While the election battles have died down, another battle surprisingly persists: how do you morally justify President-elect Trump?
Yet you hear this battle being raged in all corners. Progressive groups are planning protests that may include civil disobedience to protect minorities, reproductive rights, etc., from Trump’s “attacks.” In both conservative and evangelical circles, there has been an array of sharply-defined positions: Trump is a morally good choice; Trump is a morally bad choice; Trump is a morally acceptable choice. Dr. Wayne Grudem, an evangelical theologian, actually espoused all three of these positions!
From an evangelical perspective, it is important to note that there is freedom on matters such as these. One neglected but vital Christian doctrine is that of the liberty of the conscience. In the twentieth chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the second paragraph begins “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men” and appends a host of Bible passages in support.
This is why many pastors don’t tell their congregants for whom to vote. Where God speaks in his word, the pastor speaks. When Scripture is silent on a given issue, so is the pastor. Believers are given the freedom to use their best judgment, in accordance with the wisdom and conscience that God has given them. With these wide parameters in mind, I had to weigh the many moral considerations offered by people of all stripes as to why Trump was a morally acceptable or unacceptable choice. My family was sharply divided on this issue.
Here were my individual conclusions on the matter:
I would not vote for Trump because he was the “lesser of two evils.” That phrase has been bandied about so much in political discourse that it has become virtually useless. It was often employed in 2000 and 2004 and few would argue that any of those candidates sank to the level inhabited by our two major presidential candidates this year. When that phrase is appropriate, however, because both candidates are morally reprehensible, then voters should not be browbeaten into deciding between the two. As an extreme example, one should not be forced to pull the lever for Stalin because he’s not Hitler.
I would not vote for Trump because of abortion and the Supreme Court. The ends do not justify the means. If Trump were a morally-poor choice for president, then even a supreme moral good like protecting the unborn would not justify voting for him. This pattern of thinking is what revealed the moral vacuity of the modern feminist movement back in the 1990s. Feminist leaders were willing to turn a blind eye to President Clinton’s predations because he was pro-choice.
I would not vote for Trump because he represented any sort of positive good for Christianity. Christians look to Jesus Christ as their savior, not any political figure. It was embarrassing to watch religious right leaders bend over backwards to defend Donald Trump in biblical terms. Even as Trump declared that he has never sought forgiveness from God, Dr. James Dobson and others claimed that Trump was a “baby Christian.” This kid glove treatment of Trump, especially compared with President Clinton in the 1990s, reinforced many of the negative stereotypes that the culture-at-large has of evangelical Christians—especially the charge of hypocrisy.
Yet, after two months of resolving in my heart not to vote for Donald Trump, I ended up pulling the lever for him. Why?
First, I saw an urgent need to arrest the policies and procedures of the last eight years. Obamacare, a socialist intrusion into the health care market, is a precursor the wider socialization of the health care market. I believe that money is a reflection of morality and believe that individuals should be able to express their moral choices in how they spend their money for health care. Toward this end, I consider Obamacare to be damaging to both our economy and morality.
Procedurally, we were looking at a runaway presidency. On matters pertaining to immigration, health care, the environment—we saw President Obama inventing and implementing policies that were not introduced or approved by our Congress. It doesn’t matter if the president was frustrated by GOP opposition—the Constitution doesn’t give you the right to legislate by fiat.
Second, I saw an urgent need to stop Hillary Clinton. For decades, the Clintons have left a trail of scandals in their vast wake and have never been held accountable for their actions. This election gave the American people an opportunity to declare that no one stands above the law. I believe this mindset also motivated the substantial number of Democratic voters who supported Bernie in the primary.
Yet, none of these considerations affected the moral quandary posed by Trump. Could I, in good conscience, support a man with a socially Darwinist view of the world, who bragged of preying on women, and who preferred insults to arguments? What is the moral threshold at which point I must say “No more?”
I will explain my thinking in that regard in the next piece…
Stephen Roberts is an Army Reserve chaplain, writer and evangelist living near Milwaukee. He is a regular contributor to Political Storm.