By Brad Reynolds
So, (once again) I have read an onslaught of editorials and posts from the Never Trump evangelicals who speak of their moral obligation to not vote for Trump (and obviously their desire to persuade more of us to follow their example). The argument (again) is: knowing what Donald Trump has done – how he lived an immoral life and said immoral things, etc., Christians cannot in good conscience vote for him. We will look bad to a lost world, etc.
Let’s begin with some things we can all agree on (whether we agree on the sincerity or not).
- Trump apparently has lived a very lewd, immoral, and unbiblical life.
- Trump’s words 11 years ago are appalling and shameful.
- Trump has apologized to his family and the rest of the world for those words.
- James Robison (part of Trump’s Council) prayed with Trump before the debate and Trump asked for forgiveness from God.
- We can assume his family and his wife have forgiven him. Maybe we Christians ought to do so also and use it as an opportunity to speak of grace.
- James Dobson (close to Trump) has stated numerous times Trump is a new Christian; and Dobson has no reason to lie.
- Trump’s first decision was to appoint Mike Pence as his running mate.
- Trump stood firm on his decision to appoint Supreme Court justices like Antonin Scalia – (Yuge! – has anyone read Scalia’s decisions and dissents?).
- Trump is anti-establishment.
With those agreements being the backdrop let me share (again) why I will vote for Trump and feel I have a moral obligation to do so. (Full disclosure – Trump was not my first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or even sixth choice of the Republican nominees – they were 1) Rick Perry; 2) Scott Walker; 3) Ben Carson; 4) Ted Cruz; 5) Marco Rubio; 6) Bobby Jindal. I even had Jeb Bush ahead of Trump.)
A moral obligation against evil
Scripture indicates I have as much of an obligation to fight against evil as I do to stand for righteousness. Here is what I mean:
Only one candidate is pro-life. I am obligated to fight for the unborn. Character certainly matters, and we all find ourselves on this scale of moral character with none of us being morally perfect. But the tipping point of the scale, for me, is those who fight against the murder of infants in the womb.
Is Trump as moral as Franklin Graham – of course not – but his morality is on the side of life. Let that sink in for a minute and you may finally understand my moral obligation.
Only one candidate has promised to appoint Supreme Court justices who will defend the bride of Christ. Religious liberty is under attack in ways I never could have imagined. Honestly, I have no desire to stand before my Lord and say “I didn’t vote for the one who would defend your bride, so yes, in that sense I passively elected the individual who brought more persecution on your bride.” I wouldn’t want to say that to any groom much less my Lord.
God is more concerned with a person’s future than his/her past
Let’s be clear. Not one of the Never Trumpers has evidenced something Trump currently believes or lives as a reason not to vote for him. (They have said – “I don’t think he has changed” – but that reveals more about them than about him). They do, however, mention his past constantly.
If one’s past is the measure of one’s “character” then Paul would’ve never been allowed to join the believers in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26 – “When Saul (Paul) came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple.”).
Imagine if they had cell phones and Facebook back then. Imagine what the Never Paulers would’ve said. “Look at this photo that was released today. Look at that horrible picture of Stephen – his face beaten and bloody – we can’t support Paul – what would the world think of us? That was just six years ago.”
Oh, but there was Barnabas – he didn’t reject Paul for his past – he accepted him (Acts 9:27 – “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord”). The lost world has never gotten upset at Christians for standing by their principles while extending GRACE.
My primary principles are religious freedom and the life of the unborn. If someone like James Dobson comes out tomorrow and says Hillary is a new believer in Christ and she becomes pro-life and says she will appoint Supreme Court justices who will defend the Constitution and thus religious liberty then I will have a tough choice. But currently, I do not have a tough choice. I choose to be a Barnabas and say to my fellow believers who are afraid of Trump: James Dobson says he is a new believer – let’s accept that and not judge him for his past.
Scripture indicates we are to act
The idea of “I’m not voting for either” sounds more like Pilate than New Testament Christianity. Pilate tried to absolve his conscience by saying “I’m not doing this, my hands are washed of this – you do what you want but I’m not doing anything” or if you will “I’m not voting for either.”
For me that is simply not a choice. We have an obligation to fight against evil.
Finally, I have asked but yet to hear any no-Trumper tell me where the character line that disqualifies an individual from our vote is? Is it if he/she has been divorced twice? Three times? One affair? Three affairs? If his/her transgression was five years ago? Ten? Tell us where this line is.
You know why they can’t tell us where the line is? Because Scripture doesn’t give us a line for people’s past. And sadly, without a line the Never Trumpers sound more like the establishment: ”I just don’t like him.”
Have you ever wondered why Scripture tells us all the little dirty stuff on the Bible heroes? You know like Noah, David, Moses, Solomon, Peter, James, Paul, Thomas, etc.? It’s as if God is blasting through the pages of Scripture – GRACE! Your past is not what God is really concerned about: your future is!
Telling a lost world that we are pro-life because we believe our God creates each soul special at the moment of conception does not hurt our witness. Nor does it hurt when we tell the world we stand for religious freedom. It doesn’t even hurt when we tell the world we are voting for an individual who has a flawed past but is pro-life and supports religious freedom.
The lost world gets people standing for their values and explaining logically why the issue is LIFE is actually an opportunity to witness. It is not about the Republican party – it’s about LIFE!
But what hurts Christianity is when our lights stop shining. When we stop fighting for the innocent and for religious freedom. When we don’t show grace to someone who claims to have changed. Let’s be a Barnabas not a Pilate.
Brad Reynolds serves as vice president for Academic Services and professor of Christian Studies at Truett McConnell University.