*This post is written by Rev. Brandan Robertson on behalf of himself alone. The views expressed do not represent any church, seminary, or organization he is affiliated with.
The 2020 election will be by far the most consequential election in my lifetime. As a millennial, I have watched our country transform drastically over the past nearly thirty years- from the digital revolution of the 90’s, 9/11 and the so-called “war against terror”, the financial collapse of 2008, to the election of our first black President. The past thirty years of American history have been anything but smooth and tranquil, yet the moment we’re facing as we approach November feels unlike any other that I’ve lived through. The future of the American experiment truly feels in jeopardy, and the moral heart of our country feels as if it is on life-support.
Over the past four years, the Presidency of Donald Trump has proven to be as fraught with scandal and immorality as one would expect when electing a reality-TV star to lead the most powerful nation in the world. And with every scandal, every racist tweet, every regressive executive order, our country has grown accustomed to spending exactly five minutes in outrage before moving on to the next unbelievably ignorant utterance to come out of the President’s mouth. No one can blame us for adopting this survival mechanism, but none the less, this pattern should trouble all of us deeply. If this trend continues, I fear that our national conscience will become seared beyond redemption, allowing for worst angels of our nature to flourish.
For better or for worse, the American President is not only the leader of the executive branch of government but is the figurehead of our nation. The President is, in theory, supposed to embody the best of America on the world stage, and be a figure that all of the country regardless of their political affiliation can get behind. They’re meant to be a leader that can set aside their own self-interest in order to represent the whole of the country, especially in moments of tragedy and turmoil. This role has proven to be essential in keeping the social cohesion of our country in our most fragile of moments. And the Presidency of Donald Trump has shown us what happens when a President doesn’t act in this capacity.
There are calls for race wars in our country. Martial law has been enacted on protestors in the state of Oregon. Transgender rights continue to be rolled back. A pandemic continues to ravage the most medically advanced nation on earth because our leader has yet again put profit over people. Our economy is on the verge of total collapse. Our allies around the world now see us as an enemy and our enemies now see us as an ally. It is not an overstatement to suggest that America in 2020 is beginning to look like a scene out of a dystopian fantasy novel. But friends, this is far from fantasy. This is our new reality.
As a follower of Christ, I have spent the last four years seeking to figure out just how I should be meeting this moment. What would God desire of me? Of the Christian Church collectively? By and large, the answer has been to get engaged in my community on a grassroots level, seeking to use my power, privilege, and resources to help make the lives of others better. I also have become more committed than ever to calling my faith community to organized social and political action, understanding that we have a moral and spiritual obligation to hold our elected officials accountable to doing what is right and just.
I have also become convinced that it is my moral and spiritual duty to encourage others to vote in the 2020 election because it has never been clearer just how much damage can be done by a single ill-intentioned, unqualified individual in elected office. The majority of the Trump Administration has been filled with such people, and they have done irreparable damage to some of the most sacred institutions of our democracy in just four (long) years. Our votes matter. Elections matter. And the candidates we support matter.
As a Christian, I have been reminded that looking for candidates that believe in the universal moral ideals that Jesus embodied is actually a good thing to do, while also understanding that obviously no candidate will perfectly embody the way of Jesus. Candidates who believe that loving our neighbors is a core moral goal, that resisting evildoers while turning the other cheek is a better path forward than retribution and retaliation, that providing and caring for the poor is the obligation of every society, and that believes in creating a future of equity and justice for everyone (even those we disagree with) are precisely what we need to continue to move America in a direction of true progress.
One of the core texts that summarizes the values embodied by Jesus comes from Luke 4 where he steps into a Synagogue and reads from the prophetic words of Isaiah, declaring that these words embody his mission and calling. The words Jesus read are as follows:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s liberation for all.”
If you read that text and then look at the two candidates’ platforms, Joe Biden is clearly the singular candidate that embodies these values best by far. When holding up Biden’s values and record with that of Donald Trump, there can be not even a hint of doubt over which candidate best represents the values of Jesus.
Biden’s platform and record stand for economic justice for the poor, fighting systemic racism, demanding reform for those in prison, arguing for universal healthcare even for those with pre-existing conditions, promoting the value of respectful debate in American discourse, valuing empathy and diplomacy, and protecting first amendment rights.
Trump, on the other hand, seeks to make the poor invisible, threatens his opponents with prison, is working to kill the Affordable Care Act in the midst of a global pandemic, supports memorializing racists and slave owners, praises authoritarian dictators, and continually threatens the first amendment rights of Americans.
There is no contest here. Anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ and who allows the values of Jesus to inform their own values and morals should have no question as to which candidate represents the better future for our nation. Joe Biden is not perfect, nor has he always made perfect choices in his career, but by and large, his life reflects the way and wisdom of Jesus. Donald Trump, on the other hand, has a life-long record of willful, unrepentant sin, greed, and destructive behavior that he has brought with him into the Oval Office and normalized on the world stage.
As followers of Christ, we should care about the morality of our elected officials, especially the President, not just for the benefit of our own self-interests or those of our country but for the good of the whole world. As we move towards the election in November, it is incumbent upon all of us to understand the gravity of the responsibility we hold and the moral weight of our vote. The Scriptures tell us that we will be accountable to God for “every careless word” we speak (Matthew 12:36). How much more will we be held accountable for a vote cast that promotes everything opposed to the way of Jesus?
This November, it is imperative that every follower of Christ vote. And from where I stand as a Christian, there is only one candidate that has a record and platform deserving of my sacred vote: Joe Biden.