Find Me

Find new posts at!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Christian Case for Neither: Three Reasons Not to Vote for Clinton or Trump

Unless something very surprising changes my mind, I will cast a protest vote for President of the United States. I mean a vote intended not to elect anyone but instead to send a message, with others, that active participants in our democracy are hungry for something better than today's options. (At present I am leaning toward writing someone in.)

I came to this conclusion because I imagined that if I cast a vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton and woke up Wednesday morning to find that the person I voted for won, I would feel sick. I can't bear the thought of contributing to either of them becoming President.

I am sympathetic to the "lesser of two evils" argument, but I don't see a lesser evil outcome in this choice—or if there is a lesser evil, the evil is still too high.

Here are three reasons to vote for neither candidate, addressed especially, but not exclusively, to my fellow evangelical Christians. Two are reasons that voting for Clinton or Trump is a bad thing; one is a reason that voting for neither is a good thing.

Reason #1 – Clinton and Trump are excessively immoral.

"Excessively immoral" implies that there is a certain acceptable level of immorality. When it comes to electing someone to office, there is. All humans are sinners; all are immoral; all are, apart from the mercy offered in Jesus Christ, subject to God's stern, inflexible condemnation of evil. "There is no one righteous, not even one" (Rom. 3:10). If we were only to elect officials without immorality, there would be no one to elect.

For this very reason, let me say at the outset that I feel sincere pity for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. If you watched the Frontline episode "The Choice 2016," I hope you feel pity for them also. (It's being re-aired over the next week or so if you missed it.) Our new President, whoever he or she will be, is a sad, empty, bitter person.

Moreover, if I didn't have the relative moral advantages of my upbringing, not to mention the grace of God in Christ, I don't for a moment believe that I would be any better a human being than Clinton or Trump. I do not wish to judge them, because I too deserve judgment.

That said, the essence of choosing a president is to make a judgment, an evaluation. And both candidates fail.

The big, overriding reason is that, I am convinced, there is literally no lie Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will not tell in order to save their own skin. They have no compunction about deceit whatsoever. I'm not sure they know anymore when they're committing it.

Lying is a common sin and should not automatically disqualify someone from office. "For we all stumble in many ways. If someone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect individual" (Jas. 3:2). However, though I don't know exactly where the fine line falls between lying and chronic, habitual, compulsive, pathological lying, I believe strongly that Trump and Clinton are on the wrong side of that line.

For Trump it's about looking out for Number One, and it's about saying whatever needs to be said at any moment to maximize the attention he draws to himself. For Clinton it's about the ends justifying the means—that is, in order for us all to reach utopia, she must have power; therefore, whatever gains or maintains power is a price worth paying. She does not have the utterly accidental relationship to the truth that Trump has, but she compensates by surrounding herself with people who instinctively deceive on her behalf to keep her machine running.

Both have been practicing deceit for decades, as has been well chronicled. If you're wondering whether this is worth overlooking, remember that Jesus said that whenever the devil "lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44 NIV). If you vote for Clinton or Trump, you are voting for a president who speaks fluent Satanese.

Beyond lying, Trump flaunts his immorality in almost every way imaginable, from his brutal sexual trophy-winning to his brazen greed to his titanic narcissism. "God opposes the proud" (Jas. 4:6)  is relentlessly repeated and demonstrated in Scripture (see, e.g., Dan. 4). Do we really want God to oppose our president and thus our nation? Do we think we can win that tilt?

When Clinton's husband was in power, we evangelicals insisted that character was essential to holding elective office and that Bill Clinton was not morally qualified to be president. We were absolutely right. Shame, shame on any one of us who changes their tune now.

Reason #2 – Clinton and Trump are committed to unconscionable policies.

Almost every political candidate supports a few policies that we think are bad, maybe even immoral. Yet we vote for them anyway, reasoning that this person supports fewer bad policies than their opponent.

Nevertheless, certain issue positions are dealbreakers: they are so unjust that even one of them is enough to make the candidate unacceptable. I maintain that both Clinton and Trump are fatally contaminated by their policy commitments.

Hillary Clinton's poison pill is abortion. Abortion is not a secondary issue for Clinton; it's not as though she maintains a pro-choice position because that's what the rest of her tribe is doing. Clinton is a dyed-in-the-wool acolyte of '60s/'70s-era feminism, which maintained that one essential feature of women's equality with men is for women to be able to have sex without consequences as men do. This is diametrically opposed to the Christian position that equality of the sexes means that men as well as women must be held responsible for the baby they make and that, whether a baby is conceived or not, there is no such thing as sex without consequences.

The baseline of individual freedom indeed includes the right to manage one's own body without interference, and this belongs inalienably to women as well as to men. But we routinely give the state power to interfere when what one person does to her body affects the welfare of someone else's body. We have the right to poison our bodies with alcohol if we choose, but we do not have the right to drive a car while we're doing it, no matter how good a driver we believe we are or how empty we believe the roads to be.

An unborn baby, even a one-celled embryo, is a distinct human life by any biological standard, carrying a unique, human genetic code. She is dependent on another human for basic survival, but so is a newborn. She is unable to reason and choose, but so is a late-stage Alzheimer's patient—in fact, the fetus is a more serious situation, because her days of reasoning and choosing on this earth are still ahead of her.

Pro-choice advocates often shoot back with the ad hominem accusation that pro-lifers only care about babies in the womb and don't care about the wretched conditions they are born into. I haven't found that to be true, but even if every pro-lifer is an obnoxious hypocrite it does nothing to blunt the pro-life logic. Imagine if the Nazis had justified their killing of Jews by accusing the British and the Americans of mistreating Jews who were alive. Would that defense hold? Your criticism of my hypocrisy does not excuse you—it's possible that we're both complicit in evil.

Speaking of ad hominems, you can find many millions of intelligent, well-adjusted, independent-thinking women who make the same case, so don't use my maleness as an excuse to ignore it. You might also look into the many men (doctors, etc.) who profit from abortions, not to mention the millions more who demand it of their wives, girlfriends, and daughters and domineer them into aborting their children—precisely the opposite of the liberation of women that abortion is supposed to facilitate.

Despite that many abortions are requested by women who can raise a child, the specter of the awful situations into which some children are born becomes ammunition for keeping abortion "safe [for one person] and legal." The assumption is that one of us has the authority to determine whether it is "worth it" if someone else lives or not. It is comfortable to think we can handle that authority responsibly as long as there is no human with lethal power over us looking at our lives and mulling over the same thing.

I am not categorically opposed to voting for a pro-choice candidate under any circumstances (though the stupendously disproportionate power of the President on this issue makes it difficult to ignore for that particular office). A groundswell of pro-life popular opinion could change the office-holder's mind. This is not so far-fetched—consider how rapidly Barack Obama "changed his mind" on same-sex marriage—and the further we get from the 1970s, the more the cultural momentum is swinging to the pro-life side.

But Hillary Clinton will never change her mind on abortion, even though she is liable to change her mind on literally every other issue if that's what it takes to stay in power. Unless a supernatural miracle occurs, she will insist on the free extermination of the unborn forever.

When I consider the policies of Donald Trump, things get fuzzier, because he has very little in the way of "policies" in a conventional sense. Instead, he has gut impulses and blunt statements. Yet those alone are morally inexcusable.

Trump wants to cut the tax rate for corporations and for the highest earners from 35 percent to 15 percent. I am willing to entertain the argument that corporate income is unfairly taxed twice—once when earned by the corporation itself and then again when it is distributed to its shareholders. But that's not the argument Trump makes. He boldly asserts that allowing extraordinarily wealthy people to get extraordinarily wealthier will create so many good-paying jobs that all of the rest of us will do much better and abound with gratitude.

This is ludicrous. Even more ludicrous is the notion that the nation will grow so wealthy that tax revenues will easily pay for government expenditures, which Trump has no interest in cutting, because that would make him unpopular. Things get even more absurd when you consider that Trump would spend lavishly to make the military even more "the best" and "the greatest." The result can only be financial cataclysm (which we're already steaming into without Trump) that will rock the global economy that America undergirds and result in unimagined suffering and chaos.

This will probably come to pass after Trump is dead and won't have to deal with it personally. Meanwhile, it is hard not to conclude that his main goal is simply to get as personally rich as he possibly can, regardless of the irrecoverable hits taken by the little people who supported him when it all crashes—which, by the way, has been his stance toward all of his investors for his entire career.

Secondly, Trump's attitude toward immigrants is morally indefensible. It's also wildly disconnected from the facts about immigrants—why they're here, what they do, what they're like, even how many are here and whether they're coming or going. In any case, as I've written previously, the attitude toward immigrants that Trump embodies is immoral and unbiblical and would set our nation up even higher for God's judgment.

Thirdly, Trump has a thin-skinned, personally combative nature that our nation hasn't had in the White House since Andrew Jackson. Jackson was not the president of a global superpower, and he did not have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the entire Earth. His rivals didn't either.

Richard Nixon is the only other president to compare to Jackson or Trump, but fortunately Nixon listened to Henry Kissinger. Trump listens to no one.

I do not know what exactly Trump would do other than "be tough" as President. "Being tough" in his fights with banks or his ex-wives haven't resulted in much more than tabloid fodder. Yet his long-practiced habit of relentless, overboard vindictiveness could result in the deaths of millions as commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States.

I am not a pacifist, and I believe that a government's show or exercise of lethal force is sometimes necessary to deter or neutralize threats to people's lives in this sinful world. But even when necessary it entails immense costs that Trump cannot conceive of, because he has never really paid any cost in his life that he is willing to admit.

Not only does Trump "speak evil words [and] use deceptive speech"; he also does not "strive for peace and promote it" (Ps. 34:13-14).

Reason #3 – A protest vote liberates us from the lies we want to believe.

This election is a marvelous opportunity for American evangelicals, maybe a once-in-a-lifetime grace. We should thank God from the bottom of our hearts for his mercy. The 2016 election is God's gracious, loving discipline to set his children free from our worldly folly about power and our own importance.

Every election we say the right words about how God is in control and sets up and deposes authorities at his will. We profess that the world will deteriorate in sin and will only be overcome by the return of Christ. We then proceed to think, speak, and act as if exactly the opposite were true. This year is the perfect moment to start walking our talk.

Don't hear me saying that it doesn't matter what choices we make at the polls and that we shouldn't care. Instead hear me saying that this is the perfect chance to downgrade our power in our own eyes and exalt God's in order to recover the proper tension between our responsibility and his sovereignty.

For more than a generation we have been sold a steady diet of falsehoods about power, righteousness, and America, especially by our own leaders (somewhat less so today). This is too big a topic to cover adequately here (and I am not qualified to do so), but a few points can outline it.

We believe that a spiritual awakening of many ordinary people will result in social change. We are right to turn our attention down the social ladder, but we are wrong about the results we expect, because elites have much more sway over long-lasting change than the masses, even in a democracy.

Ironically, we also believe that people with much worldly power produce social change, so we hope some of us will become powerful. But real power, the power of influence and attraction, isn't seized; it is mysteriously bestowed by others—in fact, by the very people that God does not want us to impress, because he wants us to impress him instead.

We believe that social change is something that powerful people engineer. But while they have a lot to do with it, social change more often engineers them, and when they do engineer it, it usually has unexpected and unintended repercussions.

We believe that we born-again Christians can be trusted with power, including the power to elect, because we have been changed. But our renewal is far from complete, and in fact nobody can be trusted with the least power in the least thing. Nevertheless, all of us down to the crying baby have some power, and we do have to sort out who is less untrustworthy with more of it than the rest of us. Yet we are to do so with the assumption that the sinner we empower will disappoint us.

We believe that if the nation were made to conform to our ideal, everything would be great for everyone. But we have great difficulty distinguishing which parts of our ideal come from objective, universal goodness and which parts come from our time- and place-bound cultural, regional, and class assumptions. We hate it when other cultures, regions, and classes impose their ideals on us, and we tend to retaliate in kind by imposing ours on them.

We believe that if the other side succeeds in imposing their ideal on us, we have lost. We will indeed have lost some precious things, because culture is precious. But culture—not to mention wealth and earthly comfort—is much more short-lived than we immortals are. The more pressure they put on us to sacrifice what really is eternal, the more of it we gain just by withstanding the pressure.

We believe that any false move could plunge our country into God's judgment. But we limit the possible false moves to a few hobbyhorse sins and ignore the vast number of ways our nation can and does sin in thought, word, and deed. In fact, we are being propelled further toward judgment all the time, yet that is not all bad. To the extent judgment chastens us, it's good. And if judgment is the opening bars of the Last Judgment, it is our deliverance.

Finally—though this is the least important point—we believe that without a party organ through which to speak, we have no influence on our nation. But white evangelicals' clinging to the Republican Party and black Christians' clinging to the Democratic Party have done nothing but make both groups of believers predictable, irrelevant, and exploited. This election is the perfect opportunity for evangelicals to declare our independence from the electoral process itself. If we demonstrate we don't need it, it will start needing us. We can make ourselves into a swing vote for 2020 and beyond, beholden to no one and not easily satisfied.

The political powers-that-be—including in our own tribe—have an interest in keeping us locked in these myths so that we continue to propel their ambitions. This election is the perfect chance to let go and be free. A "vote for neither" is a statement of our liberation from "this present evil age" as citizens of the age to come.