I am a conservative, a Republican, and an evangelical Christian, and I am writing to my fellow conservatives, Republicans and my evangelical friends in particular. I know most of you are disappointed that Donald Trump did not win the election and that you are deeply concerned about the direction of our beloved country. Perhaps more pointedly, most of you believe he did win the 2020 election, but has been denied the presidency by fraudulent, criminal activity. I’d like to address these issues, and I’d like to bring in the Constitution and Romans 13 from the Bible, if I may.
Let me start by saying that I’ve been baffled by the “Stop the Steal” movement. I am a political scientist by profession and I’ve been following this election closely as I always do. My fellow conservatives – family, friends and colleagues – have brought to my attention many charges of fraud, shenanigans, tricks, criminal activity, all rooted in charges of vast conspiracy of the Democratic Party to steal the 2020 election. I’ve taken this seriously. I’ve looked at the charges and read what I can get my hands on, and while I have no doubt that in 2020, as in any election year, there were isolated cases of political malfeasance, even fraud (I grew up in the Chicago area where dead people famously vote in every election), I have not yet seen evidence of a systematic attempt to steal/sway the 2020 election. As a political scientist, I try to get a balanced view of politics by subscribing to/reading the New York Times (liberal) and the Washington Times (conservative). I listen to NPR (liberal) and partake of Christian radio and Fox News (conservative) as well.
Yet despite being a conservative myself, partaking of/consuming mainstream conservative media, and being surrounded by conservatives for much of my day every day, I cannot agree that this election was stolen from President Trump, nor can I conclude anything differently than that Joseph Biden won the election. I cannot support Josh Hawley, Ted Cruz, Matt Goetz or Donald Trump, among others, in their claims that the election was stolen, and the electoral votes should not have been counted for Biden. In fact, I cannot believe some of the outlandish claims I heard from Donald Trump and his lawyers – Giuliani, Wood and Powell in particular. I cannot support “Stop the Steal” nor can I find any justification for the violence that took place at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021.
What I have concluded is that many conservatives get their news from unreliable news sources via social media, and that these have increasingly shaped their views and both planted and watered the theories of vast conspiracy that now a majority of my fellow conservatives have come to believe. I am extremely worried about this. I am worried because of the threat I believe these pose to our country, but also for the future of the Republican Party and the viability of conservativism in general. Perhaps most alarming to me is the way evangelical Christianity has been co-opted into this movement, illustrated perhaps most starkly by the recent New Yorker video inside the capital with Jake Angeli (aka “Q Shaman”) praying in Jesus’ name in the Senate Chamber, and “Jesus Saves” flags that were visible on the steps of the US Capital amidst the tear gas and general mayhem that January 6, 2021 will represent in history, and the way that our Christian witness with its life-changing potential for good will be damaged by being associated with such violence and anarchy.
My fellow conservative friends, can I appeal to your historically high moral standards and your sense of patriotism here? I support the right of the president and fellow Republicans to push back, to ask for redress, to press their cases in court, as they have. They have that right. That is part of our American legal tradition and these rights are found in our constitution.
However, there are 3 reasons I believe we conservatives must concede that Joe Biden won the election and leave behind the “Stop the Steal” activism for good. First, despite filing more than 50 lawsuits nationwide, President Trump and his legal team have not been successful in court. These lawsuits have not resulted in even a single city or county, let alone a state, reversing its election results in Trump’s favor. If the fraud being claimed is so egregious, so widespread, how is it that there are no legal victories and our Supreme Court (which is now dominated by conservatives) has failed to weigh in on Trump’s side? Second, though the president and his team legitimately requested recounts and other appeals in numerous states, all states in the end certified their election results and cast their electoral votes just as they would have prior to the lawsuits. Even in cases where governor and secretary of state were both Republicans (such as in Georgia), or where the governor is a Republican (Arizona), the Trump team has not been successful in demonstrating the fraud they allege in such a way that any state’s official leadership has made any changes to the election results in their states. According to the US Constitution, states have jurisdiction over elections, and none of them – even Republican-controlled ones – have officially found any merit in the Trump team’s challenge to their elections. Third, despite the violence on January 6, 2021, the electoral votes were submitted and certified that day or early in the morning of January 7, making the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris official. For these three reasons, according to our legal system and our constitution, the election is over. As our parents and coaches taught us via participation in sporting events when we were young, when one loses one loses with grace and honor and shakes the hands of the team that won at the end of the game. We admit our loss, honor those who won, and then vow to win next time. While Donald Trump refused to do this, there is no reason we cannot. This leads to my final point, addressed specifically to fellow evangelical Christians.
I would like to conclude by making an appeal to scripture in support of these points. Romans 13:1 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” When the election is said and done, all votes are counted and certified, legal challenges are raised and then laid to rest formally, the result is in accordance with God’s will if we can take Romans 13 at face value. Therefore, based on this scripture, it was indeed God’s will that Donald Trump was elected in 2016. But that also means it was God’s will that Barack Obama was president from 2008-2016. Scripture gives us many examples of God’s sovereignty over human affairs, over the rise and fall of kings and queens. So I ask my conservative friends – if it was God’s will for President Trump to win a second term, how is it that points 1-3 above came to pass? Was God not big enough? Was it the case that Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden were too much for God and His plan? That can’t be true of the God I know. Scripture tells us that we are to submit to government authority and then it tells us that “those [authorities] that exist have been instituted by God.” All the mechanisms of our political system have played out, bringing us to the present reality that Joe Biden won the election and so has been instituted by God.
To my conservative friends, though there is much we do not support in the Democratic Party’s platform, it is time for us to accept that Donald Trump lost. I did not vote for Joe Biden. I am not a pacifist either. I would have proudly joined my fellow Americans in 1776 to raise arms against Britain. This is not 1776, however. We are free. Some of the agitation on the right threatens our freedom, however, and we must be vigilant against rightist extremism as we would be against leftist extremism.
Whether from an appeal to rationality, to legality/Constitutional order, or to scripture, for me there is only one conclusion I can reach. While Donald Trump was my president, Joseph Biden is now my president, and yours. That is in accordance with our laws and our constitution. That is also in accordance with scripture (Romans 13). Further resistance to the results of this election and/or the new president is inconsistent with American law and Christian/biblical truths. Let us come together as Americans. As conservatives we will continue to fight for our values. We will in places find ourselves at odds with the Biden team. We shouldn’t expect anything less, nor should the Democrats. But in our present situation our political fight is with our words, with our conservative values, with our moral example – not with violence or defiance of the law. I fear that there is a subcurrent among my conservative friends that is populated by persons so distraught over this election, even shaking with anger, that they might engage in anti-government violence, going further than those who attacked the Capitol Building January 6. In 1776 we chose to fight because we were colonial subjects with no other means of redress. While some on the right have said our present situation is analogous, we are in a very different place in 2021 than we were in 1776. We are subjects of no one. In fact, I believe conservative values remain the majority perspective in the United States, that conservatives can take back Congress in 2022 and the presidency in 2024 if we move beyond the Trumpism that has so divided us and continue to raise high the core values of conservativism, which are rooted in family, moral uprightness, love for country, respect for our constitution and the law and order it represents, and (for most of us), love for our God and His word. Continuing to say the election was fraudulent, that Donald Trump should be president, and worse yet fighting against the government authorities in this situation puts us on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of scripture.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Centennial Institute.
Gregory J. Moore is Professor of Global Studies and Politics at Colorado Christian University. He is the author of Human Rights and US Policy Toward China from a Christian Perspective (Crossroads/CPJ, 1999), Niebuhrian International Relations: The Ethics of Foreign Policymaking (Oxford, 2020), and other books and articles on politics and international relations.