Why does the Christian Conservative engage in politics? To put it simply, to return America to its godly heritage. There is only one problem with this lofty motive. Godliness is never established through politics. “The anger of man does not establish the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). God’s Judgment can be delayed, but not avoided. Remember that Israel’s judgement was sealed nearly 1,000 years earlier in Deuteronomy 31:29 (“I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall on you because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord”), and again under king Jeroboam’s reign as the first king of the northern kingdom (II Kings 17:22). The northern kingdom never regained a godly heritage. The southern kingdom of Judah did have periods of revival under godly kings. But can the Christian honestly say that any of today’s available candidates show evidence of godly leadership? Trump? Hillary? If we have to make excuses for a candidate’s behavior or corruption, or constantly ignore his or her sin and look the other way, how do we expect godly leadership? America is in the pickle its in not because our politics has gone wrong, rather, because our culture has gone wrong. Our culture is informed by our reigning worldview, which in turn is informed by our religious beliefs.
Most Christians can’t vote for Hillary because of her position to expand the right to murder defenseless babies, her deep corruption, and her anti-Christian views. Conservative Christians, on the other hand, have played footsie with Trump. Me included. But recent revelations about his behavior cause great concern. Some remark that he is a baby Christian. But where is the evidence? And doesn’t scripture tell us not to put baby Christians in a high place of testimony (I Timothy 3:6)? Trump himself has said that he’s never asked for forgiveness and has nothing to forgive. Yet, Trump knows his own past and behavior. In response to the revelation of his 2005 comments about women, Trump said, “This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago. Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course—not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.” Is that an apology or an excuse? He didn’t apologize for what he did. He apologized for how you feel about what he did. Christian, how will you excuse that?
A fundamental mark of a baby Christian is that he recognizes his sin, even at a most basic level, and knows he has to repent of it. Where is the sign of this in Trump? Where is the heartfelt, humbling admission of doing wrong? And to be fair, where is this in Hillary? In both cases it seems nowhere to be found.
Is a lack of a Trump vote a vote for Hillary? Is the lack of a Hillary vote a vote for Trump? I don’t think so. I think this perspective is fundamentally flawed. No Christian is morally obligated to vote for the lesser of two evils. The Christian is not bound by anything in scripture to vote for any person of either side. The scripture concerns itself more with godliness, and cultural and personal obedience than electoral choice.
Consider that as Christians we are tying our Christian approval to a candidate when we vote. We associate Christ with whom we vote for. Who would Jesus vote for? Can you imagine any of our Founding Fathers voting for Trump or Hillary? Would Thomas Jefferson stump for Trump? Would George Washington endorse Hillary? And what choice of president has ever, ever, resulted in a true revival of our godly heritage? Not a single one. This is because in the heat of our political fervor we forget that our heritage is an organic outgrowth of our culture. And culture is not based on politics, it is based on worldview. And it is from our worldview and culture that we exercise our politics. Politics is the legal expression of our worldview. And if the country’s worldview has gone to hell, then what do we expect of our politics?
No candidate is the answer to our problems in the long or short term. At best a candidate may be a reformer. The ancient kings of Judah could spark reform for one reason. They had the legal and covenantal power to destroy idols, execute idolatrous priests, and purge the nation of its cultural practice of idolatry. But even that reform usually only lasted a single generation. America’s political leaders do not possess this power. The First Amendment and the First Commandment (Exodus 20:3) stand diametrically opposed to one another in our current culture and political interpretation. And you can’t change that by a vote for president. You can only change that with a radical reform of national worldview. When half the population considers voting for a candidate that wants to expand the right to kill babies, and the other half is willing to look the other way from their candidate’s many unapologetic moral failings, then that country is screwed. Remember the days of Bill Clinton’s sin when we loudly and often cried, “Character counts!” Does it count now?
One of my favorite TV shows is Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In one episode the character of Dax is discussing Klingon politics with Worf, a Klingon officer. When he asks her opinion about the Klingon political situation she says, “The Klingon empire is dying, and I think it deserves to die…I see a society that is in deep denial about itself. We’re talking about a warrior culture that prides itself on maintaining centuries old traditions of honor and integrity. But in reality it’s willing to accept corruption at the highest levels…How many times have you had to cover up the crimes of your leaders because it was ‘For the good of the empire?’ The truth is that you have been willing to accept a government you know is corrupt…You are the most honorable and decent man I have ever met. If you are willing to tolerate men like [this], then what hope is there for the empire?”
Sound familiar? Christian, if honor and integrity still matters, what are you willing to tolerate?
Political election is a picture of spiritual election. In spiritual election God makes a choice about our salvation. Once that salvation is imparted we become elect. God’s seal of forgiveness and approval is given to us. This is not too different from political election. In political election we choose a candidate to vote for. Our election of him or her denotes the past is past. But just as God expects godliness from us after our election, so too we expect our president to behave in a certain way. Do we think any of our current candidates will rise to our best expectations?
Many of the early state constitutions had a provision called, Fundamental Principles (Massachusetts, Part I, Article 18, New Hampshire, Part I, Article 38, Vermont, Chapter I, Article 18, North Carolina, Article V, Section 21, and Illinois, Article VIII, Section 18). Fundamental Principles was a list of character traits that all elected officials were expected to live by in both their political and private lives. Those early constitutions gave citizens the right to require these of their elected officials in a legal way. Compare this to today’s politics. Why aren’t we, as Christians, insisting that our candidates live out these principles? Because those principles have faded from our culture.
No matter who you vote for, no matter if you vote or refrain from voting (which is not a sin), the answers to our problems of national character and corrupt government won’t be solved by our political personalities or expediency. A fundamental and deep shift in culture and worldview is the only way to turn things around. Because if we are willing to tolerate people like Hillary or Trump, then what hope is there for our nation?