When the Election is not about the Nation but MmmmeeeeEEEEE

Why do Christians on both sides of the Tiber frame the current presidential contest in a secular republic no less in terms of what a believer’s vote says about his or her devotion or virtue? Here are a few samples.

First, how the character of a candidate may affect the character of the voter:

Christians can, morally, either support Trump over Hillary or not support either. Nearly all Christians who support Trump over Hillary do so without adopting strong-man messianism. Being clear that one is not endorsing specific moral flaws, and having one’s eyes wide open about the calculation, is not an internal threat to the Church. It’s not even a problem unique to this election cycle.

Whew. If I vote for Hillary I won’t stain my soul.

But morality won’t resolve my dilemma of for whom to vote (if I’m Roman Catholic):

. . . it’s plain to see that Catholic moral reasoning does not map on to the current American political grid. What then should Catholics do? What should be the final thought of the undecided American Catholic voter, behind the sacred veil of the voting booth?

Some Catholics react to their complicated political instincts by isolating one issue about which to make an electoral decision. At the national level, we find many “single-issue voters” on the topic of abortion. As a fundamental matter of life and death, one of the non-negotiables of Catholic moral teaching, it makes sense why many Catholics highlight abortion as a way to clear a path toward a conscience-protecting vote. But there are other non-negotiables in Faithful Citizenship too, such as torture and racism. And some Catholics also believe that recent uses of American military power, especially targeted killings through drone strikes or accidental bombings of allies, have crossed the line of non-negotiable moral teaching about the dignity of human life and the protection of noncombatants during war.

Uh oh.

For Protestants, voting winds up functioning as a part of self-disclosure:

A vote for Trump is a vote signifying that evangelicals are owned by the GOP. Part of the tragedy here is that evangelicals are still a big enough voting bloc that we could prevent either candidate from winning the election.

Let that sink in. If evangelicals just said, “No, I refuse to be coerced into supporting candidates who do not meet a very basic standard,” we could swing the election. You probably read that sentence and immediately dismissed it, thinking something like, “That is a fantasy. The reality is people are going to vote for one of the two major candidates.”

People won’t vote for a third party candidate because third party candidates don’t win because people won’t vote for a third party candidate—which is great for the two major parties because they don’t really have to even try to address the concerns of voters.

A vote for Trump also communicates to our neighbors that we believe he would be an acceptable leader for our country. Sure, you can qualify your Trump support by saying you have reservations but you believe he’s better than Clinton; however, by casting a ballot for him you are fundamentally claiming that it would be good for Trump to govern you and your neighbor.

How would anyone actually know how I vote? Isn’t the ballot supposed to be private? If so, then maybe ordinary Christians should not be so glib about how they are going to vote. Propriety, people!

But no. For some this election season is so wicked and Trump so depraved that the only response is revulsion (which it seems you should display so that people know you are not so morally compromised):

I believe that the proper response of the well-former mind and heart to the very idea of Donald Trump as President of the United States is, to put it bluntly, revulsion. . . .

What concerns me far more deeply is the ordinary, everyday Christian — the person who claims to be an evangelical Christian — who is not revolted by Trump, who lacks the requisite “wisdom of repugnance.” I think, for instance, of the people who have compared Trump to King David, presumably because both are guilty of sexual sin. But those who make this comparison have failed to recognize the difference between one who says “For I know my transgressions, / And my sin is ever before me” and one who says that he doesn’t “bring God into that picture” when he does something wrong and follows up by saying “I am good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad.” And if you don’t understand that distinction — and equally if you understand it but for political reasons pretend not to — there is very little about the Christian message that you truly grasp.

By the way, I’m not talking about Hillary Clinton here because there is so little evangelical support for Hillary Clinton. She also offers much for us to be appalled by.

And I’m not even making the argument that an evangelical Christian should never in any circumstances vote for Trump. (Not today, anyway.) I am simply saying this: the fact that so many American Christians feel no revulsion at the thought of electing Donald Trump — this man so palpably “unsound, uninformed, unhinged and unfit” — as the leader of this or for that matter any other nation, but rather express great enthusiasm at the prospect, indicates not just a lack of knowledge but also, and more important, a lack of moral training. The immediate responses are missing or wrong.

Voting as fruit of the Spirit. Politics as sanctification.

It seems to this 2ker that investing voting with such moral and spiritual significance is to overestimate (way way so) the United States or a Christian’s place in the nation. Everyone has ideas about American government, what would be good for the nation, which candidate may offer a corrective to certain trends, which figure symbolizes a part of the nation’s worthwhile qualities. Of course, Americans could be more informed about policies and how government works, though if members of Congress can’t parse the Affordable Care Act which of us can stand in that pretty good day of national or state debate? Chances are that after this election, even if Congress impeaches the next president (which could happen to either major candidate), the republic will go on and the forces of consolidation and centralization will also remain thanks to the United States’ standing as a global hegemon.

Life will go on.

Sanctification for the saints will continue.

Christians will more or less throw themselves into policy, activism, party politics.

CNN and Fox will sensationalize.

Large sums of money — almost as much as professional athletes make — will go to politicians in hopes of access.

It’s all bigger than mmmmeeeeeeEEEE.

So it’s time to switch from the summer cocktail of choice — the gin and tonic — to the one for cooler temperatures — the whiskey sour. Somewhere in the world it’s 5:00.

15 thoughts on “When the Election is not about the Nation but MmmmeeeeEEEEE

  1. Opposition to Trump will save evangelicalism (boil your drinking water!!):

    But his editorial — and the decision of Harold Smith and other CT leaders to run it — does give me hope that it’s not too late for mainstream evangelical institutions to help facilitate the kind of agonizing reappraisal that we so desperately need if the word “evangelical” can continue to stand for the Evangel. Otherwise, as Crouch added, “Enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbors ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord.”


  2. 35 years of supporting presidents in not so subtle ways and he thinks evangelicals may still save their credibility:

    If evangelicals publicly support Donald Trump, the chief result will not be the advance of the sanctity of life or of religious liberty, let alone of family values. The result will be the collapse of any evangelical credibility on moral issues whatsoever.

    Evangelicals are on the ballot?


  3. Whiskey sour? Better a glass of good Argentinian Malbec. That is, unless you’re making some kind of statement.


  4. “The result will be the collapse of any evangelical credibility on moral issues whatsoever.”

    The amount of credibility that evangelicals had on moral issues before Trump was quite staggering. In fact evangelicals had an immense amount of credibility even before the dreaded Christian Right era. Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, MIT, Oxford, Columbia are only some of the best universities that used to recruit their best scholars from evangelical colleges and seminaries. But that was before Trump. And before the Christian Right.
    Before the Christian Right era evangelical ministers were often sought out for their advice by the Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy administrations. Major film and television studios eagerly sought out input from evangelical scholars. Their influence can be seen in many Hitchcock movies. The list goes on and on.

    And evangelicals lost all of their credibility by casting their lot with Trump. Sad!


  5. Didn’t Luther say…….. ‘better have a good Turk for a ruler, rather than a bad Christian?’ (my paraphrase – to allow for the correct quote/reference by others who know it better).


  6. A whiskey old fashioned beats a whiskey sour for a good Fall drink. But you have to make it like they did before the days of muddled cherries and oranges. As for the election, preaching through Daniel over the past few weeks has certainly put things in perspective concerning God and government. . . .


  7. Certainly our sanctification can be reduced to our political views and activities. But neither are our political views and activities absent from our sanctification. Politics is merely one among many pars of practical theology. That does not mean that there only one candidate Christians can vote for here. But why we vote for particular candidates can reflect our spiritual state.

    BTW, the GOP has owned religiously conservative Christians for a long time. Trump’s campaign is merely testing how much of that ownership still exists.


  8. George, you’re correct on the literal saying/quote. Still, Luther did express the same thought in his ‘Open Letter to the Christian Nobility of the German Nation’….

    ……though the text of Luther’s comments are debated, logical reasoning of his intent is quite simple to tease out of the work. He’s not saying it is always the best thing to have an unbelieving or bad (Gates of Vienna encroachment era – which was bad)Turk, but given the choice between that and Roman Catholic rule in all aspects of life, it was preferable to have the former. I think his assertion is a strong tie to Romans 13:1, except for those who hold to the ‘Moral Majority’ type of ideology. No mistake about it, please, I want godly rulers, but we’re not promised to have such in a fallen world, and if we do, it is indeed a mercy and grace.


  9. And thanks George for clarifying and setting the record straight about Luther and the quote…….you’re helping all of us.


  10. See what happens to mmmmeeeeeEEEE when I vote?

    When Metaxas votes for Trump, and when I write in my choice, we’ll both be voting for losing candidates. The difference is that my choice will be fit for the presidency and possess the character and temperament to lead the greatest nation in the world. His choice will not. I’ll be calling on Christians to support a candidate who possesses real integrity. He will not. He’s throwing away his vote on a corrupt, opportunistic demagogue. I am not.


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