“The political leaders and the religious leaders were working together to maintain power. The religious leaders gave religious legitimacy to the political leaders, and the political leaders gave political legitimacy to the religious institutions.”
The professor was talking about Europe, hundreds of years ago. But I could have sworn he was commenting on the 2016 election.
I wasn’t going to write this post. I wasn’t going to beg you, plead with you, do everything I could to convince you: don’t vote for Donald Trump. I was set on dancing around the issue, offering mild-mannered advice, hoping you’d get the hint.
But I cannot stay silent any longer: Church, this is too important.
I’m not going to argue that Donald Trump is unfit for the presidency, because that’s been well hashed-out by many sources. (Here are some examples from Public Faith, Russell Moore, and a Republican writing for the Huffington Post.)
I’m not going to argue that allowing Hilary Clinton to win the presidency (however you think your vote or non-vote will contribute to that) is a better option than voting for Trump, because that’s been well explained as well. Along with the above pieces, these ones by Rachel Held Evans and Mere Orthodoxy specifically explain why a vote for Trump is not a pro-life vote.
I don’t want to rehash arguments that have already been made. Instead, I’m going to speak directly to people that in spite of all this evidence, still believe voting for Trump is a good choice for Christians.
Even if none of that completely convinced you, here’s why you STILL shouldn’t vote for Trump:
our witness is more important than our country.
It’s more important than “religious freedom,” more important than the integrity of our government, more important than any particular policy or platform.
“But my vote doesn’t affect my witness,” you might say. “No one even has to know!”
Yes it does and yes they do.
Your vote doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is part of a larger narrative about the “evangelical” voting bloc, Christianity’s relationship to state power, and oddly-defined and disproportionately-applied appeals to morality.
Your vote is situated in the context of the Moral Majority and Pat Robertson and shock jock radio and a “God and country” religion that looks nothing like true Christianity.
“Your” vote is not your own, just like your life is no longer your own.
Your decision calculus drastically changed the moment you signed up for the radical self-sacrificing life of a Christ follower. You no longer value self-preservation above all else. You no longer think primarily about how things affect you and your comfort. Your very life becomes a secondary consideration to the great command to take up your cross and follow Him. Your comfort and personal preferences take a backseat to going into the world and making disciples.
That doesn’t mean you never vote for imperfect candidates or that political engagement should be totally discarded in favor of evangelism. (You’re talking to someone who plans on being very involved in politics for the rest of her life.)
Instead, it means that the way you view any given election, political affiliation, or particular candidate should be radically different from an unbeliever. The considerations should not be the same.
And in this election, it is painfully clear: supporting Donald Trump will severely harm our witness.
It’s not about voting Republican or being conservative, it’s about voting for a racist, misogynistic, nationalistic candidate with little regard for good and faithful governance. It’s not even about your individual vote, it’s about the collective allegiance the American church seems to have to the Republican party. When there is already such complicated history of evangelical leaders tying themselves to the GOP, it seems like this election is asking the question: how far will they go? How terrible of a candidate can we give them? Exactly how beholden to the Republican party are they? Which allegiance will win – their politics or their faith?
2016 seems to have proven that “politics” is the answer.
Let us not forget that our job is not to build a nation or win some supposed “culture war,” our job is to make disciples. Even if it costs us our country, our religious freedom, the prominence of our faith in national politics.
“We can’t make disciples without religious freedom,” you might be thinking.
Tell that to the persecuted church all around the world, who are growing in number and strength in spite of (or perhaps because of) the opposition they face.
But if we are beholden to a political party or ideology, we will inevitably have to present the gospel in a way that fits and supports that ideology. We will be like the church leaders my professor was speaking of – bought out by political leaders, and obligated to preach and teach in a way that supported the ruling party. When we sell our message to a political ideology, we’re beholden to defend it, even when it contradicts the gospel.
If we water down the gospel in order to proclaim it, we aren’t proclaiming it at all.
You might be wondering why I haven’t applied all this logic to a vote for Hillary Clinton. The reason is simple: the Democratic party doesn’t have the stranglehold on Christian leaders and the “evangelical” voting bloc that Republicans do – the history just isn’t there. There isn’t a larger narrative and context that plays into all of it. Honestly, I don’t think Christians voting for Clinton will have anywhere near the kind of negative impact on our witness as voting for Trump will. It doesn’t support a larger narrative and it wouldn’t continue to send the message to the Republican party that we are with you no matter what you do.
If we continue to vote for whoever they give us, if we continue to let a cursory nod to the pro-life cause be the litmus test for our support, if we continue to give our undying allegiance to the Republican party – we will be given more Trumps. We will be given more horrible candidates with ethics antithetical to the gospel, and the world will know us by this allegiance.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care who you vote for, but I care much more that you don’t vote for Trump. I think he would be a terrible president, but honestly, that’s not even my greatest reason for making this plea to you.
I want to see disciples made in all the nations. I want to see people come to know Christ and the freedom He offers. I want to see God glorified in all we do.
And I passionately believe we will abdicate our ability to be involved in those beautiful manifestations of God’s redemptive work on earth if we decide to go down in flames as the American church that refused to separate from the Republican party.
Am I saying that you aren’t a Christian if you vote for Trump? No. Am I saying that it’s a sin to vote for Trump? No. Am I saying that you will never ever make disciples of Christ if you vote for Trump? No.
(And it’s a testament to the awfulness of this election season that I feel the need to explicitly repudiate those things.)
I am simply arguing that the American church’s ability to faithfully make disciples will be seriously harmed if we are beholden to a particular political party. And I believe this election is hugely important for determining whether or not we are.
I don’t think now is the time for carving out narrow delineations between the candidates. I think now is the time to unequivocally say “no” to a political party that believes it holds us on a short leash. I believe now is the time to say “enough is enough” and refuse to be tied to a candidate that devalues all life – women, Muslims, black people, immigrants, and until conveniently recently, the unborn.
This plea is not given lightly. I rant and argue about politics all the time, but I rarely write about it this explicitly. In this election, however, my heart is utterly broken over the willingness of Christians and Christian leaders to sell their witness for power, influence, or comfort.