“I’m voting for Donald Trump.” In this election season, there is no better conversation-killer among evangelical circles than uttering such a confession. A continental divide exists between evangelical Christians who are #NeverTrump and those who will be voting for Mr. Trump come November 8th. The charge against those who support Trump is that they have sacrificed their Christian witness to the broader culture and hitched their wagon to a pandering demagogue.
As a Christian who will be voting for mr. Trump, I read the rising discord of columnists like the National Review‘s David French (whom I have deep respect for) who sanctimoniously contend that Trump-supporting Christians no longer have the right to talk about candidates’ character in future elections. Recently, Theologian Albert Mohler tweeted, “We must maintain our moral credibility, or we lose everything, including our right to speak about morality.” A fresh Gospel is emerging: the Gospel of Attachment to Trump. After this election, I fear that fellowship and “righteousness” will be determined by whether one did or did not support Trump. This kind of posturing manifests itself on both sides of the debate, and as someone on the Trump side, allow me to explain my convictions before casting me off as a heretic.
For someone who hitched his wagon to Senator Cruz during his run in the Republican primaries, it was a bitter scene to watch him announce his exit from the primary race. For many weeks after, I sourly blamed those who propped up Trump, worshipped him, and vilified those who criticized him. What changed, then, for me to walk into the enemy’s camp? Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Whether Christians want to admit to it or not, either Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton will win this election, and I cannot in good conscience sit out the election without at least attempting to make a glass of less-bitter lemonade out of two unsavory political lemons.
Countering the Fundamental Transformation
I’ve gotten a lot of scorn about the lesser-of-two evils argument, but not much in the way of informed rebuttal. For instance, military tacticians acknowledge that the most well-crafted assault plans often don’t survive the first round fired, so let’s put this in electoral terms. I think most Christians thought we could get Cruz or Rubio the nomination (for me, preferably Cruz)—which is something I stridently called for in my article “NOTICE: Evangelicals, Do Bring Your Principles to the Ballot Box”—and watch either candidate steamroll Secretary Clinton into a long-overdue retirement.
Guess what? Neither of them got the nomination, but returning to the military analogy, no platoon would self-righteously exit the battlefield if their assault plan was disrupted because they got bogged down in an unexpected firefight. No, they make use of the personnel they have and recognize the broader strategy the enemy is seeking to implement. The may not have the choice circumstances or personnel, but never do they immediately drop their weapons in a fit and high-tail it from the battlefield, which is what many #NeverTrump advocates are doing by sitting out the election.
I think sitting out the election is a foolish strategy. Eight years ago, President Obama began his “fundamental transformation” of America, and per a Hilary Clinton election, that same leftist agenda will receive a four-year extension. President Obama has wielded executive privilege as a political blunderbuss, and to think Hilary will not follow suit is fanciful. Supreme Court nominees, Religious liberty, the 2nd Amendment, healthcare, and Christian ethics will be distilled into a vat of big government tyranny and forced socialism.
All things considered, I am not the Sword and Shield of the new Donald Trump GOP. I do not defend him to no end as some Christians do or lash out at others who rightly criticize him. Rather, I do criticize him when he runs amok. Yet I am not going to walk away from making a choice, and holding this conviction of conscience, I am choosing the candidate who induces less nausea when it comes to proposed policy.
The scoffing of many #NeverTrump evangelicals toward this line of thinking is reprehensible. To scoff at the brother or sister who attempts to cushion the blow America might face through voting for a wildcard like Trump over a committed Saul Alinsky apostle like Clinton is rich talk coming from those who will be sitting on the sidelines—neutral in a moment in American history when difficult decisions concerning the direction of American need to be made.
I Agree that Character Matters.
To my fellow brethren, character does matter to me as well, but in this election, we haven’t been privy to much of it. On the other hand, I have before me two options which I can competitively weigh, and even so, the lack of character does not deny the existence of redemptive qualities. I am inherently more indignant toward Secretary Clinton’s actions regarding Benghazi, religious liberty, her email scandals, and her treatment of Mr. Clinton’s accusers than I am of Trumps words and rhetoric.
This does not excuse Mr. Trumps perversions and prior actions, but when left with a choice, I choose the one who has not put American lives in critical danger and compromised national security, as Secretary Clinton has done during her reign in the State Department. Character affects policy and while I have sucking-chest-wound sized doubts about what Mr. Trump could do, I also have a cold, calcified cynicism about what Secretary Clinton will do based on the excruciating damage she has already done.
I’m not vilifying the #NeverTrump Christians’ right to conscience like so many have done. When I vote, I’m following my conscience, just as those who will not vote. Instead, I’m simply arguing that non-voting strategy is fateful for America as a whole, not just Christians and conservatives. Continual uproar at the naked corruption and decadence is not going to change the choices we have, and to sneer at those who are casting their vote as means to make the best of what is before them is backhanded.
Character matters, and that’s why I shoulder the consequences of my vote. Although, those Christians who will sit out, vote third party, or write in a candidate are like the able-bodied bums on the street collecting welfare who talk smack on their buddy who decides to tale a job as a garbage man rather than scrub urinals at the local Y.
I Fear for Conservatism, Yes, But for the Country, I Fear More.
Yes, I too lament that conservatism has been hijacked, but this has been a slow-roasted death beginning with McCain in ’08, followed by Romney in ’12, and now served with a bonfire barbecue in Trump. But isn’t this death the reason why the Tea Party arose, so that the GOP would reclaim the principles it once stood for? A hefty subset of Christians would not vote for Romney because he was Mormon, and we were treated with four more years of Obama’s policies. Do we wish the same in 2016?
A lot of #NeverTrump Christians cite their sturdy principles in not voting, but when has freezing when torn between two difficult decisions ever benefitted the party in question? The reality is, many won’t vote simply because they fear their Christian reputation and witness will be savaged by those who disagree.
Above all, this causes me the most dismay—that the body of Christ will begin to desert politics altogether, masking their disgust with the screen, “No king but King Jesus.” Oh, I most definitely agree with the prior statement wholeheartedly, yet our King Jesus has given us the spiritual tools to do some earthly good as well.
Political figures are not our saviors, but they can maintain justice in the courts (Amos 5:15). Thus, this comes down to a question of discernment. Some don’t think either of the candidates have redemptive principles in their character and policies, while many Christians think Trump does. In my opinion, at least Mr. Trump has demonstrated an inclination to protect religious liberty, defund Planned Parenthood, and extend an ear to evangelical protests. Did anyone see Hilary Clinton forming a Faith Advisory Committee?
That’s why I pray that those who have been given access to Mr. Trump, such as Jerry Falwell Jr., Pat Robertson, and Franklin Graham will exert pressure on Trump to remain steadfast in his promises. One cannot predict what the Holy Spirit can do with an open ear, no matter how wanton or unacknowledging the beholder. If anything, this election should motivate Christians to get involved in local and state politics to counter the big government encroachment.
The existential threat Senator Clinton poses to religious liberty, free speech, and foreign policy is not a threat I can idly fold my hands and permit unfettered access without a vote as counter-punch to her intentions—even if the counterpunch is not the knockout blow we wished we could have had in a Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.
In essence, I’ll take a survivable backstabbing to conservatism rather than a fatal leftist gunshot to the chest of the whole nation. Conservatism will inevitably respond and shore up its policies, so frankly, it’s nice to seem the GOP take a stand for once. However, those who think the GOP can resist a Clinton presidency are selectively editing the last eight years out.
Never Forget our Common Bonds in the Gospel
I get it,the 2016 Presidential election script was not meant for to behold the improv that we have become accustomed to. Just when Christian conservatives had a field of bonafide candidates to sift through, a barnstorming spectacle named Donald Trump sliced the script in half, wheeling and dealing his way through the primaries. There have been enough scandals to drop a 2000 pound bull, yet after each foaming reprisal from the media and nation, Mr. Trump has skipped for another ride, the rodeo clown the survives what should have been another fatal gouging. But that’s an exertion of common grace if I’ve ever seen it, and it just might be that Trump will serve God’s purpose despite his iniquities.
Yet making tough decisions does not ensure we will experience a Hollywood sense of triumph. There are times when we get no immediate gratification nor backslaps, but we still must carry on in light of the fork in the road before us. Regardless of voting or not voting, let us Christians make a commitment to stand shoulder-to-shoulder together in the years ahead, becoming our own force in the political and cultural arenas with the Gospel in hand.
Kevin Cochrane is a writer with the distinct purpose of radically restoring everyone with exposed ears to the original testimony of Jesus Christ.For updates on his latest blog posts here at restandrefuge.wordpress.com, you can follow him on Twitter @RunFree_KC or click the follow button at the bottom of the page to receive notifications by email. Want to read more? Check him out at themajestysmen.com/author/kevincochrane, a friendship and mentoring community for Christian males (views on my blog at restandrefuge.wordpress.com are my own and do not necessarily represent those of The Majesty’s Men). To contact, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.