With the election year in full swing, it’s hard to avoid politics. Some of us are already getting tired of the campaigning and political infighting. Others are closely following every development as this is likely the most important election in modern history. This election could be a critical juncture for how the history of the United States unfolds. The two most likely candidates for the presidential nominee each hold radical views. One advocating for democratic socialism while the other pushes for a capitalistic nationalism.
Don’t get me wrong. If Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both get the nomination, we are in for the most entertaining campaigns of all time. Can you image how those debates will go!?
[UPDATE]: Hillary’s and Donald’s fight has been both entertaining and deeply disturbing to watch.
But amidst all the political hype and entertainment, I see two extreme ideologies I’m not comfortable supporting as a Christian. For the last two presidential elections I was guilty of voting for “the lesser of two evils.” This time I am questioning the validity of this common Christian maxim. Here are five reasons I won’t vote for the lesser of two evils.
1. Evil is Evil
I can’t consciously support evil, no matter how minor it might be.
Scripture commands us to “abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). This verse is clear and to the point. Paul is finishing up a letter and giving his final thoughts. This is a simple statement in a list of other simple statements instructing the church how to conduct their lives.
There are many other verses in Scripture that warn God’s people to avoid evil. To list them all here for this purpose would be to take many of them out of context. Since I won’t do that, suffice it say that most of them deal with idea of dabbling in evil.
God gave clear instructions to avoid all forms of evil (some versions say “appearance”). This is because evil causes more evil. The Israelites weren’t to take wives from other lands because their pagan influence would cause them to commit idolatry; something we see repeatedly in the OT.
If we open the door to evil and justify its use for a “holy” cause, our own evil will begin to look good. We will soon lose sight of God’s holiness and choose our own evil pragmatic way of doing things. It was after all, more effective for Adam and Eve to gain knowledge by eating the fruit than to wait for God’s revelation.
2. Quelling Evil is the State’s Job
Paul gives clear instructions in Romans 13 that the state has the responsibility to punish those who do evil. The natural inference is that the church should not devote its energy to such endeavors. This realization especially comes into focus after reading Romans 12 where Paul instructs the church saying, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18).
The state’s job is to punish evil. The church’s job is to preach the gospel and be salt and light to the world. We can’t do that if we support evil. When we give into evil, even a little bit, we lose a bit of our saltiness. This is a slippery slope. With each bit of saltiness lost, we find it easier and easier to make those compromises that cause us to lose our unique witness to the gospel. This is the result of pure pragmatic thinking, not gospel centered thinking.
3. Choosing Between Two Evils Means Submitting to the System that Produces Evil
The problem with choosing between two evils is that it means we are still playing the game of the enemy. We are still playing by the rules of the world. We have been called out of the world so that we can play by a different set of rules. We live in the world, but we are not of it.
To use a sports analogy, imagine playing a football game. Football players win games by scoring more points through touchdowns or by kicking field goals. So what if the worldly system was a game of football that was being played on a soccer (actually football) field. The world is content to play a game on a field that wasn’t designed for their sport. How would a Christian, the soccer players, hope to convince the football players they were playing the game wrong if they began playing by the rules of football in hopes of “winning.” The only team that wins a football game is a football team. If we want to win a different game, we have to start playing differently.
This reminds me of a quote Stanley Hauerwas has famously said: “The church exists to show the world that it is the world.” If we side with the kingdom first, and refuse to choose an evil at all, it allows the evil system to become what, by nature, it will become: evil. This is necessary if people are to understand the power of the gospel. It literally calls the world out of the world into a greater kingdom. This kingdom does not operate under the same power structures the world does.
4. There are More Than Two Candidates Running
This is my own super pragmatic reason. While I don’t have much theological or scriptural support for this point, it’s the result of the other points. I asked myself, “If I can’t vote for the lesser of two evils, does that mean I can’t vote?”
I got my answer when I realized that I don’t have to vote for who the democrats or republicans tell me to. In fact, isn’t that the theme of this whole election cycle? The establishment is losing hard on both sides (especially the republicans), because the country is tired of being told who to vote for. We alway have the option of writing in someone’s name. If I don’t get the option to vote for a democrat or republican I can truly support as a Christian then the only way I can “vote my conscience” is by writing in a name.
Now I know you think I’m just wasting my vote. That it might even end up counting for the “bad” guys, whoever that is. And you may be right. But I want to ask why?
Maybe this is my idealism, but why does our vote not count if we vote for someone not on the ballot or not in the two big parties? I can’t help but think about the impact the church could make if we said enough with the way the political parties wanted us to vote and began truly voting our conscience. What if we voted in such a way that showed our faith in God, not in our governmental systems.
But that leads to my next point.
5. My Hope Doesn’t Lie in the Government
This is something I had to accept a couple years ago. My hope doesn’t lie in the government no matter how good the candidate is. Even if we got the reincarnation of Ronald Reagan or of the most godly man or woman, they would still be working for a flawed system. It would still be the world working for the world. My hope lies in the gospel and the work of the church to expand the kingdom of God.
Ultimately our job is to expand the kingdom of God. Since that is where our allegiance lies first and foremost, the most effective political act we can make is to share the gospel with someone else. Everytime someone gets saved, their allegiance is shifts from American first (or whichever country) to kingdom of God first. After all, we serve the King of kings, the Lord of lords, and the President of presidents.