Well, it’s official. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are the major party nominees for the Presidency of the United States of America. What seemed like such a joke a year ago has become reality. And, like most Americans, I find myself fluctuating between disbelief, horror and embarrassment. If you happen to be a genuine fan of either one, fine, but it seems like the nicest thing I ever hear about either one is that they’re the lesser of two evils.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a political junkie. I was a government major in college and follow politics the same way others follow sports. I care about this stuff, it fascinates me and I believe it matters. So, I’m a guy with strong political opinions. But I do my best to keep them out of the pulpit and off social media. That’s partly because I believe the gospel is the central issue for all of our lives and the message God has called me to proclaim. And it’s partly because I pastor a church in Washington, DC made up of people with a wide range of political beliefs. But, increasingly, I’ve felt the need to say something. Not in spite of the two factors I just mentioned but because of them.
I’m determined to avoid three traps in this election cycle: division, distraction and despair. By God’s grace, I would like to lead our church away from these traps as well. So, I’m going to blog about avoiding those traps this week and then I’m going to move on and do my best to avoid them for the next 97 days.
Trap number one is the one I’m most concerned about: division.
I’m talking about division in the church based on which candidate we support. I believe Satan would love nothing more than to use this election as one more issue to divide the bride of Christ. And I believe a lot of Christian leaders are taking the bait. We all do it anytime we say something along the lines of, “I can’t understand how a real follower of Jesus could support Hillary Clinton/Donald Trump/a 3rd party candidate/a write in candidate/not voting.” We have got to understand that well meaning, Jesus loving Christians are going to differ with one another in this election. Just last week, Wayne Grudem wrote an essay advocating for Donald Trump and Randy Alcorn wrote against him. Over the last months, Thabiti Anyabwile has written in support of Hillary Clinton. Russell Moore has written extensively about voting 3rd party. And the list goes on and on.
In recent years, it’s become increasingly difficult to find an obvious candidate for Christians to support. That is certainly true this year. Hillary Clinton’s positions on abortion and same sex marriage but her on the wrong side of Scripture. Donald Trump’s positions on immigrants and refuges do the same. Both have alarming character flaws. Both have long track records of questionable judgment. To pretend that one is the obvious choice is to misunderstand just how inadequate they both are. So, come November, there are going to be people so horrified by Donald Trump’s ineptness that they vote for Clinton to keep him out of office. There are going to be people so concerned about the future of the Supreme Court that they vote for Trump. There are going to be people so fed up with both that they vote 3rd party, write someone in or don’t vote. And there will be some who enthusiastically vote for Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Trump.
We’re all going to have to figure it out for ourselves based on one simple question, “Who is going to do the most good and the least harm to our country over the next four years?” We’re not all going to answer that question the same way and that’s ok.
I’m not saying the decision doesn’t matter. It does. But it shouldn’t divide us. The real tragedy in all of this would be allowing two candidates to divide the church. We can disagree politically, especially this year, and stay united in Jesus and the mission He’s given us. So, maybe it’s time to tone it down on social media. Maybe it’s time for thoughtful conversations with friends. Maybe it’s time to ask the Lord for wisdom. Maybe it’s time to ease up on each other just a bit.
And we have to if we’re going to avoid the trap of distraction. We’ll tackle that one tomorrow.