Friday, August 12, 2016

To Vote (for Trump) or Not to Vote (for Trump), that is the Question

For some of you, whether or not to vote for Trump feels like an easy, clear cut decision.  For me, it is not.  I have delayed sharing my thoughts until I had a little more clarity.  While I think this is the right time to share my thoughts about how to vote, I confess that I could still change my mind between now and November 8th. In this post, I will share both sides of this issue, and then share my own leanings.

But first, a warning. You might not like this post if . . .

1.  You think voting for Hillary Clinton is an option.  Hillary and the Democratic Party have consistently defended, promoted, and at times celebrated various forms of sexual immorality and killing unborn babies. Voting for Hillary is not an option for me.
2.  You think Donald Trump is the greatest thing since sliced bread, and you enthusiastically supported him in the Republican Primary.  I still feel and believe the things I wrote against Trump during the primaries, which you may find in previous posts here and here  .
3  You’re decision on whether or not to vote for Trump is based on an argument that can be reduced to either of these slogans, along with their one line of argumentation:
                a.  Never Trump (He’s bad, so I’m not voting for him.)
                b.  If you don’t vote for Trump, you’re voting for Hillary (She’s much worse, so I’m voting for him).

For those who are still with me, I’ll begin with the case against voting for Trump.

The Case for Not Voting for Trump

The case against voting for Trump is indeed very strong.  Here I will try to summarize the main points.

·         Trump is a terrible moral example.  He has lived a life full of sexual immorality and materialism.  Sexual immorality and materialism are idols in America, and having Trump as president may encourage people to continue to embrace these deadly idols which bring God’s wrath.
·         Trump has only recently “converted” to conservative principles.  This has several serious implications.  We have not had time or opportunity to see if his conversion is genuine, or if it is only a conversion of convenience.  Even if his conversion in genuine, he has not had time to grow in understanding how conservative principles work. 
·         Some of his past activities, such as Trump University, make Trump look like a kind of “conman.”  This means he is not trustworthy.  His lack of faithfulness to his first two wives is also evidence that he is not a man who can be trusted to keep even the most important promises that he makes.
·         One of Trump’s most obvious character attributes is his pride.  He is puffed up and presents his own abilities and person as the key to “making America great”.  God opposes the proud.
·         Trump’s rhetoric is inflammatory and makes already difficult situations worse.

You can add many more details, and some other major issues, in building a case against voting for Trump.  The case against voting for Trump is so strong, that I can easily understand why many evangelical Christians have stated that they will not vote for him. However, there are two sides to this issue (see Proverbs 18:17).  Let’s look at the other side . . .

The Case for Voting for Trump

We have arrived at a point in the election process where I have painfully accepted that either Trump or Hillary will be president.  I was hoping and even praying that a serious godly 3rd party candidate would emerge.  I probably would have wholeheartedly supported such a candidate if they had at least a slim chance of winning.  No such candidate has emerged. Part of me wants to hide my head in the sand and ignore this reality.  But that would be neither responsible nor courageous.

I don’t think I have to convince the vast majority of the readers of this blog that Hillary Clinton is at least every bit as terrible as Trump when it comes to a lack of morality and being untrustworthy. These issues can be represented in a chart like this one:

Hillary Clinton
Donald Trump
Has not shown evidence of the type of godly character we long for in leaders
Has not shown evidence of the type of godly character we long for in leaders
Lots of evidence that she is not trustworthy
Lots of evidence that he is not trustworthy

If these were the only factors, one could still make a “lesser or two evils” argument. You could attempt to argue that Trump is less ungodly than Hillary, and that he is less untrustworthy than she is.  In my opinion, that argument would be quite weak.  However, there are other very important factors.  When we vote for a president we are not just voting for a president.  We are also voting directly for a vice president and indirectly for what kind of Supreme Court justices will likely be appointed, and which political party will have more influence.  These other issues are compared in the chart below:

Hillary Clinton
Donald Trump
Has chosen a terrible vice president candidate
Has chosen an excellent vice president candidate
Is almost certain to appoint terrible Supreme Court justices
Is likely to appoint excellent Supreme Court justices
Is almost certain to work closely, almost exclusively, with those who promote harmful, ungodly, and even evil agendas
Is likely to work closely with many who promote helpful, godly agendas
Is NOT likely to be held accountable by congress if she commits impeachable offences
IS much more likely to be held accountable by Congress if he commits impeachable offences

The above four areas are not areas where voting for Trump is merely a vote for a “less evil” option.  These are issue where voting for Trump-Pence is actually voting for good.  Next, I will elaborate on each of these four issues.

1.  Trump has chosen an excellent, godly vice president

Mike Pence says that he is a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.  As far as I can tell, his personal life, his family, and his words and actions in Congress and as a Governor all align with that claim.  He is the type of person who I wish had been chosen as the Republican nominee for president. Donald Trump chose this man to be his vice president.

The vice president is very important for several reasons:
·         We should not forget that there is always a possibility that any president will not complete their term.  If Hillary does not complete her term, then one terrible president would be replaced by another terrible president.  But if Trump does not complete his term, I believe we could rejoice and thank God to have a man like Mike Pence as president.
·         More importantly (in my mind) is the fact that the vice president has a tie breaking vote in the US Senate.  Control of the Senate is vitally important. If Mike Pence is vice president, the Republicans will have one more Senate vote.  And even if the Senate is not split 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats, there may be particular bills and votes where Pence’s one vote will make a difference.  This is so important, that by itself it forms a weighty reason to vote for Trump and Pence.
·         Vice President Mike Pence will likely have many opportunities to influence President Donald Trump.  Trump does appear open to such influence.

Prior to taking the oath of office, the most important political decision a president makes is his choice of vice president. Trump has proven that despite all his negatives, he can in fact make decisions which are very good for our nation. The fact that Trump made such an excellent choice prior to being president gives us good reason to hope that he will keep his clear, explicit, and specific promise to make good choices when it comes to something even more important than choosing a vice president . . .

2. Trump is likely to appoint excellent Supreme Court Justices

Many elections before I even knew who Donald Trump was, I became convinced that the single most important specific issue for choosing a president was what kind of Supreme Court justices that president was likely to appoint.

While the government can and does perform many functions (I think, too many), the role of government which the Bible stresses the most is that of maintaining justice.  While all three branches of our government are involved in punishing evil and promoting good, the branch most directly responsible for this is the judicial branch, headed by the Supreme Court.

Wayne Grudem is best known for his Systematic Theology, which is probably the most widely used and influential book on systematic theology among evangelicals today.  What is less known is that he has also written several books on politics from a Biblical viewpoint.  It therefore comes as no surprise that Grudem wrote an immensely helpful article which includes a detailed comparison of the likely results that Clinton and Trump would each have on decisions made by the Supreme Court. Because some of you will not want to read the relevant six pages of Grudem’s well-documented presentation, I will attempt to summarize it here, mixing direct quotes with my own words.

Neither laws passed by our Congress, nor decisions made by our presidents, have directly forced all fifty states to allow widespread abortion, recognize so called “homosexual marriage”, tolerate a flood of filthy pornography, and suppress recognition of God in the public domain.  All of this evil has come directly from the Supreme Court of the United States.

As bad as things already are, they would likely get MUCH WORSE if Hillary Clinton is elected president.  She would immediately appoint a radically liberal justice to replace Scalia.  “But that is not all.  Justice Ginsburg is 83, and she has had colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and has a heart stent. Justice Kennedy is 80. Justice Breyer is 78. A President Clinton could possibly nominate three or four justices to the Supreme Court, locking in a far-left activist judiciary for perhaps 30 or more years.”

Before Scalia died, the Court was split, with four radical liberal judges, four conservative judges, and one “swing vote”.  The Court under Clinton would become solidly liberal.  As bad as things are now, we must realize that there have been a number of 5-4 decisions where the Court narrowly avoided decisions which would result in even greater immorality and even persecution of Christians and Christian institutions.  If Hillary is elected, we can expect all of these previous close calls, and much worse, to go the way of the radical liberal agenda.

Specifically, all the restrictions and limits on abortion which Christians have worked so hard for in many States would be quickly wiped out with a stroke of a pen.  Religious liberty would be severely eroded.  Many more Christian businesses would be closed down if they remain true to their beliefs.  Many more Christians will be forced out of government positions if they believe and practice what the Bible teaches. Christian organizations such as Christian colleges and social organizations like crisis pregnancy centers will likely come under severe pressure.  Many will likely be forced to close under severe economic penalties. The results I have mentioned so far are easy to predict based on the detailed examples Grudem provides.  But there is a real risk that it could get even worse than that.  Freedom of speech and political dissent could be severely curtailed, and there is a real danger that eventually acting in accord with some Biblical beliefs could be criminalized.  It has happened in many other countries.  It could happen here.

Grudem provides this excellent summary:

The nation would no longer be ruled by the people and their elected representatives, but by unelected, unaccountable, activist judges who would dictate from the bench about whatever they were pleased to decree. And there would be nothing in our system of government that anyone could do to stop them.
That is why this election is not just about Hillary Clinton. It is about defeating the far left liberal agenda that any Democratic nominee would champion. Liberal Democrats are now within one Supreme Court justice of their highest goal: gaining permanent control of the nation with a five vote majority on the Supreme Court, and then relentlessly imposing every liberal policy on the nation not through winning elections but through a relentless parade of one Supreme Court decision after another.
I am not naïve, and I know that Trump is not completely trustworthy when it comes to his own choice of Supreme Court appointments.  However, I am convinced that it is FAR MORE LIKELY that Trump will appoint good justices than Clinton.

The arguments for voting for Trump because of the consequences for the Supreme Court are indeed strong arguments.  In my opinion, the effect on the Supreme Court is the single strongest reason to vote for Trump.  Yet, we still have two more important factors to consider.

3.  Trump is likely to work closely with many who promote godly, helpful agendas

While Hillary is listening to groups like Planned Parenthood who murder unborn babies then sell their dismembered body parts, Trump will have many godly people around him.  I know there is no guarantee he will always listen to godly advice.  In fact, I suspect that sometimes he will not.  But in the most important decision he has made so far (choosing his running mate) Trump did listen to good advice.

4.  Trump is much more likely to be held accountable for wrong actions than Hillary

I thank God that the founding fathers of our nation included strong checks and balances on government power.  But these checks and balances must be carried out by people.

If Hillary becomes president and does anything worthy of impeachment, I think it is very unlikely that enough Democrats will join Republicans to get enough votes to impeach her.  We saw this when her husband was president and should have been removed from office, but was not.

On the other hand, many Republican leaders have been willing to speak up when Trump has said things that are wrong and dangerous.  These men are much more likely to hold Trump accountable if he ever does anything worthy of impeachment.

Having presented the cases against and for voting for Trump, I’ll now briefly share . . .

Two Relevant Biblical Principles

1.  Eating Meat without endorsing idolatry

In Romans 14, Paul discusses an issue that had caused arguments between believers.  The issue was whether or not it was acceptable to eat meat.  This was almost without doubt related to the fact that in Gentile cities (like Rome) most meat was offered to idols when it was prepared.  Some believers felt that eating the meat would mean supporting idolatry.  So they abstained.  Other believers felt that they could buy and eat the meat, giving thanks to God for it, and it did not mean that they supported idolatry.

Paul pointed out that believers should not judge each other over such differences.  And I believe that we should not judge each other over whether or not we vote for Trump.  If you vote for Trump, please do not say to other believers who do not vote for Trump things like “You are just supporting Hillary.”  You are judging their motives.  On the other hand, if you do not vote for Trump, please do not say to believers who do vote for Trump, “You don’t care about character.”  Again, you are judging their motives.  Let each believer vote according to their conscious.

While Paul stressed not judging each other, Paul did have his own opinion.  He thought it was not a sin to eat the meat, as long as you did not explicitly endorse idolatry while eating it and as long as you did not cause others to stumble.  Just as it was possible to eat meat without promoting idolatry, I think it is possible to vote for Trump without endorsing everything about him.

2.  Jesus calls us to be both innocent as doves and wise as serpents (see Matthew 10:16)

When we live in a dark world surrounded by “wolves,” it is important to stay innocent.  That principle, taken by itself, might make us not want to vote for someone like Trump who has been immoral in many ways.  But we are also called to be “wise as serpents”.  This includes making difficult choices when all roads are dark and dangerous.

Like Frodo trying to find a way into Mordor to complete his task, we are faced with a situation where there are no safe or easy roads going forward.  Faramir did a great job warning Frodo how dangerous his plan to follow Gollum was.  But Frodo rightly pointed out that there simply was no better option. All our options are dark and dangerous. 

Having lived in a Muslim majority nation for fourteen years where Christians had no chance of being elected president may have given me some insight into this issue which most Americans lack.  There actually were Indonesian Christian parties, but they had no chance of winning a national election.  Many Christians voted instead for moderate Muslims who were far from ideal but who were MUCH better than having a radical Muslim president.  I think the Indonesian Christians were being “wise as serpents” in the midst of wolves, and I also think that their strategy bore good fruit.  The equivalent for us might be voting for Trump.

My Conclusion

The case against voting for Trump is strong.  The case for voting for Trump is strong.

In June and July I was undecided, but leaning against voting for Trump:

After further prayerful consideration and observation, I now lean towards voting for Trump:

If you want to share these thoughts with someone in just two minutes, try something like this:

At this point it is almost certain that either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be our next president.  In my opinion, based on their character and their past actions and words, neither of them are even close to being qualified for this office.  However, when we vote for a president we are not only choosing a president.  We are also choosing a vice president.  And because the vice president has a vote to break any ties in the Senate, we are casting a vote which will help decide which party will control the US Senate (it is likely to be very close), and which bills pass the US Senate.  In addition to that, because the president appoints Supreme Court justices we are also choosing the future makeup of the Supreme Court.  Because Trump’s vice president is vastly better than Clinton’s, and because the Republicans being in control of the Senate is vastly better than the Democrats being in control, and because Trump very likely will appoint far better justices than Clinton, I plan to vote for Trump.

Hebrews 13:16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others . . .

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