Maybe you heard the one-liner that has Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton stranded in the middle of the ocean on a tiny lifeboat. Who survives? Answer? America.
The joke isn’t that funny, but it points to a despair the majority of Americans feel as we march toward November 8 and a presidential election without a viable candidate.
As I write this, the election cycle is in full swing. The morning news tells me that 15,000 more of Hillary’s emails have been discovered and that Donald said some very foolish things yesterday. In other words, today’s news is pretty much the same as yesterday’s news. I wring my hands alongside most Americans wondering how this will turn, out and I am not savoring the prospects. I haven’t fully made up my mind, and I am not trying to make up yours. But I wonder if we can think Christianly together about our predicament?
First, I am convinced that we as believers have not only the right, but the obligation to vote. Voting connects the governed with their government. We are responsible to vote responsibly. Yes, I have an obligation to vote, and I will vote. But this time I cannot bring myself to vote for either of the candidates representing the two major political parties. You see, on the one side, I cannot vote for a woman who agrees that unborn babies are persons and yet argues not only for the right to kill these little people, but believes my tax dollars should pay for their extermination. On the other side, my conscience forbids me to vote for a man who glorifies his own adultery, is deeply misogynistic, advocates the torture and killing of non-combatants, and caters to the so-called white vote at the expense of our neighbors to the south. I cannot vote for a man who mocks the parents of a soldier who died in our armed forces. In all these areas, the Republican shows himself to be something other than pro-life. My conscience will not allow me to vote for this candidate.
Theologian and ethicist Russell Moore was asked if he would be voting for Donald Trump. I agree with his answer:
When you have someone who is standing up race baiting… using immigrants and others in our communities in the most horrific ways, and we [Christians] say, “That doesn’t matter”… [If we say that and then] we expect to be able to reach the nations for Christ? I don’t think so, and so I think we need to let our yes be yes and our no be no and our never be never.
I know what you may be thinking. Wait a minute, in a fallen world Jesus never runs for president. All of our leaders have feet of clay… We must vote for the best candidate on the ballot. And what about the Supreme Court?
On the one hand, fair enough. Vote your conscience. Vote for the candidate who you believe will serve our country best. But on the other hand, ask yourself if your conscience will permit your vote. As Christians we have no god but God. We don’t trust in chariots or horses, and we certainly don’t trust what happens inside of the Beltway. We also don’t put our trust in the decisions made by nine lawyers in black robes.
In a fallen world, there are times when our voting choices are two polarized options that both reflect the darkness of the human heart. This appears to be one of those times. Yes, every leader has feet of clay, and every presidential candidate has a closet full of skeletons. But still…
I don’t know if you agree with me about my decision to write-in a third-party candidate when I go to the polls. And I am not too concerned if you disagree. You need to vote your conscience even as I vote mine. Either way, by the end of November 8, 2016, unless something unforeseen takes place, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will have been elected to be our next president. And our nation will utter a collective groan.
Is there a silver lining in this for the American church? I think so.
First, our political prospects remind us that we are pilgrims in a foreign land, not comfortable residents who think we are home. As the writer of Hebrews said, we are longing for a better country. This present election cycle reminds us of this. We are not hoping for a return to the Great Society of the 1960s, nor are we looking for the second coming of Ronald Reagan of the 1980s. We are waiting for Jesus who will bring the kingdom of God with him when he returns. As Russell Moore writes,
We live now in this demon-haunted earth, but we wait for a demon-conqueror from heaven. We rejoice and groan at the same time. In short, a kingdom-informed perspective can be summed up in the lyrics of an old Grateful Dead song: It’s even worse than it appears, but it’s alright. We are warriors, yes, but joyful warriors. We are not slouching to Gomorrah; we are marching to Zion.
Second, the outcome of the election should remind us that our deepest problems aren’t political. For too long many in the evangelical church have succumbed to what is called the political temptation; that is, the temptation to believe that government has a solution to every human problem. The truth is, no government—progressive or conservative, socialist or capitalistic—is able to address the ultimate needs we have as human beings, and it is high time the church understands this.
Third, our political reality will compel us to pray more fervently for our leaders. As strangers and aliens living in a foreign land, we are thankful for the land in which we live. We are thankful for our governors, grateful for our system of government, and deeply appreciative of the smooth transfer of power every four or eight years. But we are living in the midst of a moral apocalypse. We laugh at honor and integrity, snicker at tradition, and mock morality. The center cannot hold.
Time and again, our cultural gate-keepers, our courts, our academic institutions and our politicians are favoring erotic freedom over religious freedom. And where religious freedom vanishes, all other freedoms vanish soon thereafter. Yes, we should be deeply concerned! And therefore we will pray, vote, and take our place in the public square.
We are called, in God’s Word, to pray for our civic leaders. And we will, both privately and corporately. In our Sunday services we have made it a habit to pray for whoever is our president, and we will do so after the inauguration in January, regardless of who becomes our president.
Finally, there is a more important prayer we should pray in the midst of our political consternation. Our presidential prospects compel us to pray earnestly for revival in the church. We do not believe—and never have believed—that America is the last best hope of man on earth, as Ronald Reagan said in one of his speeches. Rather, we believe that Jesus is not only our best hope, but our only hope in life and in death. As we face uncertain times, let us pray for God to do a work in our land such as we have never before witnessed. Let us ask God to show us the power of the gospel such that as have never before seen. Let us ask him to convict us of our sins and then to draw us to our redeemer. Let us pray that thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions would find Christ in such a time as this.