Election season is upon us. In a few short weeks, Americans will head to the polls to elect a president for the next four years. Other positions are also up for grabs, including 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 35 seats in the US Senate, and many other state and local offices. However, the US presidential election is capturing most of the nation’s attention, given the controversial nature of the sitting President, Donald J. Trump.
As many Christians are considering who to vote for in the presidential voting, we should remember what the act of voting is—and what it is not. At first glance, voting appears to be the act of approving a candidate’s personal shortcomings. In other words, some think voting for a candidate is an affirmation of a candidate’s character flaws. Voting is not that kind of action. Instead, voting is the deliberate act of preferring a candidate who supports a set of policies over an alternative set of policies. To illustrate this approach, I submit two things voting is not.
For starters, voting for a candidate is not the same thing as voting for a pastor. The Bible lays out multiple qualifications, some of which are moral and personal, for pastors and elders (Titus 1:5–9; 1 Timothy 3:1–7; 1 Peter 5:1–4). Selecting a pastor outside of these biblical bounds would be unwise and perhaps even sinful. The Bible lays out no such similar qualifications for politicians. And why would it? The Canon of Scripture was closed 17 centuries before the USA was founded.
In the United States, we live in a Constitutional republic where presidential candidates must be natural-born citizens, at least 35 years old, and residents of the nation for the past 14 years (see Article 2 of the US Constitution). The Constitution does not require the same kind of qualifications as Christians would of pastors. The president was never expected to be the country’s pastor while running the Executive branch of government. The president is elected to be the president. That’s it.
Secondly (and thankfully) in the presidential election, we are not voting for a messiah to be president, though we may hope for a person who can “save” the country from its many problems right now. But there is only one true Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus holds the rightful place as both God and Christ, the anointed One who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). Neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden is a messiah, nor does any thinking Christian believe the winner will take the place of our Messiah.
There are two reasons this is important. For one, some place an inordinate measure of hope on their presidential candidate. Whoever wins the presidency will never measure up to the standard of our true Messiah. They will disappoint us in many ways, because they bear the same post-fall curse (Genesis 3:14–19). A second reason this is important is to temper our expectations of any president. We are not electing a perfect person, with a perfect record, and a perfect hope for the future of our country. To think otherwise is to have a distorted view of reality. We live in a fallen world with fallen candidates. We should remember we are not trying to elect a messiah when we elect a president.
According to the Washington Post and 11points.com, our country has elected many adulterers, pain pill addicts, and many alcohol abusers. This is not to suggest we ought to have adulterers, drug addicts, or alcoholics as president. But certainly a perfect character record is not required to be president. To suggest otherwise underscores a basic ignorance in US presidential history.
If presidential voting is not electing a pastor or a messiah, what exactly is it? Voting is the act of preferring one candidate’s policies and the expectation they will enact them to the other candidate’s policies and abilities. That’s it. This does not discount the element of character because that may affect the candidate’s abilities to enact policy.
Theologian Wayne Grudem said as much in his Letter to an Anti-Trump Christian Friend:
“At the beginning of your email, you write, ‘This email does not concern policy.’ The rest of the email concerns what you see as President Trump’s character flaws.
But that means that your email fails to address the entire reason for my support of Trump. In every column that I’ve published in support of Trump, I have explicitly registered my disapproval of his character flaws and previous immoral behavior. I support him because of the policies he has enacted and will enact, and in spite of his character flaws (which I don’t think rise to a level that would disqualify him from being president . . . .)
In other words, Grudem supports Trump’s candidacy because of the policies he believes Trump will enact, not because of any character issues. Grudem prefers Trump’s party platform over the Democrat party platform. He’s not looking for another pastor or messiah—someone that must have perfect moral character.
In the same way, Christians should review and consider the major party platforms. For instance, in the Democratic Party Platform, there are 32 references to LGBTQ+ and a wholesale pledge to enact the so-called “Equality Act”—an enshrinement and protection for homosexual behavior, transgenderism, and other unbiblical lifestyles in US code. Moreover, the Democratic party states “every woman should be able to access high-quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion.” Democrats officially support pre-born baby murder (and some even shortly after birth). A vote for Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, is a vote for the policies he supports.
The Republican Party Platform contains no such legal justification for these sexual sins or abortion. Instead, they support overturning the Supreme Court’s “long line of activist decisions – including Roe, Obergefell, and the Obamacare cases.” To be fair, it could be argued that Republicans are not committed to their stated policy goals since they could do more to address these moral issues and have been unable and/or unwilling to reverse some of these heinous decisions. However, their platform does not aim to kill more pre-born children, support so-called “gay marriage,” or normalize unbiblical gender assertions.
What about Christians who don’t like either major-party candidate and find policies on both sides they disagree with (hopefully for biblical reasons!)? Wouldn’t it be morally justified to vote for a third-party candidate? Or what about simply sitting out this election? In the last presidential election cycle, Clay Shirky considered the same questions. Here was his response.
In 2016, that [electoral] system will offer 130 million or so voters just three options:
A. I prefer Donald Trump be President, rather than Hillary Clinton.
B. I prefer Hillary Clinton be President, rather than Donald Trump.
C. Whatever everybody else decides is OK with me.
That’s it. Those are the choices. All strategies other than a preference for Trump over Clinton or vice-versa reduce to Option C. . . . The system is set up so that every choice other than ‘R’ or ‘D’ boils down to “I defer to the judgement of my fellow citizens.” It’s easy to argue that our system shouldn’t work like that. It’s impossible to argue it doesn’t work like that.
We’re just one month away from the presidential election. Today is the last day to register. Different states have different deadlines for absentee ballots, so it’s important to act now to vote in this year’s US presidential election. After you register to vote, you can vote in person on election day (November 3, 2020), head to early voting before election day, or vote by absentee ballot. Do the research for how to vote in your state and be an informed, Christian voter.