I’m no political expert, nor do I pretend to be. In fact, I still don’t even know who I’m voting for, myself. So, I’m definitely not about to tell you who you should vote for. The point of this blog post is not to argue for or against Donald Trump. Rather, my aim is to disqualify a certain kind of argument that some Christians use to endorse the Donald. I want to discuss one bad reason to vote for Trump. It’s this: to vote primarily out of self-preservation.
Two Sides Two Arguments
Last week, Joe Carter described the political conundrum of many American evangelicals and their resulting division. He framed the division as one between those who emphasize justice and those who emphasize witness.
It’s definitely possible that someone else could conceive of a better framework than “justice” vs. “witness.” But regardless, Carter helpfully highlighted the strongest evangelical arguments for and against Trump. The strongest evangelical argument for Trump appears to be the Supreme Court Justice argument. And the strongest evangelical argument against Trump is his indefensible character.
I wanted to comment on the former argument – the Supreme Court Justice Argument.
Articulating the SCOTUS Argument
Notwithstanding my personal views about Trump, I’m quite concerned about how and why Christians make this argument for him. See, for example, Wayne Grudem’s original argument for the Donald.
Of course, I am more than sympathetic with the evangelical outcry against abortions in America, especially if Clinton wins and appoints a Supreme Court Justice of her choice. I am also concerned with the threat that a Clinton presidency may pose to free speech. There is undoubtedly a justice argument to be made against Hillary.
However, there’s a common way of articulating this justice argument for Trump (or “against Clinton” more properly) that too dominantly invokes self-preservation.
The argument goes something like this: “If Clinton gets the Supreme Court Justice of her choice, then we, Christians, are doomed to suffering and possibly even persecution. Hence, we must vote for a candidate that has a chance of defeating her. So I guess that only leaves Trump…” Can you sense the motive of self-preservation?
Carter hints at this by describing how evangelicals perceive the drawbacks of going #NeverTrump: “The drawback is by being faithful to the gospel evangelicals may suffer significant political setbacks or even losses of freedom [emphasis mine].”
Wayne Grudem’s original SCOTUS argument bemoaned the threat of liberal opposition to religious liberty. But more precisely, what he was bemoaning was opposition to Christian views and rights. In particular, he noted the looming impact of a liberal Supreme Court on Christian businesses, churches, and children’s educations.
More recently, although calling for Trump’s withdrawal from the election, Grudem continues to utilize this SCOTUS argument to maintain a #NeverClinton ethos. He revised his statement, saying that we should not vote for Trump, but for his policies.
In response to those citing Christian witness as a reason not to vote for Trump, he counters that a Clinton presidency would also hinder Christian witness (possibly even more than a Trump presidency) and cites the liberal silencing and exclusion of Christians as destructive toward the Christian witness.
What if we fail to vote against the liberal support for abortion rights, government imposition of gender confusion on our children, hate speech laws used to silence Christians, and government-sanctioned exclusion of thousands of Christians from their lifelong occupations because they won’t bow to the homosexual agenda — will our failure to oppose these evils also destroy our Christian witness for the future? Will our grandchildren ask us why we failed to stop the imminent triumph of anti-Christian liberal tyranny when we had the ability to do so?
Grudem definitely has legitimate concerns. However, we must remember that Christian voting is not synonymous with voting to prevent Christian suffering. A political posture that prioritizes self-preservation above all else cannot properly be called “Christian.” Ours is a faith that values selflessness. Ours is a Lord who eschewed self-preservation for the salvation of others.
For a Christian to primarily vote for Trump in order to avoid Christian suffering under Clinton, regardless of its effects on the nation, is the same as a greedy and ruthless businessman voting for a pro-capitalist candidate who promises more tax cuts regardless of their effects on society. It’s likewise also analogous to an idle welfare abuser voting for a pro-socialist candidate who promises more governmental aid regardless of the effects on the rest of the nation.
Suffering, harm, and persecution must not be the Christian’s greatest fear, nor the Christian’s primary political motivator. Besides, a Clinton Administration would hardly be the most anti-Christian government the world has ever seen.
The gates of hell shall not prevail against the church. The efficacy of our witness does not depend on a pro-Christian government. In every season and circumstance, we proclaim the gospel and embody its implications.
So in conclusion, I’m not saying that Grudem or any other Christian is out of line for mentioning the potential harm Christians face should Hillary win the election. Do I think the religious liberty argument against Clinton is strong? I certainly do. I also maintain that religious liberty is invaluable for the flourishing of Christians and non-Christians alike in American society. That being said, Christians must not vote primarily out of self-preservation. They must not vote primarily out of a desire to avoid harm, suffering, and persecution. Rather, to vote “Christianly” is to vote for the well-being and flourishing of the whole.
May God give us wisdom to do so next month.