Christians 2020: Between a Rock and a Polling Place?
October 26, 2020
By Tony Perkins
The Never Trump movement was dead, they said. "On life support." It's true that they've had some big-name defections after four years of this president keeping his promises, but the contempt for Donald Trump lives on in some circles. As we've been reminded these last couple of weeks, there will always be a fiercely indignant wing of the church who believes that Donald Trump is morally unfit for office -- and no amount of good he does for the world can change that. In 2016, I might not have agreed with that sentiment, but I would have understood it. Now, four years later, the argument is too flawed and naïve to take seriously.
Do I think character matters? Absolutely. Anyone who listened to me four years ago knows that I wrestled with the same questions most Christians did after our primary candidates didn't win the nomination. Ultimately, it came down to two options -- just as it does today: Donald Trump or a radical liberal. Back then, I didn't know what Donald Trump would do, but I knew what Hillary Clinton would. She'd appoint activist judges, support and fund abortion until the moment of birth, strong-arm countries (including our own) to adopt LGBT extremism. Did I think Donald Trump would be a champion of conservatism? I think my words were, "I doubt it." There were no guarantees about the kind of president that Trump would be. Unlike everyone else, he'd never been in office. He didn't have a political record. All we had to go on were his promises and the fact that he wasn't Hillary Clinton -- and that, in my mind, was enough.
To my surprise, and every other conservative's, it turned out to be more than enough. More, in fact, than we ever thought possible. He shattered records on originalist judges, pro-life policy, national and international religious freedom, he surrounded himself with a team of principled men and women of faith (including his vice president) and hired more to run his government agencies. He didn't just stop Barack Obama's outrageous policies, he overturned them -- taking on an agenda that no other Republican (moral or not) had the stomach to. On policy, he's arguably the most conservative president this country has ever had.
Is he a sinner? Until Jesus comes back, our only options are imperfect people. So would you rather have a sinner who saves human lives and protects freedom -- or a sinner who funds the killing of innocent children in the womb and shuts down the freedom we need to preach the gospel? If the church's main concern is preaching the good news of Jesus Christ, then I guarantee they'll have a much harder time under an administration that wants to silence their voice in the name of "tolerance" than the one in court right now fighting for the church to open.
Here's another thing these critics get wrong. November 3rd is not about electing a spiritual reformer. It's about electing individuals who will respect the rights of Christians and others to live by their faith and fully engage as citizens of this country. How do we accomplish that without voting? If these Never Trumpers truly care about life, liberty, family, and faith, what do they suggest we do as an alternative? Live under a Harris-Biden administration and watch hundreds of thousands of innocent babies die? Hear the cries of Christians in other countries go unanswered? Surrender our country into the hands of radical, anti-God Marxists? Witness the end to religious freedom -- and every other freedom?
The reality is, by refusing to support the policies nearest to Scripture, we're facilitating evil. On an individual level, any sin separates a person from God. But there are greater public implications for aiding and abetting the abortion industry than coarsening our public discourse. In one of Joseph Backholm's "Myths of Christian Voting," he talks this scenario: "I don't like either candidate, so what's the point?"
There's a temptation, he points out, of people who can't give "unqualified support" to abstain and wait for something better. But the reality is, the job is going to be filled whether you find an ideal candidate or not.
"Character always matters, but if a completely virtuous person is not one of your choices, maybe the policies represented by one candidate are more virtuous than the policies of the other candidates... In a situation where all the candidates are flawed, we might be able to find clarity if we allow ourselves to think less about people involved and more about policies that will be affected... In addition, if there is no 'best candidate,' it may be helpful to think about the 'best team.' No politician works alone."
Joseph's right. The election of Donald Trump was never about one man. It was about the thousands of agency jobs at every level of government that would either be filled by men and women of principle -- or the second coming of Eric Holders, Loretta Lynchs, and Lois Lerners. With Trump's victory, Americans didn't just win back the White House -- they won back Washington and its hundreds of levers of power, from civil rights commissions to the IRS's office of tax exemption. These people weren't on the ballot, but they transformed how the government views faith, sexuality, gender, and the church.
And while some may malign this president's character, they cannot malign his reliability. Say what you will about Donald Trump, but he has been faithful to the American people. He made promises to voters, and he kept them. "We can no longer say that we have no good reason for believing that he will appoint hundreds of conservative judges," or many other things, Douglas Wilson writes in a particularly compelling column about how Christians can vote for Trump without feeling the guilt some church figures are piling on them.
Too many church leaders are treating voting like a sacrament, Doug says. It's a tactic, a duty, and sacred privilege, yes, but not a sacrament. Just because you vote for Donald Trump doesn't mean you endorse everything he's ever done. This isn't a pure expression of faith. "Maybe you are just making a decision between the two available options." The Bible is full of people who "did not bend when it came to their own personal dedication to the living God, and as far as the larger (compromised) system went, they did what they could as they pushed in the best direction possible, out of the available options." And "[if] Daniel and Esther and Mordecai and Hezekiah and Joseph could function as political players with true integrity within the framework of those various pagan establishments, how much more should it be possible for a Christian today to function within our quasi-Christian, semi-pagan system?"