Guest blog by Dave Lester who blogs at www.dangeroushope.wordpress.com about Christianity, film and life.
Many Evangelicals and Donald Trump have had a cozy and interesting relationship together since he rode down a Trump Tower escalator and announced his campaign for president. Political parties are made up of the threads of various coalition groups that leaders try to assimilate behind a chosen candidate. A substantial coalition group for the Republican Party since the late 1970s has been Evangelical Christians, a large segment of which has popularly been known as the Religious Right. Baptist Pastor Jerry Falwell, Sr’s Moral Majority came of influence especially during the initial presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan and groups including Focus on the Family, Family Research Council, and others gained prominence within the genesis of the modern conservative movement in America as representing rightward Evangelicals.
The aftermath of the epically divisive 2016 presidential election saw Evangelicals voting for Republican candidate Donald J. Trump by a margin of 80-16 according to exit polls. Analysis shows that a high percentage will likely vote for the current casino magnate, real estate owner, and financially floundering tycoon once again. There are a good number of Evangelicals that are enthusiastic about the Republican candidate as MAGA cheerleaders. Another subset, who will be voting for Trump, will state that they don’t like Trump but are Republicans and will be voting for the party’s platform. Still others are enamored with the zeal of negative partisanship and simply refuse to vote for a Democrat.
A largely seen meme has circled social media spaces a couple of months ahead of the 2020 election aimed at Evangelicals and other conservative believers of faith. The meme entitled “Why I Can Not Vote Democrat” is more simplistic than a tract, outlining 7 bulleted sentences with Bible verses loosely attached.
Responding to memes often is a waste of time, but these bullet points are worth addressing as they represent common talking points in faith-based interwebs and church groups, and are often used against individuals starting to stray or considering abandoning aspects of the GOP platform. The talking points are indeed vague but as a former political conservative myself, I knew what each one meant. I will address them one by one.
I will vote for the most pro-life candidate, because God hates the shedding of innocent blood (Proverbs 6:17).
Being against abortion is a common belief among Evangelical Christians and most Evangelicals I have encountered are sincere with this viewpoint. However, Evangelicals were not always anti-abortion. For instance, prior to the passage of Roe V Wade by the Supreme Court in 1973, the Southern Baptist Convention (the biggest denomination of Evangelicals) agreed on a joint resolution in 1971: “We call upon Southern Baptists to work for legislation that will allow the possibility of abortion under such conditions as rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother.”
Personally, I think abortion is a terrible thing. However, being a white male, if there were going to be legislation passed on the given subject, I would prefer it be led and championed by women.
Another difficulty in legislating abortion may be how to define whether the mother’s life is in danger (even most pro-life Evangelicals support this exception). All pregnancies carry some degree of risk even if the chance of the mother dying in labor is a small statistic. If legislation is going to be crafted though, how would this be defined in the law? What statistical percentage of a mother’s life being in danger would allow her to get an abortion if the political pro-life side won the day on their issue? Would anyone want the government deciding these things over a family?
In the United States, maternal mortality is also disturbingly high compared with other industrialized, modern nations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-American women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women, an immoral and terrible reality (https://bit.ly/black-women-high-risk).
The issue is far more complicated than the rancor of the culture wars make it out to be. There is also considerable evidence that abortion rates go down under Democratic leadership as compared with Republican leadership. For more on this important topic, see: http://bit.ly/pro-life-vote-democrat.
I will vote for the most pro-Israel candidate, because God blesses those who bless Israel and curses those who don’t (Genesis 12:3).
The relationship of Israel to the New Testament church is a mammoth theological issue with Evangelical believer’s viewpoints all along a spectrum. A theological system called dispensationalism has as a central tenant that Israel is distinct from the church in the New Testament. A televangelist named John Hagee is an influential voice believing that Israel, as a nation and people group, will be the recipient of future prophetic promises and there are other leaders who believe this as well.
Israel, as a nation, is a great friend to the United States. However, Israeli lives are not all that matter in this equation. Palestinian lives are also created by God and Christians should be concerned about image bearers of God (Genesis 1:27) who live in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as much as we are with our friends who live in Israel.
Many politicians have tried to equate Jewish people with the government of Israel that makes political decisions. Many of those political decisions are not morally correct and criticizing political decisions of a country does not equal hating a group of people who have a specific ethnicity. Palestinian leadership has also made incredibly immoral decisions with acts of terrorism and violence. The Israeli government has as well. Welcome to the complicated and tragic reality of the Middle East. May we all pray and yearn for peace.
I will vote for the most pro-debt reduction candidate, because the borrower is servant to the lender (Proverbs 22:7).
Leaving aside that the context of Proverbs 22:7 applies to an individual, not a nation, the thought that the Republican Party exuberates the qualities of fiscal restraint is absolutely laughable. Modern deficit spending began to increase during Ronald Reagan’s administration when he increased the debt by 186%. He increased the defense spending budget and passed rounds of tax cuts which obviously siphoned out revenue.
By the time President Bill Clinton came to power, by the end of his administration, the budget contained a surplus.
The debt then greatly increased under George W Bush by an estimated $5.8 trillion with a war in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as rounds of tax cuts and other domestic spending programs (the Dept of Homeland Security was inaugurated after 9/11).
How has Donald Trump fared so far? The debt has increased $5.2 trillion in 3 years.
I will vote for the most pro-work candidate because God says if a man won’t work let him not eat. (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
Setting aside the many exhortations and commands to care for the poor and feed the hungry which can be found throughout Scripture, this generalized talking point rests on an assumption of people who live in poverty: they are lazy and don’t want to work. While there are certainly lazy people in the world, there are also poor people who work extremely hard and sometimes hold down multiple jobs but still cannot get ahead. Poverty has a reprehensible race factor because of marginalized people groups in our society. People can sometimes not land good jobs because of the color of their skin. In our modern society, we need to be honest about the many reasons that people may find themselves trapped in a cycle of poverty. It often has nothing to do with their personal work ethic. See data from Pew Research Center: https://pewrsr.ch/34ihxMD.
I will vote for the most Pro-Marriage candidate because God is for marriage as defined in Genesis 2:24.
If a person is making this statement as a signal that they are voting for Donald Trump, I have some news for you. Trump has been divorced three times, has bragged about his adulterous affairs, had unprotected sex with porn stars after the birth of his son Barron, and has openly bragged about grabbing women by the pussy. Let us not forget the accusations brought against the Trump campaign by Michael Cohen Trump’s longtime former lawyer. He testified under oath that Stormy Daniels, Karen MacDougal and potentially other women were paid hush money to not talk about their sexual liaisons with Trump. If this is accurate, not only is Trump not pro-marriage, but he also does not obey the law as this is a campaign finance felony.
I will vote for the candidate who most closely believes government’s purpose is to reward good & punish evil (Romans 13).
This is a vague talking point. Does the author of the meme want a government that punishes evil based upon the morals prescribed in the Bible: a kind of theocracy? If we are just talking about a rule of law society, based upon the US Constitution and federal and state laws, most sane people of both parties would agree. Given the laws Trump has been accused of breaking, including obstruction of justice in part two of the Mueller Report and the aforementioned campaign finance felonies, does Trump believe this statement about government applies to him?
I will vote based as close as I can on God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16).
As a Christian, I understand this statement. What does God’s Word- the Bible- have to say about the treatment of poor people or immigrants? How about the Bible’s instructions on morality, character, and integrity? It is true that no politician is perfect, but using this sort of statement to argue voting for one party over another is not engaging in the reality of the wrong that both parties have done both in the past and in our present. We are blessed to live in a Republic that champions itself, according to our highest ideals, of being a government “by the people and for the people.” We as citizens get a say in how we organize our shared spaces in this geographic territory we call the United States of America.
If we are looking for Biblical values to inspire us as Christians in this direction, why not look at the values that consumed the early church in Acts chapter 2: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.” If we are basing political positions on Biblical values, why leave out these values in Acts 2?
If we have learned anything thus far in our journey as recovering evangelicals, it is that there is GREY even though all that people want to see is black and white. No one person is perfect, but to whom much is given much is expected. Voting single issue does not work, our world is too complicated. The Church has for ages taken verses out of context, but you have to look at the people your votes are affecting.
Jesus told a politician, Pontius Pilate, that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36) and is from another place. This does not mean that Evangelical Christians shouldn’t care about the politics of the country that they reside in. It does mean that our morals and values are transcendent and come from a different place. Evangelicals should not be a reliable voting bloc for a specific political party in the United States and rather should be more independent politically.