Those who are having a moral struggle with their Christian citizenship confuse me in their reluctance to vote for Trump or Clinton. It’s not that complicated as long as we face a few hard realities.
One of these realities is that we are not a Christian nation. The Founders were quite explicit about creating a secular government and I believe it was the hand of God that ordained it. I will always vote in ways that reflect my faith because it is inseparable from my being, personality, world view, and intellect.I will not, however, automatically vote for a candidate who claims Christianity because the mere label tells me nothing about his or her competence and wisdom.
The definition of who is a Christian ultimately resides in the heavenly realm. The maturity level, sincerity, and influence on thinking is not a standard template from person to person or season to season within a person. Nor is it biblical to say that God will bless the leader or the nation that claims to follow Christ over a leader or nation that does not. We grossly misinterpret many Old Testament blessings on the Jewish nation as promises to America. It is the church that is compelled to be a blessing to the nation, not the nation to bless the church. America has never failed God, only the church has done so.
Another reality is that the President does not have unlimited power to accomplish all that we might fear that Donald or Hillary will abuse. We have had eight years to see how a President can be unrestrained in influence, but this is the fault (if it is a fault – I understand the arguments but that’s my position) of Congress. It is Congress where our post cards and phone calls and emails and votes count the most. If one of you decides to abstain from the Presidential vote, DO NOT ABSTAIN from your vote for other offices for there is where your influence lies.
Another reality is that whether we can even chart the morality, much less a denomination, of a candidate is questionable. Our Facebook collection of like-minded friends gives us no compass with each assigning Hitleresque qualities to both candidates. The media, bless their hearts, seem to have lost any objectivity in favor of inflammatory headlines. And the publicity machines, consultants, and coaches, would never let a candidate speak Truth without a filter. Trump may be the only exception in that he apparently just says what is on his mind and this, to a public conditioned to hear only sanitized sound bites, is the very attribute that both attracts and repels. We tend to vote for personalities, but “I dunno I just don’t like (him)(her)” is not an informed vote.
It is my confidence (albeit shaky) in our local democratic process that allows me to vote for Trump. The very fact that he has unsettled us and will likely unsettle Congress is the greatest merit of his candidacy. The electorate has rarely been so invigorated and impassioned and we have The Donald to thank for that for better or for worse. I would argue that Bernie’s popularity owes a percentage to Trump’s contrast rather than Clinton’s. A Trump presidency might even be the final incentive for a third party whose time may finally have arrived to return to U.S. politics.
To the Christian whose compassion is encouraged by allowing open borders and more money for the poor, I would argue that we need to do a rational calculus of the nature and future of government programs. There is a liberty and culture cost to every law and program passed in Washington, D.C. I challenge any sociologist to attribute the destruction of black American families to anything other than the over reach of well-intended Great Society programs. The Christian who claims that taking money out of someone else’s pocket to give to the poor is a Christian value should be more attentive to scripture. Therefore, to say Trump is hateful and Clinton is compassionate doesn’t necessarily translate to a policy that is good or bad when applied nationally and over time.
So the question of “How could you, a Christian, vote for _______” is perhaps a question that doesn’t deserve to be asked. In the end, we understand that God is sovereign, has a plan for our nation and the church, has given us a brain for thinking as well as a heart for feeling, and can give grace and blessing to whom he chooses. It is not Donald’s clumsy claims of being born again nor Hillary’s patronizing references to her Methodist background but rather our prayers, our good conduct, and our local political voices that will make the difference for our country.