As a conservative, evangelical Christian, what was more disturbing to me than the conduct of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during the 2016 Presidential election was that of certain evangelical leaders who jeopardized their influence for the cause of Christ by compromising Biblical principles for the sake of political expediency.
As a pro-life Christian, voting for Clinton was never an option. Even if I had trusted her and supported her policies (which I did not), anyone who champions herself as the protector of women and children and yet believes that it is just fine to kill a helpless, innocent baby as long he resides in his mother’s womb, including up to the day of delivery, lacks the moral capacity and judgment to lead a nation.
The other option was Trump, a man who flaunted his disregard for Biblical principles, shamelessly belittling, mocking, insulting, intimidating and personally attacking anyone who disagreed with him. Unrepentant, he claimed to be a Christian who had done nothing for which he needed to ask for forgiveness. His life was built on the love of money, which the Bible deems the root of all evil. Sexual immorality, greed and gambling were his trademarks. Donald Trump repeatedly demonstrated that he was unrestrained – a particularly dangerous character trait for a President and Commander-in-Chief.
The two major political parties told the American public and we in turn told each other that we had to vote for one of these two candidates to be the next President of the United States of America. To do otherwise was to throw away our vote or worse, to vote for the greater of the two evils rather than the lesser, as if the lesser was easily distinguishable. Those who declined to endorse either Clinton or Trump and voted instead for someone else were chastised for their naivety or, in the case of evangelical Christians who refused to board the Trump train, accused of spiritual snobbery. In a nation where we are supposed to be free to vote for the candidate of our choice, this election sure did not feel like it.
With the potential for the next President to appoint several Supreme Court justices, I understand why my pro-life brothers and sisters felt compelled to vote for Donald Trump, despite his immoral character. While we did not agree on that excruciating decision, under the circumstances neither do I fault them for voting for a candidate who at least professed to support the right to life. On the other hand, I was dumbfounded that some of my friends could, with a straight face, describe Trump as a humble or Godly man.
My greatest disappointment with this election, however, was not with these people or even the candidates themselves. It was watching a parade of Christian evangelical leaders line up to trade their biblical family values for a highly speculative seat at the Trump White House table. I was stunned as they abandoned the belief that the character of a President matters and enthusiastically embraced situational ethics, waving off the Republican nominee’s deliberate disregard for biblical morality, and accepting the proposition that the suitability of a candidate is relative only to who they are running against. These evangelical leaders strained to justify their position by suggesting that Trump’s moral deficiencies were all in the past, despite clear evidence to the contrary from his own mouth. They misused the gospel of Jesus Christ to pressure Christians to vote for Donald Trump, arguing that God could use an evil man like him but implying that God could never use an evil woman like Hillary Clinton, as if either candidate had the power to limit the sovereignty of God.
As Brian Haynes, Lead Pastor at Bay Area Church in League City, Texas blogged on October 9, 2016:
“What makes me angry are “evangelical” leaders who rally behind Trump no matter how egregious or indefensible his latest escapade might be. It is as if we are willing to shout “liar” at Hillary Clinton while embracing the foolishness of Donald Trump. This is a double standard formed in partisan politics not gospel centeredness or in light of a biblical worldview. It is not as if we Christians can simply apply our worldview to one candidate but not the other.”
Despite what certain evangelical advisors led us to believe during this election, character still matters in the political arena because what a person thinks, believes, says and does in his private life will necessarily impact his politics. It is the height of hypocrisy to denounce former President Bill Clinton for lacking the personal moral integrity and character to run a country, and then twenty years later endorse another man for President whose sexual mores appear to mirror those of the former President, simply because that man is on “our side.”
When both candidates lack even that minimum level of character reasonably expected of a President, the solution is not to discard the belief that character counts, but to pursue an alternative. If the best the major political parties can offer are immoral options, conservative Christian voters should refuse to choose either, regardless of the political cost. Otherwise, Christians lose moral credibility, which has profound consequences not just for our nation but for all people.
Beyond sacrificing moral influence in the public arena, evangelicals who adopt moral relativism risk losing the ability to influence the culture for Christ. As Christians, we must remember our mission and purpose—that we are not called to save a nation or a culture, but to join Christ in his mission to save lost souls. Christians are strangers and aliens in a world which is at odds with the kingdom of God. If Christians hope to be salt that seasons the world with the gospel and love of Jesus, then they must remain distinct. In a world that is becoming angrier and darker, people need to know they can find hope in an unchanging God who will light the way with love.
If we are Christians, then we must be Christians first and stand on the absolute authority and wisdom of the Word of God rather than a political party platform. As we turn the page on this election, please join me in praying for reconciliation and healing among our citizens and for the next President of the United States of America. As Christians, let us remember our mission that we may be recognized not by our rhetoric, but by our love and our fruit.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35. “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” John 14:21. “This is my command: Love each other.” John 15:17.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing…. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. John 15:5, 8.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:22─23.