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.
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.