Let’s kick this off with a major disclaimer – this article is not insinuating that a vote for Trump, Biden, or anyone else is a matter of sin or disobedience. Given that the generally accepted rule is that Evangelicals must vote for Trump, this article intends to present logical and biblical reasoning for why a vote for anyone else has strong biblical support. Many people that I love and respect are Trump supporters, and while we disagree I understand why they support reelecting the current president.
That said, there have been many times that “anti-trump” Christians have been met with the attitude that we are somehow abandoning our faith. To be fair, at times I’ve had the same attitude toward my brothers and sisters who are more aggressive Trump supporters (no, not all of you). I’ve repented of that attitude and pray that wherever you stand in regard to Trump that you will do the same if you’ve let politics supersede unity.
This article has been in the works for months, but I’ve been hesitant to publish for fear of creating more disunity. I’m publishing now because I think it needs to be said and I’m finally at a place where I can say it in love. I’m trusting that you will read it as even toned and will forgive me any errors as I’ll commit to doing for you. Fair? Ok, disclaimer over.
I’ll start with the conclusion, then walk you through how I got here – the Church has traded the integrity of our message for political power. We need to reject the rhetoric and bad behavior of President Trump and send a clear message to future candidates that divisiveness and vitriol will not be tolerated from a candidate who wants to represent us. This is done with our votes, or lack thereof. I get that some in the Christian camp believe that a Biden presidency would be the end of religious freedom, guns and maybe even democracy. While that’s a highly unlikely outcome, I am willing to sacrifice my religious freedom and even enter a period of persecution if that’s what it takes to show the world that we’re divorcing the gospel from the rhetoric of Donald Trump.
I’m likely in a significant minority here, and respect that most of my fellow believers disagree hard on this point, so at least read through my reasoning. If you’re interested in a chat about it, cool. If you’re interested in tearing me to shreds on Facebook over it like a good Christian, see above :-p.
How Did We Get Here?
Recall the 2016 election season. It was weird, right? Republicans had something in the neighborhood of 900 candidates and the vote was incredibly divided. Trump seemed like an outlier and the idea that he would get the nomination seemed absurd. As people dropped out there was a big change: Dr. Dobson endorsed Trump. He even went as far as to insinuate that Trump had become a Christian, though was a “baby” in the faith.
There was a shift that followed that likely led to Trump’s election: the evangelical community, however unlikely it seemed, embraced him. He promised us power and we bit. We pushed aside the vitriol, the sordid past, and the frequent unwillingness have a civil conversation and he became our candidate. After all, the Gospel is that God forgives, right?
Is Trump’s Character a Problem?
In short, yes. While God can and does forgive, the Biblically prescribed approach is that the sinner recognize Jesus as the one who makes them right with God and asks for forgiveness – something President Trump hasn’t done, to the best of my knowledge. If you ask most Christians who support Trump today they will acknowledge that he is likely just pandering to the Church when he claims to be a Christian, just like any politician does. What makes this pandering any worse than the others? The Church is eating it up, and it has come to the point where the world sees the Church, particularly Evangelicalism, through the lens of Trump.
Many Christians have adopted the stance that policy is what matters, not the person. Maybe I’ve just had more experience than most with by-the-book leaders whose unrestrained character flaws do terrible damage, but I completely reject the policy over person stance. In any Christian discussion about leadership character has always been a key component. For my “chapter and verse” friends, consider Proverbs 28:15-16 that says that a wicked ruler brings ruin. Proverbs 29:2 and 29:4 make similar assertions. Even more potent, consider 2 Timothy 3:1-5 that says to have nothing to do with people who behave like Trump.
Shockingly, many of the things that President Trump has done and said that demonstrate these principles seem to come as a surprise to many of my Christian friends who support him. It makes sense that if you haven’t seen these things that you’re more willing to support the man for his policies that make your world more comfortable, and in your mind make our country a better place. Sadly, that’s not what’s happening, and the Church’s continued affair with Trump is sullying our message. Badly.
Let’s consider some of the ways Trump’s character should disqualify him:
Trump’s Past Is Telling
The Gospel is all about forgiveness and reconciliation, and I hope that President Trump seeks and receives forgiveness for his behavior. I’m not saying that he can’t change – I am saying that his past behavior is a good indicator of his future behavior. It doesn’t seem to click that someone who has repeatedly abused power to take advantage of others (like walking in on half naked beauty pageant contestants, his approach to women in general, and even contractors he’s refused to pay) can be expected to suddenly change that behavior because we grant him even more power.
What has he done with the power of the presidency? To be fair, he’s enacted some policy that Christians generally like. He’s enacted plenty of policy that’s neither here nor there when it comes to whether or not it’s Biblically acceptable. He’s also used his power to bully and take advantage of people. Even to the point where, whether you believe it was a witch hunt or not, when he was impeached the most viable charge was abuse of power.
Trump Encourages Violence
Some have oversimplified this position to “not liking Trump’s personality.” It goes well beyond that – the man has publicly bullied, insulted, and called for violence against his opponents. Here are just a few quick references:
- Trump told security to take protesters coats during a rally in the winter in Burlington, Vermont
- Trump has encouraged his supporters to violently attack protesters, and even offered to pay their legal fees
- Trump has said he could shoot someone without losing voters
- The infamous “when the looting starts the shooting starts” tweet
- That one time Trump tear gassed a city block to get a photo op IN ORDER TO PANDER TO THE CHURCH
Trump Creates Division
Those are just a handful of the ways that President Trump has directly encouraged violence. There are a myriad of ways his rhetoric has likely emboldened extremist groups and inspired acts of violence and hate. His own former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Counterterrorism and Threat Prevention (say that three times fast) has claimed that Trump’s divisive rhetoric has made her job more difficult.
Consider that this man typically doesn’t try to reach an understanding with his opponents, rather he blasts them on Twitter and suggests they’re horrible people. Yes, I know you can find verbal assaults on any politician’s twitter feed, but rarely to the level that it becomes a national security issue. Even in his own party, it has become nearly impossible to be a high ranking Republican who may disagree with President Trump without getting called a closet Democrat (as if Democrat = Devil?) or worse.
The attitude has bled into the Evangelical culture. Look no further than your Facebook feed: we’re at each others throats and need to repent (yes, I’m in that group). What about our faith leaders? When Christianity Today released their article about impeaching Trump Dr. Dobson responded by suggesting that the editors want a Democrat who will destroy Christian values and will let boys in girls locker rooms (a place Trump has already entered, in case you missed it). It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
In fairness, Trump can’t be held as responsible for the actions of the Church. We are responsible, and again, we need to repent. Titus 3:10 says to “warn a divisive person once, then a second time, and then have nothing to do with them.” Many of us are in danger on this one. Where does the President, who claims to be a believer and has been one of the most divisive voices in our nation, stand in this regard?
Trump’s Attitude is Antithetical to Free Speech
Yes, Trump has done things for religious liberty, if you’re a white Evangelical and agree with him. His habit of trying to silence voices opposed to his reeks of censorship.
Many of my Evangelical friends have been unaware that our President recently encouraged a boycott of Goodyear (an American company employing roughly 60,000 people) over their policy on political attire. No MAGA hats? No business for you!
If you’re not a business owner, this might not strike you as a big deal, but I can assure you, it is. Imagine if I was a big enough deal and the president tweeted out that you shouldn’t let me build your website because he got wind of a “hurtful” article I wrote about him? Despite the fact that my kids and I just prayed for him yesterday! What might that do to my livelihood and that of the people who work with and for me?
I generally consider myself conservative, and one of the values I thought we held near and dear was that the government should generally stay out of business, and absolutely NOT seek to harm businesses over political matters. The precedent this sets is terrifying.
What happens if the Church at large decides to oppose something President Trump does? Will he still be as great a proponent of religious freedom as he is now? Or will he tell the world to reject us and that we’ve all become traitors? Past, habitual behavior is a pretty good indicator of future behavior. It doesn’t seem like a stretch to assume that President Trump would be willing to cut his ties with Evangelicals if we began to disagree with him. I genuinely hope that I’m wrong, but he’s turned on allies before.
Trump’s Ties to Evangelicalism Suggest Abuse
Consider Trump’s relationship with Paula White. For those who don’t know, Trump’s primary faith advisor and longtime friend, Paula White, is a prosperity teacher who has made millions by manipulating Christians. This is a huge red flag for a number of reasons and should cause Bible believing Christians to pause. Between the open acceptance by many that Trump panders to the Church and his relationship with someone who has committed her life to manipulating people of faith, is there any reason to believe we’re not being manipulated?
Setting aside legitimate concerns about false teachers, those of us who have lived in close relationship with a highly manipulative personality can share agonizing stories about the destruction they can bring to a family. The division, rhetoric, and unwillingness to admit a mistake are shockingly similar to our President’s. Tolerating their toxic behavior typically only invites more of it. It seems that voting Trump in for a second term is inviting more of this behavior in the future, not only in this term but in candidates to come.
Is Policy At Risk?
Given that our system currently only really supports two parties you would be right in identifying that a not voting for Trump opens doors for Biden. If every evangelical refuses to vote for Trump, it’s incredibly likely that Biden will win. It’s important to ask if the policies of Biden are worse for our country than the divisive rhetoric of Trump. It’s critical to ask if the policies of Biden are worse for the Gospel than the divisive rhetoric of Trump.
When we talk about policy remember that we’re also talking about influence on the culture in the form of power. Do I want to be able to raise my kids in a culture where it’s easy to hold Christian values? Yes! But not at the risk of the integrity of the Gospel, and not at my neighbor’s expense. Since the Gospel doesn’t need the power of government and I certainly don’t need legislation to choose to love the people around me (Christian or not), when gaining political influence is at odds with either one I must yield power for the sake of the Gospel. Jesus did.Do I want to be able to raise my kids in a culture where it's easy to hold Christian values? Yes! But not at the risk of the integrity of the Gospel, and not at my neighbor's expense. Click To Tweet
It’s also important to remember that the government doesn’t hinge on one person. Wayne Grudem has argued that you’re voting between two complete packages: Trump and the Republicans, or Biden and the Democrats. This is downright false. He seems to assume that every Christian is going to walk into the voting booth and vote straight ticket. I’m not suggesting that Christians abandon all hope of enacting conservative policies, just that we demonstrate with our vote that we will not elect someone to be our bully. In this case, that’s Trump, not all Republicans.
Yes, the president will shape policy, to a point. But remember how many times Trump ran into issues and couldn’t get things done because of opposition within the rest of the government? He certainly complained about it on Twitter quite a bit! This is not an all or nothing situation.
What About Life?
This is a complex and difficult issue, and typically the first one that comes up when anyone suggests not voting for Trump. It’s a big deal, and something I refused to compromise on, until I saw the data. There are a couple of key points and this article is already absurdly long, so we won’t go into great detail – read this article by David French and watch this video by Phil Vischer to get the details. The gist of it is this:
- The President generally has minimal impact on how many abortions are performed in any given year
- The abortion rate has been declining for decades, regardless of which party is in power (and sometimes more under Democrats)
- Local support, education, and policy tend to have greater impact on abortion than federal mandates
- Your pro-choice friends generally agree – abortion is sad and they don’t want to see it happen any more than you do
Ultimately, if you want to reduce abortion, providing support for young mothers-to-be in your community is going to have a greater impact than who you vote for. Does this mean a Christian can vote for a Democrat? It’s certainly not a vote for killing babies the way that conservative political rhetoric has led us to believe.
What About Sexuality?
Another big concern that comes up often has to do with family and sexuality issues. This is addressed in 1 Corinthians 5:9-12 where Paul essentially says not to associate with anyone who calls themselves a believer and is sexually immoral (he also includes greed, slander, and swindling). Paul clearly states that the Church is to judge those within the Church, not those outside of it. It’s the scriptural version of “don’t worry about what other kids are supposed to be doing, worry about what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Guys, we’re not doing a good job at this. We ignore “acceptable” immorality within the body of Christ, but demand that unbelievers conform to our standards of sexuality. Paul clearly says we’ve got it backwards. We should be more concerned with the behavior of those who claim to be Christians than that of those who don’t.
This is a whole nuanced and complex discussion in itself, but start here: by insisting on calling himself a believer, Trump not only invites this level of accountability on himself, but scripture demands it. “Do not even eat with such people.”
Won’t Democrats Destroy America?
Probably not. Every four years the “other guy” gets worse and worse. I voted against Obama in 2008, not because I believed strongly in McCain, but because I believed Obama would destroy our country and take our guns (I’ve still never even owned one). We still have guns, and we even recovered from the recession. Abortion rates continued to decrease, and I never had to register as a Christian with any weird registries or anything. I’m oversimplifying, but you get the point. There was no evil plot to bring the country to its knees.
More importantly, let me ask you: what is the opposite of a Christian? If you immediately thought, “Democrat” or “Leftist” or even “Trump” then stop right now and repent. The opposite of a Christian is an unbeliever, and they aren’t your enemy. They are the people we are called to love and point to Jesus.
What’s the Solution?
Given that this article is essentially written for Christians, my solutions are uniquely Christian. If you’re not a believer and you’ve stuck around this long, thanks! Welcome to the weird world of Christianity…
Christians, I said earlier that I can’t tell you how to vote, and I can’t. If you can reconcile voting for Trump with scripture and feel you must vote for him, then that’s that. We disagree, but we must commit to disagree in love.
If you agree with what I’ve said so far but aren’t sure how to proceed, here are some options:
- Vote for Biden. I mean, you probably don’t need my help on that one. The thing is, many of the things in this article could apply to him, though the Church isn’t exactly power brokering with the guy so I have less concerns about that. If you can’t vote for Biden…
- Consider voting third party. It’s not throwing away your vote (that’s dirty political rhetoric), it’s recognizing that both major options are terrible and choosing to vote for more options in a future election. If this appeals to you at all, consider the American Solidarity Party – you’ll probably like most of what they stand for, especially the solidarity part.
- Don’t vote. It really is a perfectly acceptable option and, while we’ve been programmed to shun people who don’t vote every four years, most of us probably aren’t voting in our local elections anyway, despite the fact that they impact our communities significantly more than the presidential race.
Yes, if enough Christians take this approach, Joe Biden will likely win. If I can’t convince you that he’s probably not ushering in a Marxist revolution, then at least (or most) consider the words of Jesus, “Take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus didn’t use his divine authority to take charge. He suffered to deliver the Gospel. He chose to succumb under two flawed governments to redeem mankind when he had both the power and the authority to take control then and there. Instead he was murdered as a criminal, an outcast, and was willing to do so because he knew what it would accomplish. If a Biden presidency makes Christians outcasts, we’ll be in good company. Will we stop our kids-in-a-sandbox style fights over politics and choose to suffer for the sake of redemption?
Overall, I don’t really care who wins the election (though, I’d rather not another four years of Trump). I want to see Christians make a statement that sends a clear message about the type of behavior we will tolerate from people who represent us. I want to see Christian make a statement that we care about the people who are steamrolled under Trump. I want to see Christians make a statement that the Gospel doesn’t need power, money, or influence to change the world.
Proverbs 29:2 ” when the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan.”
1 Corinthians 5:9-12 “I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people — not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you'”.