do you think God only cares about your moral purity and keeping you from voting for anyone who scores below His ideal for leadership? Perhaps, you believe this is a circumstance where, like the Christian missionary risking his life, you are to do the “right” thing and let the “chips fall as they may.” But how do you not know it isn’t more like the parachute, where you are focusing too much on the proper means, while losing the more important ends?

This is why it is important to think through these issues so carefully, and without emotion. We must weigh the nuances.

The last point I want to make is, loving your neighbor is almost never passive. Letting greater evil harm your neighbor simply because you didn’t like your options, is not a path to take. Bonhoeffer was willing to risk the personal sin of murder to save the lives of his neighbors and stop Hitler, even if it ends up a sin to vote for Trump, wouldn’t the greater sin be to let your neighbor live under Hillary?

Whatever you do, don’t waste your vote on frivolity or non-participation, and consider wisely how your vote may best promote justice and love of neighbor.


Voting points to consider:

So when it comes to voting in Politics, between two candidates or two laws, what are the guidelines we need to consider? Allow me to pontificate on what they may be and give responses to questions people ask.

  • Think of voting as choosing between the two best options available, of which one will always be better than the other, and thus of those two you should choose the best. Determining which two you are choosing between can be difficult, because it isn’t simply decided by viewpoint or position, but also by considering what two have the best chance of winning, momentum, etc. If win-ability isn’t an issue, then simply write in Jesus to be safe.
  • Someone is going to win. Your vote exists so that you can exert influence on this outcome in hopes that you can make sure the one closest, out of the two options, to your position wins. In other words, from your perspective, belief and position (hopefully based in reality and righteousness), you are making sure the best of the two options wins, all things considered.
  • Your vote isn’t propaganda, it doesn’t communicate a message, it doesn’t morally tie you to your choice, it does perform work. A vote is our (American) chosen method for determining both what the majority wants, and hopefully what is the best option for everyone. It chooses a winner, if it is withheld, it only serves to give more power to other votes, namely the ones for your least preferred option of the two.
  • Voting is always a compromise. Unless you personally wrote the law (alone), or are the person running, it is always a compromise.
  • Always choose the best option that can possibly win. Voting for the most unlikely but ideal candidate could have almost the same effect on the outcome of the vote as not voting at all: the worst option may win.
  • We are to pursue the best moral outcome for every circumstance we are in. Although this sounds utilitarian it isn’t, it is reality. Let me prove it: your only other option is to believe the opposite: that we are not to pursue the best moral outcome for every circumstance we are in. That sound’s ludicrous and unlivable and backward, thus our only option is to pursue the best option morally. Of course morality must be properly understood, defined, and weighed according to God’s Word.
  • Don’t confuse pre-voting, the selection from a greater list of ideals, with the actual final vote, where the winner is determined. One has much more leeway in the pre-voting era to choose their ideal candidate no matter their chance of winning, but even then one ought to be careful because if you split the vote too much, the worst possible option may just win (see 2016 with Trump in the Republicans).
  • Morals are relative to their circumstances, not to individuals. That means that in every circumstance, no matter the person, the same moral weighs and obligations apply, but not every circumstance holds the same weight and obligations. As I said before, morality is simply defining the right and wrong place for things according to the will and commands of God based on how He intended things to work or commanded things to be: sex in marriage is moral, sex outside of marriage is immoral. It is universally immoral for everyone to have sex outside of marriage, but it isn’t universally immoral to have sex, because inside marriage (universally) it is morally appropriate. Sex isn’t moral or immoral in and of itself, it is the context in which it is used. We must look past the moral rule to the concept behind the rule to better understand its proper use based on the context.
    • Thus who to vote for is always relative to who is running, and weighed against who has the better chance of winning, there are no hard and fast universal rules that can be applied rigidly to all circumstances, but guidelines that change in value depending on the circumstances surrounding them. Just like telling the truth to someone changes moral weight by depending on who that person is (mom or Nazi) and what they are asking you (did you steal the cookie or are you hiding Jews), and what the outcome may be if you tell the truth (you get punished or Jews get murdered).
      • If you didn’t catch on, you should tell you mom the truth about stealing the cookies, and accept your punishment, but you shouldn’t tell the Nazi’s where the Jews are and let them be murdered.
  • There is no law of God that directly addresses voting rules. God doesn’t lay out guidelines on how to vote and who to vote for and when to withhold one’s vote, so we must consider other things He has spoken on and attempt to apply them to our circumstances.
    • I believe we are all obligated to vote, because something is going to win, and I want to make sure I am supporting the best option available and working actively against the worst winnable option.
    • While I would prefer voting only for righteous people, in this sinful world we don’t always have that option, and must vote for the most righteous option, even if they are pretty low on the total righteousness scale. Love of neighbor and doing the right thing often costs us personally in every way.
    • I don’t see any circumstance where we should ever refuse to vote. There is never the case where both options are equally bad, one will always be worst, and therefore we must actively work to insure the worst option doesn’t win, and the best option does (again from those options that has the best chance of winning – sometimes it really is only between 2 options, and that is the easiest situation).

10 common questions answered:

Question 1) But Trump is so immoral and of low character that he doesn’t deserve to be POTUS (President of the United States), and if I vote for him aren’t I approving of his immorality?

Answer 1) A vote isn’t an endorsement of their book, but your participation in government to insure the best option wins, of the options that are put forth and winnable. If it really is true that you are bound morally to who you vote for, everyone better just write in Jesus, because that is the only safe option in that world-view.

Question 2) Ok, but Trump’s character is still so bad that I cannot vote for him, can I?

Answer 2) One candidate’s character cannot be considered in a vacuum but always in light of the other candidates character. One of them will win, hopefully the more righteous one has the best positions and beliefs as well. Also character isn’t the only criteria (nor the most important), for we must also consider their beliefs and positions and promises and history of conduct. All those also must be weighed in our choice. While character does matter (and I’m assuming you mean by character as someone who is honest, humble, caring, hospitable, loving, kind, selfless etc), it probably (in our form of government) has one of the least affects on how “good” the ruler ends up being. That is because what ultimately matters in our democratic republic, is what laws get passed, and policies enacted, not how good of person the President is.

Let us not confuse America with Israel, where God commands leaders to have Godly Character, because in Israel the king had sole power in enacting laws, and thus the laws flowed directly from their character, while in our country the President’s power is checked by Congress and the Court, which neuters the character argument. Of course if both candidates have equal positions, then character becomes the deciding matter. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have a President who adheres to the Constitution and liberty, while having a poor personal character, than a man with godly character who supports socialism and tyranny. But yes, let us always pursue and encourage character in politics, but when it comes down to deciding between two people of poor character, let us support the one who at least has better positions than the other. Besides, helping build character in the culture isn’t going to be done by voting in a pastor President, but through the boring and ordinary work of the Church and Christians faithfully loving their neighbor and loving God.

Question 3) Can’t I vote for a 3rd party or not vote at all if I don’t like the top 2 options?

Answer 3) I think it depends on the circumstances. Are both the top 2 options equally bad in every way (I highly doubt they are if honestly and wisely evaluated)? Or do all options have an equal chance at winning? Be careful with the term “like” because ultimately it isn’t about what you “like” but what is better than the other. You may not “like” your options, but if one is clearly worst than the other, you are obligated to make sure the worst doesn’t win (and hopefully the best option wins and not a middle option). You really need to make sure a 3rd party vote is actually working towards the end of helping the best winnable option win, and isn’t straightening the votes for the worst option, by weakening support for the best winnable option.

Question 4) Can’t I just have a long term strategy with my vote and hope by not voting, or by voting for a 3rd party I make things much better in the long run?

Answer 4) Why can’t you do both? Why can’t you insure a better short term while you work towards a better long term? How are they mutually opposed? Consider also the unknown that the worst short term, may change the environment in the future so drastically from now, that your current long term plans will totally be undermined and unfruitful to no positive effect. It may be the case that while you grasp for the long term and give up the short term, you lose both. And if you are concerned for your neighbor’s well being, doesn’t Scripture teach you to be concerned with his needs today and not just tomorrow? If someone is hungry or is unjustly treated, you don’t tell him “just wait a few years until I can make society more just and fair, and then I will help you,” but you feed him and pursue justice immediately (and of course work towards that end in the long term too). Don’t try to predict the future, but work with what you have been given today, and do your best with it, for you don’t know what tomorrow may bring.

Question 5) What’s so bad about having Hillary for 4 years, if it makes conservatism stronger in the long run and we can really get stuff done later on? Won’t her for 4 years really make the country want a conservative for a change?

Answer 5) As I was saying in my last response, why do you think having Hillary for 4 more years will leave the nation in a state where conservatism will even be a legal or a moral option? Are you underestimating how much she wants to change America? You are underestimating the power of a Hillary Supreme court which will, if consistent, work hard to outlaw Christianity and conservatism, or at least make them incapable of having any political influence. Not to mention overestimating the strength and unity of the conservatives.

We possibly had all 3 branches during George Bush’s era and got nothing significant done. And now after 8 years of Obama, we do not have a stronger conservatism, but a split with huge support for a moderate populist named Trump. If after 8 years of Obama we get a Trump, what do you expect to get after 4-8 more years of Hillary? A Regan? The logic doesn’t seem to be working in our favor. Lets work towards more liberty now, and in the future, not less liberty now, in hopes we will get back both what we just gave up, and what we lost a while ago, in the future.

Question 6) But Trump isn’t going to outlaw abortion and I really doubt his commitment to pro-life, how can profilers vote for someone who isn’t going to work towards the ending of Abortion?

Answer 6) Again, each candidate’s position needs to be considered in light of the truth: “someone is going to win,” which means that there is a real chance the worst option, when it comes to abortion, might win. Face it, there is no real champion for pro-life on the ticket (not even in any of the 3rd parties), so we must be happy with the little victories, by which I mean: if we can simply save one more life tomorrow than today, we are doing better than we were. There is no doubt that more babies will die under Hillary, as she supports infanticide (killing full term babies if they haven’t fully left the womb yet), and she wants to force us the tax payers to fund it.

Question 7) If I vote for either Hillary or Trump, won’t I simply be supporting the backwards state our culture and system is in? Won’t voting for a 3rd party or not voting at all help change this corruption? I want change!

Answer 7) As I have said previously, your non-vote or 3rd party vote will not make any points, nor change any person’s mind. When it comes to elections, the winner writes the history, the loser is forgotten. No one looks at the losing vote and thinks, “you know, enough people feel differently than I do, even though I am in the majority, I think I will change my view or my positions to be like the minority.” Nor will the winner say, “enough people opposed me that I will give them some concessions,” but rather they will think, “good I have enough people behind me to get what I want done, and not enough to stop me.” If you want change, you must work wisely for it.

Wilberforce didn’t go into government and demand the end of slavery his first day, and when he didn’t get it, quit and go into another line of work, but he, over decades, worked tirelessly within the system to whittle away at slavery until finally at the end of his long life he saw it ended once and for good. The more Christians and conservatives who stay out of politics, the less good influence exists, and the more strength the opposition will have.

Question 8) But isn’t voting like money? If I don’t like what I’m getting for it, I don’t have to spend it, but I can save it for something I really want?

Answer 8) Who told you that, and why would you believe it? The only way in which voting is like money, is if you think about it in this way: At the end of the day you are going to “buy” the “product,” there is no getting around it, someone is going to win. The winner is chosen by whoever gets the most money (votes), and if you keep your money at home, then someone else is buying your product for you and your money then becomes worthless as the new product changes the currency. In other words, you cannot save votes, people do not have to meet a minimum vote to win (even in the presidential election, it just may switch to Congress making the choice on their majority vote), fail to win, and you get to vote later for the same election. Either you spend your vote now, or loose it forever. If you don’t spend it, then someone else is voting for you, and even if you don’t vote or want who or what wins, you still have to live with it.

This is why it is so important that everyone vote: don’t let others choose the outcome for you, at least let your voice be heard by voting for the best option able to win. And if you think saving your vote means you will wait until the next election to vote, you may be assuming that you will be around, or even allowed to vote at that time.

Question 9) You keep saying that I am obligated to make sure the worst option doesn’t win, how so? You sound like a pragmatist and a utilitarian and not a Christian.

Answer 9) As I have been saying in different ways, what other option do you have but to work towards the greatest good? Are you suggesting that you should be working for the greatest evil? Or a lesser good? Of course it depends on how you define good, and how you weigh means with the ends. While it is true that God calls us to do certain things faithfully, like preach the Gospel, no matter the “end” or cost of doing so, it doesn’t follow that all things are similar, and that by only doing a “right” thing invalidates the importance or role of the result of such actions or inactions. More specifically, I fail to see a moral command to avoid voting, or that someone can be so “evil” one cannot vote for them, even if their opponent is more evil than they. I don’t think there is a parallel between, us somehow doing the righteous thing by not supporting Trump, and letting Hillary win, and us preaching the Gospel at the risk to our own lives.

A point I have been trying to make this whole time is that sometimes love for neighbor is at a personal cost to ourselves. That even if I bought the argument (I don’t) that voting for Trump somehow is a moral blight upon myself, I would argue that such a blight is worth the cost for the gain that Trump will serve my neighbor more than the harm Hillary will bring, and if I must pay a personal cost to ensure the welfare of my neighbor, then I will do so.

Pragmatism only looks towards what works, or the end result of things, but it has no system for judging the rightness of the results and it ignores the moral means. I am arguing that there is a righteous end in sight, namely seeking to love our neighbor by choosing the best of the two options according to a Biblical standard of righteousness, and that one should properly use righteous means towards that end. In other words I don’t think Christians should cheat, lie, nor commit voter fraud to win the election, do clearly immoral things. But I don’t think voting for Trump is immoral, because it is choosing the more righteous option between him and Hillary, the two most likely people who will win. So both my means and ends are righteous: I am properly seeking, lawfully and morally, the right end for my neighbor given the options at hand. While the choice may look more like I am supporting the amputation of my neighbor’s leg, it is better than the alternative amputation of his head.

Utilitarianism is true in the definition of seeking the greatest good in all situations, but where philosophical and historical Utilitarianism is false is that it doesn’t have a universal moral standard by which to judge the good.

Question 10) You keep saying that Trump will be better for my neighbor than Hillary, how do you justify that claim?

Answer 10) By carefully studying both Trump and Hillary’s claims, promises, and past history. Hillary promises to go further than Obama in all his positions towards the far left’s agenda. This means she supports same-sex marriage, transgender agenda, abortion for all reasons or no reasons and paid for by the tax payers, and an even more liberal supreme court which will surely keep doing what they have been doing for a while: making up laws and rights from the benches. Hillary and her court will surely keep working towards silencing conservatives and convictional Christians, and expanding government’s control over all aspects of our lives, both personal and public. She will keep expanding Obama’s dream of a weakened America in Global terms, and his usurping of States rights. The economy will continue to weaken under her leadership.

Trump, while no bastion of conservatism, seems to have a better understanding of economics, and at worst will not ruin the economy like Hillary surely will. He is, by all accounts, pro-life, pro-State, pro-America as a super power and pro-immigration reform. His running mate and some ideas for cabinet shows he will surround himself with a decent amount of strong conservatives. His list for kinds of Supreme Court justices is actually good, and by all accounts he will not try to outlaw or suppress Christianity.

Especially when compared to what Hillary offers, we are looking at a much better America under Trump than her. Of course we don’t have evidence that he will push things in the far conservatism of the Constitution, but he at least acts like he wants to get back to following it much more closely than we do now, which anything that direction is better than Obama and Hillary’s direction. Conservatism and Christianity may be allowed to be in the public square under Trump, Hillary will do all she can to silence and remove them from the “safe space” for leftism she wants to make all of America.

Under which does it sound like us and our neighbors will have more liberty, justice, and flourish more? Not which one is ideal, but compared to the other, which one will be better? And the decision is that simple, and that frustrating all at the same time. We must consider all things in light of their context and judged according to God’s transcendent Word.

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