This year, more than any other election cycle in recent memory, many Christians have struggled with which candidate to vote for. While we’ve heard of the Christian leaders who have thrown their support behind Donald Trump, others plan to hold their noses and vote for Hillary Clinton. Still more, like me, find themselves unsatisfied with either major party nominee and are looking at third-party options.
The biggest problem for believers is that our citizenship is elsewhere. Erick Erickson eloquently addressed this notion on his radio show on Tuesday, and I’ve written reams about it recently. This idea that we are just passengers on earth awaiting a heavenly citizenship complicates political decisions in a year where it seems none of the choices express this belief enough to satisfy.
For its October issue, Christianity Today has taken to exploring the electoral landscape just weeks out from the election, and the magazine asks evangelical leaders a question that’s simple on the surface but loaded underneath: “Clinton, Trump, or Neither?”
Representing the Trump voter is Dr. James Dobson. The Focus on the Family founder boils his case down to one issue: The judiciary.
I liked that he promised us emphatically that he will work to protect our religious liberties. He has since released a list of potential Supreme Court nominees that is stellar. We must pray that, if elected, he will keep his word.
My greatest concern is related again to the judiciary. Clinton has said she will seek to overturn religious liberty and bring the power of government against people of faith. She has made this clear on many occasions, including a comment she made during the Women in the World Summit in 2015.
Laws about “reproductive health care” and safe childbirth “have to be backed up with resources and political will,” Clinton said. “And deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”
Dobson admits to the glaring faults Trump possesses and points out that Hillary Clinton has the same faults (but it’s fine to overlook them in Trump). He trusts that Trump’s recent conversion story is sincere and sees his coterie of evangelical advisers as an encouraging sign. But ultimately, for Dobson, the choice is binary, like a visit to the eye doctor:
Last week, I had an appointment with an ophthalmologist for a routine eye exam. A technician pressed a metal device against my face. I looked through two holes and saw a short line of type. She then asked, “Is this good?” Then, after changing the lens, she asked, “Is this better?” I was given only two choices: number one or number two.
Palmer Seminary professor Ron Sider weighs in for those who support Hillary Clinton. He admits to having voted for both parties’ nominees in the past, basing his decisions on specific issues to each election.
This year, Sider sees plenty of faults in his choice, but he also admits to the issues for which Clinton appeals to him.
I have major disagreements with her. She and the Democratic platform are wrong on abortion—period. And I disagree with Clinton on gay marriage.
Further, I fear that Clinton will not retain the longstanding right (protected by Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama) of faith-based organizations that receive government funding to hire on the basis of their beliefs. She is too close to Wall Street billionaires and made a serious mistake using private email servers as Secretary of State.
But there is also much to like about Clinton. She has a decades-long history of working hard for racial and economic justice. One of her earliest jobs was working as a lawyer at the black-led Children’s Defense Fund to improve the lives of poor children. At a time when racial injustice and mistrust threaten to tear the nation apart, her experience and trust in minority communities is invaluable.
Additionally for Sider, the biggest problems with Trump boil down to trust.
Do we evangelical Christians trust Donald Trump to be a wise statesman leading the world to avoid conflict and war? The US president is the leader of the democratic world and the commander of the world’s largest military. A wise, thoughtful president who listens carefully to the best-informed advisers is essential if the United States and China are to avoid catastrophic conflict in the next decade or two.
However, Sider falls into the same trap from which Trump’s partisans tend to argue.
One could vote for the Libertarian or Green Party candidate, but they have no chance of winning. Voting for them, or writing in someone else, will only help elect Trump.
For what it’s worth, Sider’s language and word choice indicate a leftward bent, but some of his concerns echo those of other, more conservative evangelicals.
Next page: An argument from the “None of the above” camp.
Representing those evangelicals who can’t stomach voting for Trump or Clinton is Christian hip-hop star Sho Baraka. He expresses concerns that stem initially from the plight of African-American believers in urban settings.
Yet both Republicans and Democrats have supported policies that have only increased the plight of minority communities. In the War on Drugs, leaders from both parties supported draconian penalties for nonviolent drug offenses. Those leaders have financially benefited from disproportionately sending folks to prison for crimes that carry far fewer consequences in affluent communities. Only recently has America witnessed what could be called the “gentrification of the drug crisis,” wherein opioid addiction among whites is reaching epidemic levels. Bill Clinton’s Crime Bill of 1994 escalated the arrests of people of color for nonviolent crimes. He later admitted that signing the bill was a mistake. Although I’m grateful for this revelation, some of us have carried the burdens of its implications all our lives.
Yet, Baraka opens up the lens further to express ways for Christians to engage politically — and foresees a day when believers of all stripes will band together to speak out in common ground.
I believe that soon there will be a movement of folks who protest both police brutality and abortions without feeling disloyal to one party or the other. These Christians comprehend an unabridged concept of life, that it is to be protected from the cradle to the grave. This is a comprehensive outlook that seeks justice in community development, education, prison reform, and job creation. These people recognize honoring humanity is a service to God and not a partisan policy.
It would be naïve to think that urban Christians are the only people who feel this disconnect. Not all Republicans are callous legalists; not all Democrats are immoral despots. I find great utility on both sides. However, who better than Christians, who have experienced persecution of all kinds, to display both compassion and conviction? Out of that experience comes the capacity to love recklessly while inviting people to a new standard.
Christ is our model of compassion and conviction.
Sho Baraka represents an ideal where believers balance their allegiance to Jesus with a call to engage on political issues. For him — as for so many others — this year’s solution does not lie within the two major parties.
All three authors make their points eloquently. But above all else, we Christians must pray before deciding which candidate (if any) to support. After all, to Whom is our primary allegiance?
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.com / laura.h