The day we agonized over has come and gone: Election Day 2016.
Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalm 2:10-12)
For my fellow Christians, my message to you this past Election Day is this: We are at a fault with how much we’ve let the election get to us, but there is an opportunity for us to see the gospel in a new light with how it shapes our identity in this country.
This was a day that came about through tremendous controversy and conflict (to say the least). There has been so much national dialogue about this election that it is impossible to bring to mind every accusation made against either candidate. The vote seems to be split, not just among American citizens, but especially among us who call ourselves Christians.
Do Not Be Anxious…Unless You’re Talking Elections
The anxiety and stress over this election is about more than the outcome. The anxiety that is experienced is the kind that dwells underneath the skin and invades the conscience, shaping the outlook of those it infects. We are seeing the world through the rose colored glasses of political regimes, fiscal policy, racial tension, and social issues. We are stressed about new policies, our taxes, how the election impacts our finances, our jobs, our families, and it ties back to the character of our candidates. It’s about so much more than social issues: being a social issue voter myself, I have felt conflicted over this election more than any other. I cannot vote specifically for social issues because in one sense my vote is my endorsement of the person not just the policy. The tension I feel is between the policy and the person behind it.
This is not the only area of tension: take a look at the chasm between this generation and their parents. One emphasizes the power of the vote and the political system in affecting change, the other points out the corruption of the current political system and the need for social activism, not just the ballot box. Both generations feel anxiety and frustration over the degradation of society, but both also express them in different ways. As Christians, we have let these issues divide us not only generationally, but also spiritually. While Jesus told us not to worry about food or clothing (in Matthew 5-7) we not only worry about food and clothing, but also worry about how much both are taxed and in what country they were made. We as Christians are so much more than the country we were born into- our value comes from the one who gives us the means to eat food that perishes and buy clothing that wastes away. Our value comes from an eternal source of provision, protection, and salvation. Anxiety to this degree is sinful (Phil. 4:5-8), and is a sign of not trusting God’s sovereignty even in the little things He provides, things that we often don’t notice.
The election shouldn’t matter to us as much as it does, it should not be the primary concern of our eternal lives- it is minimal but not unimportant. It is when we focus in on the present troubles so much that we let it get to us this deeply, and fall into the trap of eternalizing the temporal and minimizing the value of the eternal.
Social Justice vs Political Activism
The divide between the generations has become much more apparent than ever before. One generation’s message seems to vouch for an emphasis in healing the present state of racism, being socially active in speaking up about injustices such as sex trafficking, closing in on fixing corruption within the police, speaking out against the corruption in government, and thinking outside the box for a third party candidate, since neither major party candidate represents their deeply felt values. The other generation has a more traditional view of government: Your vote is your voice. Your vote is a symbol of your freedom, and if you want to keep your freedom, you must vote for the candidate you want. Action is not enough if you allow the policies to affect what beliefs you’re allowed to act on.
There are truths to both systems of thought, but they are incomplete truths with no explicitly stated ethical framework. Scripture must be not just the backbone of our thoughts but also the tendons, blood, organs, and entire body of our beliefs. The Bible is alive and breathing (2 Tim. 3:16-17), it demands priority because God is supreme. The Bible is not just a coaster for our drinks as we write our blog posts.
So much confusion exists about what exactly guides our ethics as believers when it comes to issues Scripture is silent on. What Biblical ethics are strong enough to influence our votes on propositions and for candidates that Scripture nowhere mentions? The Bible was not written during the institution of a Democratic Republic, and so some take it to mean that Scripture gives us only principles for voting, but it seems implied that the freedom is up to us with how we use this privilege.
Divided We Stand, United We Fall
The division among Christian voices is obvious as well. As an example of this, there seem to be six major positions taken by evangelical Christians in respect to voting this election:
- A vote not cast is a vote given to Hillary: “Not to vote is to vote. God will not hold us guiltless.” – Eric Metaxes
- We have the freedom not to vote and don’t have a moral obligation to do so. ( John Piper )
- We are not voting for Trump, we are voting for a worldview. “I’m voting for an ideology that is closer to Scripture…” – John MacArthur
- Voting for Trump is voting for principles that help us fulfill the command in Scripture to love our neighbor (Wayne Grudem, after reversing his initial stance on Donald Trump).
- Hillary is more predictable than Trump, and that is a reason to vote for Hillary (Thabiti Anyabwile)
- If we don’t vote for Trump, then the next fifty years of the country is in the hands of Hillary Clinton, and the downfall of America will be a serious reality (analysis my own).
These positions all have truths and incomplete truths to them. They also inspire anxiety and tension over what exactly we are responsible for. If Metaxes is right, then if I had not voted at all, that would have been a vote for Hillary. If I didn’t vote then somehow that counts as an implicit endorsement. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. Yet, I do have the opportunity and it seems to be given by God, so should I use it? This is one example of following a train of thought into uncertainty. What is a believer to do in this situation? Are our consciences completely free from the American right to vote?
You can see why entering the ballot box is no longer about just about casting a vote. We as Christians have turned it into a freedom that has the power to change a nation and even the world itself. We’ve ascribed a level of Biblical proportion to the ballot box. We use the ballot box to symbolize our moral power as the majority we strongly believe has been ours since the nation began. Yet, a nation with Christian morality without an explicitly stated Christian theology…how is that possible? It’s not; it’s legalism. In other words, we have fallen into the trap of the Social Gospel once again and have turned a privilege into a superpower. What is the Social Gospel? Find out tomorrow.
To summarize part one: There’s a reason why so many take sides on this election: it’s because the power to vote appeals to our human nature and our intention as Christians to be salt and light. American values overlap with Christianity but also deviate from it in serious ways. We began as a nation through the faith of Reformed Christians stated in the Mayflower Compact, but also have become a nation that bases its view of the Constitution on an entirely different worldview. As D.A. Carson has said, we are only three generations away from losing the gospel. If we don’t state the gospel clearly and only practice its morality, we are in danger of losing it as well.
Church: we are divided, and we are swinging on a political pendulum that is dangerous and lethal to our Great Commission. Let’s not vote to change the country, let’s vote to voice our faith as the foundation of our identity, not just our politics.
See you tomorrow,