Elections, conscience and the will of God

Elections, conscience and the will of God October 11, 2016
By Keoni Cabral, Flickr. CC Licensing.
By Keoni Cabral, Flickr. CC Licensing.


I hope my usual readers who come to this site looking for thoughts on film, television and other entertainment will indulge one last political post. Believe me, I can’t wait to get back to writing about pop culture and movies, and I hope to do that shortly. But this is a crucial time for our country and for the Church. And as a Christian with a platform, I feel it is necessary to put into words what God has laid on my heart.

It’s no surprise that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about this election. I’m saddened about the state of the Church. I’ve wondered how Christians I love and respect, some of whom are in my own family, can throw their support behind a man as vulgar and repulsive as Donald Trump. It’s not just that I disagree with his politics. It’s that I disagree with his view of humanity and his outlook on life. I feel he is dangerously incompetent and woefully unprepared to be president. As I wrote earlier this week, understanding and celebrating the image of God in others is one of the foundations of the Christian faith. Supporting a man who brags about sexual assault, belittles the disabled and vilifies minorities should be unthinkable to Christians. And the people who support him are doing it out of nothing more than party loyalty; if Trump were running as a Democrat, every Republican would be demanding he step down.

Even as this blog has been largely silent over the past month, I’ve been vocal on Facebook — much to the frustration of my friends and family, whose feeds have been flooded with my rants. But how can I stay silent? When so much of Trump’s own party has abandoned him but Christian leaders remain by his side, how can I not speak out? When I see men and women of faith brush off sexual abuse, ignore racism and endorse hate, how do I stay silent? When the Church aligns itself with this man, how do I not scream, “this is not the Church!?” Christians are called to expose the darkness and speak truth, mercy and hope.  Our politics and devotion to America are secondary, maybe tertiary, maybe lower than that. Our mandate is to glorify Christ and display him as beautiful. When the bride of Christ whores itself out for political power, we have no choice but to speak out. When the church is more concerned with securing Supreme Court justices than protecting and valuing other human beings, how genuine is our faith? 

This anger has led me to do some deep soul-searching. And while it’s given me a conviction that I cannot remain silent about these issues, it’s also revealed a deep hypocrisy.

See, I understand why people support Donald Trump; they’re scared of Hillary Clinton. They recognize Trump’s problems but have convinced themselves that they’re not that bad because the alternative is having her in the White House. And I understand that. I understand that because I’m scared of Donald Trump, and I’m doing the exact same thing.

Normally I don’t have a problem voting Democrat. I voted twice for Barack Obama and I’ve been pleased with his flawed but important presidency. I voted for Bernie Sanders in the primary. But from the start, I’ve had deep concerns about Hillary Clinton. She’s a politician through and through, and has a history of using suspect means to climb the political ladder. The email and Behghazi scandals might not reach the heights of Trump’s problems and disrespect, but they’re definitely cause for concern. Her position on religious liberty makes me nervous and her views on abortion go against everything I believe about life as a precious gift.

But until this point, I’ve put my support behind her, arguing that she’s not that bad and that she’s what we need. I’ve said that we need to support her in order to keep Trump out, because that’s our only hope. But if I’m calling Donald Trump out for not being a godly choice for this nation,  then I need to also refuse to support Hillary, even if I’m afraid of what a Trump presidency will do to our nation. Because not only does the Bible say to call out evil, it says “do not be afraid.” A vote cast in fear is a vote that goes against my faith.

Back in 2008, during the Obama-McCain election (which now seems so halcyon), singer-songwriter Derek Webb wrote a blog piece called “How Shall We Then Vote”.  In it, he argued that if Christians could not bring it to themselves to support a candidate, then abstaining from voting was a viable option. When we reach this place, he wrote, we must:

1. Look through your bible for a mandate that you must vote [Chris note: I believe asking whether there’s a mandate to vote for one of two major parties is also a question to ask.

2. When you don’t find one, listen to that conscience of yours. That’s what it’s there for, to be a guide and a red flag when you’re making difficult and significant decisions.

More and more, I see the validity in a third-party, write-in or even no-vote option. I know many Christians who say their conscience won’t let them vote for Hillary Clinton. I can’t imagine how anyone’s conscience would let them vote for Trump. So wouldn’t a biblical option be to vote for someone your conscience can support? And, if you find no one, might abstaining be the right option?

But then we protest that a third-party vote gives a vote to our opponent, or that if we don’t vote we forfeit our right to place a ruler. But in that, we show our fear that a good, sovereign God doesn’t know what he’s doing. And we show our idolatry by not trusting Him and, instead, trying to control the outcome instead of listening to the Spirit. We want to know what God’s will is, who He’s going to pick to lead our nation. But we’re taught the secret things belong to God; whomever He places in office, it’s His will to do so. What’s His will for us? To live rightly, to glorify Him and to keep our conscience clear. If both these choices go against my conscience, then perhaps the best thing to do is to vote for neither and trust that God, in his wisdom,will give us the ruler He wants for us; even if that ruler is part of his judgment. Is it terrifying to put that choice in God’s hand? In my sinfulness, I say yes. In my hope, I ask: Where else should it be?

Moving forward during this election and afterward, I believe our job is to call out the evil that has co-opted and ensnared the church. We must toss over tables, in a figurative sense, exposing the things that are covering up the gospel in American Christianity. We must address it in our churches, circles of friends, and in our homes. We must do the work of tough but healing love, speaking hard truth and wrestling to restore and display the beauty of the gospel. And it’s not about denouncing Trump or Clinton. It’s about confessing and repenting from our dependence on the politics of fear, power and idolatry. It’s about confessing and repenting from the way we’ve ignored the plight of minorities and the disenfranchised because it wasn’t politically convenient or because we had blinders on. The church must address how it has besmirched a faith that was one of the first to view women as equals by ignoring, belittling and silencing their concerns of abuse, assault, worth and equality.

This election has torn a hole in the church. But some wounds are necessary. Sometimes our hearts grow so calloused and indifferent that it takes trauma to wake us up. During this election, I’ve seen my own soul in danger as I’ve become angry and disenchanted with brothers in sisters in Christ. But in his mercy, God reawakened me to the beauty of the gospel and convicted me that there’s a beautiful, hopeful and restorative faith that still beats, just buried under a lot of ugliness right now. Let’s let him burn the ugliness away and begin walking in beauty together.

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