Candidate Character & Evangelical Political Influence

During the Bill Clinton imbroglio, Gloria Steinem famously defended the sitting president, who had engaged in a sexual relationship with an intern, by claiming it was understandable for men to behave certain ways as long as they were aware that “no means no.” Her tawdry defense of Clinton came to be known as the “one free grope” rule. Nancy Pelosi trotted out a similar rationalization last Sunday. John Conyers, who has now been accused by eight women of predatory behavior, is “an icon” according to Pelosi, and has done much to “defend” women’s rights. So what if some women were treated at least rudely, and perhaps criminally, Rep. Conyers votes the right way.

Feminists, in their desire to maintain both access to power and abortion rights decided, in the end, that supporting men whose actions contradicted their most cherished principles was worth it. Feminists became an integral part of the party coalition. They had a seat at the table, access to the levers of power, but what did it cost them? They enthusiastically belonged to a party built around a man accused of rape, who perjured himself, and was stripped of his law license. They enthusiastically belonged to a party that raked in tens of millions of dollars from Hollywood, which also perpetuated the abuse of women by powerful men.

In backing the Democrats, feminists sacrificed their principles and vacated whatever moral high ground they once might have occupied.

Evangelicals have come to their own Clinton impeachment moment with the rise of Donald Trump and Roy Moore.

The backbone of the Christian Right, Evangelicals see themselves as the conscience of the G.O.P. They advocate for family values and fight for the unborn. They are the loyal foot soldiers that helped transform the South into a bastion of Republicanism. Evangelicals want their own seat at a different table. Like the feminists, they wish to be “in the room where it happens.”

In 2016, Evangelicals embraced Donald Trump at the ballot box and many of the same faces and families that lambasted Clinton for his sexual improprieties, defended Donald Trump. After all, we were not “electing a pastor, but a president.” Roy Moore’s candidacy has resurrected the same arguments.

D.C. McAllister, at The Federalist, provides us with her own justifications for why religious voters should sometimes support “immoral” political leaders. It is a matter of “context” and “policy.” Senators like Moore will vote to confirm conservatives to the Supreme Court and govern in a more traditional manner. McAllister thinks these kinds of votes are justified by God’s actions in the Bible. God used all sorts of unsavory people in the Bible. Our job, as voters, is not to expect our leaders to be moral or to live up to God’s standards, but to make cold choices in the dirty game of politics.

Her take was quickly endorsed by author and media figure Eric Metaxas:

As Michael Gerson notes, these sorts of arguments are utilitarian by nature. The ends (party power, Supreme Court appointments) justify nearly any means.* Metaxas, probably unintentionally, makes this clear. He asks fellow Evangelicals to embrace reason and rigor instead of their “emotion” and self-righteousness. Gerson thinks this approach leads to intolerable outcomes. Pure reason, untethered from divine principles, can lead to truly awful places. What, precisely, would Metaxas or others be willing to support in exchange for a reliable Republican vote in the Senate? An accused rapist, thief, or lunatic? Of course not, but why not? The argument gives no obvious reason why these flaws are more damaging than accusations of sexual predation against minors.

The prevailing assumption seems to be that we, as Christians, are unreasonable or naive if we expect our elected officials to abide by our particular values. McAllister says it is appropriate for us to hold pastors to these loftier standards, but not politicians. Politics is the “city of man” and exists outside of the “city of God,” where evangelicals’ narrow moral conceptions might prevail.

This argument has many flaws, but chiefly, it is a red herring. No one I’m aware of argues elected officials should abide by the same standards as pastors or other religious leaders. McAllister here is conflating a call for character in elected officials with a requirement they be Christian ethicists. I cannot speak for Evangelicals, but I would be happy with just ethics (or better yet, virtue), regardless of their source.

Honesty. Integrity. Prudence. Wisdom. Humility. Some connection between words and deeds. Are these too much to ask for in elected officials? Does this, to use Metaxas’ words, make it “self-righteous” to advocate for leaders that are simply decent human beings? We should pause to consider that we, as Christians, are being criticized, sometimes by fellow Christians, for expecting elected officials to behave as civilized, honorable men and women with some demonstrable level of integrity. Such is the Republican Party in the Age of Trump.

Beyond this “standard,” there is another lurking matter that is more sensitive and, I fear, more pointed. There is a fundamental honesty to the politician that says, “I am not a Christian, so don’t expect me to behave according to your Christian moral or sexual codes.” Had Donald Trump taken this approach during the GOP primary, I would have been more receptive to his message and his motives. I did not agree with Trump enough to vote for him, but his candidacy would at least have assured me he was an honest broker with a high degree of “what you see is what you get.”

Obviously, this did not happen. Trump knew Evangelicals were too important within the Republican Party to take this approach. He took on the trappings of Christianity. He spoke at Liberty University, picked his favorite Bible verse, and talked of his faith. At the same time, sometimes in the same settings, he said he did not need forgiveness because he doesn’t make mistakes, how the “little wine” and “little cracker” helped him feel cleansed, so he took those as often as possible, and he said he would apologize, in the distant future, if he ever made a mistake. While I cannot know the inside of Donald Trump’s heart, these do not sound like the words (we will not even get into the actions) of a man who has come face-to-face with his own sinfulness and his desperate need of God’s grace. On top of that, it is hard to square Christianity with prideful boasting and a persistent need to exalt one’s wealth and status in order to humiliate others.

But where Trump stumbled, many Evangelical elites were there to pick him up. Jerry Falwell, Jr., James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Mike Huckabee, Robert Jeffress, and Eric Metaxas went out of their way to assure us of Trump’s fidelity or, failing that, his acceptability on grounds similar to those echoed by McAllister.

In some ways, Evangelical elites want to play on both sides of the fence. Like Metaxas, they want to chide people like me for holding flawed humans to divine, unreasonable standards. But, they also want to surround these same, flawed humans with the trappings of my faith. We are reminded, always, this election (whichever one happens to be current) really is “a spiritual struggle. This is God’s fight against progressivism,” or that “there are prayer meetings in the White House!” or “did you hear he quoted Scripture in his speech!?!?” or “did you see the pictures on social media of all of the pastors and religious media personalities who went to the White House?”

We are witnessing, I fear, the twilight of Evangelical influence, which has been sacrificed to maintain Evangelical power. We are now reliably, wholly Republican. We are in the room where it happens and we have a seat at the table. In the eyes of our party, regardless of our motivations, we will vote dutifully for any Republican put before us, warts, accusations, and all so long as a pro-choice Democrat is the opponent.

***

Albert O. Hirschman, in Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, famously examined how individuals function in the context of organizations like political parties and interest groups. During times of turmoil, individuals must decide how to behave in order to change or at least positively influence the organization. They have three options: exit, voice, and loyalty. They can leave (exit) with the hope their departure might spark a change. Alternatively, people can speak out (voice) for reform or change, or they can maintain loyalty. Loyalty strengthens the organization but it tends to maintain the status quo. Voice, Hirschman notes, seems most effective when coupled with the possibility of exit. So, if a political party, for example, is convinced it must change or it stands to lose significant support, it will listen to the disgruntled.

Feminists, when confronted with a faltering Clinton Administration within the Democratic Party, chose loyalty. They fiercely defended the administration and kept their “seat at the table” as a result. Their party, however, did little to respond to feminist ethics outside of its adherence to pro-choice policy positions. While it might seem idealistic, what could have happened had the feminists struck back at Clinton? Would we have had #MeToo a generation ago? Could Bill Clinton have been the Harvey Weinstein of the 1990s? Could thousands of our friends, daughters, sisters, and wives have been spared harassment, abuse, or assault?

Evangelicals have arrived at their own Clinton impeachment moment. The Republican Party is out of kilter; it seems unsure of its beliefs and is fractured between the leadership and voters.  We have been presented with Donald Trump and now Roy Moore. I understand the mixed motivations that go into voting. Many Evangelicals chose Trump, and will choose Moore, as the lesser of evils. I have never been persuaded that choosing a lesser evil is defensible, but I am sympathetic.

Even those Evangelicals who see elections in such terms need to understand the message they are sending to the G.O.P. (at the national, state, local, elite and mass levels) when they cast a vote for a Trump or a Moore. They are choosing loyalty in the face of an organization in desperate need of voice, and unless that voice is coupled with the possibility of exit, here seen as “I refuse to vote for scoundrels,” the voice grows small and still and can be safely ignored.

We are in danger of making the mistake the feminists made in the 1990s. Will we be seen, fairly or not, as squandering our principles in order to secure our policy goals? Will we lose our role as the conscience of the Republican Party? Will we look back and think, what could have happened if Evangelicals had resolutely stood against the likes of Trump and Moore? What evils could we have avoided? What innocents might we have spared? Who is the future, more monstrous, political version of Harvey Weinstein we may have neutered by standing firmly now?

***

There is, like it or not, much to be said about being in “the room where it happens.” That is where judicial nominees are selected, agendas get set, and the sausage gets made. It is where ideas get championed and horses are traded. Those seats at the table yield real power.

Instead of focusing on being at the table, Evangelicals should seek loftier goals. We should design the furniture. Pick out the paint on the walls. Better yet, we should draw up the blueprints for the building that includes the room. We should shape the cultural that informs the minds of the people who walk into the room. Instead of getting to see how the sausage gets made, how about changing the menu?

*I wrote a previous post on my primary problems with this sort of argument on behalf Roy Moore.

111 thoughts on “Candidate Character & Evangelical Political Influence”

  1. Yes. Outstanding. And not just the “Hamilton” references. :) Great parallel between contemporary evangelicalism and late twentieth-century mainstream feminism. Excellent use of Hirschman’s work. And helpful contrast against real examples (as opposed to people in general) like Metaxas and McCallister. Thank you for this piece.

  2. The moral superiority of evangelicals has long been a myth. They are no different than the rest of us deeply flawed, often hypocritical, often self-centered human beings. This is not merely an opinion, but rather a generalization established on data.

    The principles they profess to accept are no different than furniture that you mentioned as an analogy at the end of your post. Principles are not what separates evangelicals from the rest: rather, it is the APPEARANCE of holding firm principles. Above all it is about IMAGE, REPUTATION, and in the end MARKETING.

    Note: I am speaking through nearly five decades of experience, and I am a Cedarville grad, so I am talking from some experience.

    People change furniture with the times; evangelicals do the same with principles, which explains in part how mission statements and doctrinal principles sometimes change at evangelical colleges.

    If I were asked about which principles evangelicals accept, I would not know what to say. You see, talk is cheap. Principles mean nothing without adherence to them.

    “Will we look back and think, what could have happened if Evangelicals had resolutely stood against the likes of Trump and Moore” is a good question. To that question I say no, since self-reflection is not something I see much among evangelicals, esp. here in the Deep South. When I point out here how evangelicals were in general more opposed to civil rights and more supportive of the KKK than the rest of this country (facts, btw, not opinions) , I get hostility here.

    Not only will evangelicals NOT look back, but I suspect anyone who asks the question will receive the same kind of hostile response.

    Will we look back and think what could have happened if Evangelicals had resolutely stood against the likes of Jerry Falwell, Sr? Jerry Falwell, Jr.? Bob Jones Sr., Jr., and to a lesser extent the III? Jack Hyles? Pat Robertson? Of course not.

    1. Could you explain what you are saying here a little differently. I want to make sure I am understanding it. From how I understand it now, you are saying that evangelical Christians have been racist in the past, do not do much (if any) self-reflection, and are (as a generalization) no different from non-Christians. Did I get that right?

      1. Evangelicals and non-evangelicals were racist in the past and are, to a much lesser degree, racist in the present. But, yes, evangelicals in general were and are worse than the

        Roy Moore, self-proclaimed evangelical, led the effort to keep the language of segregated schools in Alabama’s state constitution. This was only several years ago, sometime around 2006-7. He is just one small example.

        If you study the history of how conservative Christians responded to slavery, Jim Crow, desegregation, and the Civil Rights Movement, you will see what I mean.

  3. From what it sounds like, the question we should be asking is: “is supporting a politician worth compromising moral beliefs and standing?” This is incredibly difficult and must be answered by each individual. For myself, I do not think it is unreasonable to expect my elected officials to adhere to a higher moral code than I expect others to. Should it be the same as a pastor’s? No, I don’t think so. The moral code of Christians and pastors governs thoughts and desires as well as actions and behavior. However, that doesn’t mean they have free reign to act however they want. They must be held to some standard for behavior. Having an issue with impure thoughts and desires should not disqualify someone from running from office would it affect my support of them either positively or negatively. That said, if a politician was to consistently act upon those desires and start sleeping with every other woman he met, I would have an issue with that. If I reasonable expect the average Joe on the street to behave a certain way, I expect my elected officials to behave with at least the same discretion and I honestly expect more discretion when it comes to issues of moral behavior.

  4. I agree with your point that it is very difficult to decide whether or not we should hold our politicians to the same moral code as pastors. I would like to think that this would be a feasible task, but with the state of our country now, I do not think that it is completely possible. There are bound to be a few born again Christians who run for office, but for the majority of the elections, there will not be a morally sound Christian to vote for unfortunately.

  5. I agree with most of what you say in the article, and thought that the majority of it was written well. While I agree that it is not a good idea just to vote for the lesser of two evils when voting comes around, I think that sometimes it’s the best you can do. I think that if a particular candidate, who claims to be a Christian, is partaking in some act that damages the name of Christ, then I totally agree that you should not vote them just because they are the lesser of two evils. But, at the same time there are other factors in this. One that would be more obvious to point out is if the action is a regular act that this person indulges in, or if it was man’s sin nature making a mistake. if it is the latter, then as Christians, we should look for it’s a reoccurring thing, then I can see a desire to not support them.

    Looking at the statement that political officials shouldn’t be held to the same standards as a pastor, I would agree, but at the same time disagree. Regardless of whether or not they are “Christians” or not, people should be expected to act in an ethical way. If this particular candidate doesn’t claim to be a Christian, then we may not expect them to adhere to as strict of an ethical code – one that follows Biblical guidelines. However, if this particular candidate does claim to be a Christian, then they should be held to a higher standard by the Christian community. Though this may not be as strict a standard that a pastor would have, I believe that all Christians should express themselves in a God honoring way.

  6. Dr Smith, I’d appreciate your thoughts on what I say here.

    I think the biggest appeal Trump has to his strongest ‘evangelical’ supporters is not his ‘Christian’ beliefs or his moral compass (I certainly hope not). I think the biggest draw is that he is one of the few people to successfully refuse to back down to the constant attacks and lies from the liberal side. Conservatives, including many evangelicals, were so sick of the left imposing their will, both politicians and media, with hardly any resistance to speak of. I understand, but don’t see the benefit of, not voting for a candidate such as Donald Trump (in the general election only) when faced with his opponent becoming President if he loses. We may not like him much or feel confident in his morality, but when faced with the alternative of President Hillary, I personally felt their was no other option. If we decide not to cast a vote for someone like President Trump maybe our moral conscience will feel soothed but what would be the cost? In my opinion it would lead to an even worse outcome. Some, perhaps yourself, feel voting for someone with Trump’s values is too drastic, even with the potential alternative. I feel both sides make a decent argument and cannot flatly say either one is wrong or belittles a Christian voter’s testimony.

      1. My views on one issue allow you to proclaim me a utilitarian or moral relativist? I decided to do what I felt was best with the choices I had. Isn’t that what we all do? If we waited for the perfect candidate, we would never be able to vote for anyone. Every single person is a sinner and guilty of all. The big concern with many on here is the damage it does to our Christian witness by voting for someone with Donald Trump’s character. Would voting for Hillary have been better as a Christian example?

      2. Moral relativism is the actual position of evangelicals, according at least to my experience. What’s your point. then?

      3. Last I checked, Jeff, Christians hold the bible as their absolute moral standard. I’m not saying Christians always follow it perfectly (because we don’t), but Christians are most certainly NOT moral relativists.

      4. Daniel,

        Yes, your position on how we make moral decisions is how we know whether you are a relativist or not. I didn’t mean it as an insult. I meant it to clarify. When you argue that we should ignore our conscience and principles to avoid a bad consequence you are not making a claim to uphold an absolute ethical system. If that makes you uncomfortable then maybe you should reconsider your argument. Or perhaps explain your position more clearly so that I can understand how exactly this is not consequentialist.

        I never said vote for Hillary. Neither did Dr. Smith. I’m not sure where you got that idea.

      5. Theophilus,

        How I make my decision on this one issue doesn’t mean I make all my decisions with this thought process. If I had voted 3rd party or write in it wasn’t going to change the fact that either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton was going to be President. That’s why I picked one, the one I felt would leave the country in better shape.

      6. Daniel,

        I’m now more confused.

        Are you saying you are sometimes a relativist? Why only sometimes? Isn’t moral relativism a problem, whether it’s a habit or not?

        More importantly, if your vote is not going to decide who wins, as you argue, why dirty your hands voting for these scoundrels?

        Finally, you aren’t engaging with Dr. Smith’s point at all. He suggests that your mindset, compromise to keep power, undermines any moral principle you have since the GOP can nominate anyone and you will vote for them, whether they do what you want or not. You’re selling your principles for nothing. Do you agree? That seems to be his point, and you aren’t arguing that he’s wrong about that, which seems like a problem for your argument.

      7. Hey Theophilus,

        Hope you are doing well.

        I think perhaps you are confusing utilitarianism and moral relativism with political pragmatism. Example: There is nothing in the Bible that tells us what tax laws, immigration laws, or heathcare laws we, as the United States, should pass. There are certain principles that I think we can glean, but on specifics, the current tax reform bill for instance, I cannot declare that those who choose to vote one way are any more moral than those who vote another way. Many political issues are subjective ones and are based on what one thinks is best policy. I know good Christians who are Democrats because they have different opinions on these issues than I do. Does that equal moral relativism? No I do not think so because there are objective truths and morals we mutually hold.

        So Daniel is not being morally relativistic when he discusses politics in these terms.

  7. I was not aware that a feminist group defended Clinton, and I would not have expected that. Unfortunately, women are put into more unfortunate by politicians than we know, We only hear about so many, some have without a doubt occurred and was kept secret. Very insightful post.

  8. The Christian right is still hung up on Roe v. Wade and the sexual revolution of the late 20th century. They have dug in so intensely on a few key issues that they are now marginalized in the national political conversation. By wholeheartedly either aligning or demonizing candidates, they contribute to the polarization that is tearing American politics apart. In the times the New Testament was written, Christians were under a Roman government that was completely debauched. Furthermore, they had no say in who was put in power- false gods and bloody coups determined that. Those Christians still prayed for their leaders and God still used them to further His kingdom.

    Rather than being single topic voters, Christians should take a more holistic view on political candidates. John Kasich, the governor of Ohio, was arguably the most moderate candidate in the 2016 presidential election. However, since he was willing to work with both major parties, each party turned on him in favour of their own more radical candidates. Trump’s win was a step in the wrong direction, making the political scene even more polarized and hate filled than it was before. Each party is going to become even more extreme and America will look completely different by the time my kids reach college age. As Christians, we must pray for all leaders, not just the ones we want, and actually take a holistic look at candidates instead of simply picking and choosing based on one or two topics. If a candidate’s sole redeeming value is their pro life stance, then we should reconsider our support for them.

    1. I will say that Gov Kasich rubbed me the wrong way during the primaries. He was one of the key people, along with Christie and others, that allowed Trump to get the nomination by hanging around long after his viability was done, helping to spoil it for Senators Cruz and Rubio who were the best chances to stop Trump (One would have thought he alone was responsible for balancing the budget back in the 90s the way he talked sometimes.)

      1. That’s fine. I’m not analyzing the candidates stances here as much as the how the race unfolded. I’m just saying Cruz mainly and Rubio secondly had the best chance to defeat Trump in the primaries and were my two preferred candidates. Kasich’s policies were less of a bother to me than his staying in after he was finished like he was owed something. The other Republican governors seemed to act this way also, like it was there time and these younger senators had no business encroaching. Kasich, Christie, and somewhat Bush (not sure how much his heart was in it really) acted arrogantly toward the senators running. The jumbled field is partly what allowed Trump to build up his lead early on to make his momentum insurmountable later.

      2. Daniel,

        I’ve been thinking. I think your criticism missed the mark. The problem with our system, I hope, is not that more qualified, reasonable, and moral people should have to drop out to stop a demagogue. That the base united around a demagogue that most of them had strong misgivings about demonstrates a more fundamental problem: the primary system gives more radical voices a window to push above their weight, and the nature of our general elections means that the nominee, even one that people we trust pointed out as a psychotic narcissistic liar, nonetheless got all of their support. The establishment is not in control of their nomination process, but is afraid of going against an obviously bad choice. Given that literally any of his opponents was a better choice, it is alarming that the GOP did not follow their judgment to its conclusion.

        After all, if Cruz was being honest when he said those things about Trump, what does that say about his politics? If he was right, then he fell in line to support a threat to democracy. That is not a good thing, and it is not Kasich’s fault that no one refused to endorse a choice they all knew was bad.

        If we keep directing our anger at decent politicians who cannot play this game as well as a liar, we will miss that the real problem is with the game itself.

      3. Theophilus,

        Governor Kasich won one state, his home state of Ohio. He got under 2% of the vote in Iowa but stayed in compared with Cruz winning the state and Rubio being a close 3rd and Dr Carson the only other candidate with a decent total. Really after Iowa it should have been down to 4. After that, things could have swayed in Senator Rubio’s favor without all the governors trying to bully him in the debate before NH. Jeb mostly because of wanting to position himself better in their mutual home state and Christie as a last ditch effort to sway “establishment” voters. I think the big problem was both Ohio and Florida being on March 15 after a large chunk of delegates were already decided the two weeks before. Those states caused Kasich and Rubio to stay in the race hoping a winner-take-all win in their large delegate home states could help re-energize their campaigns and/or contribute to a contested convention where all bets could be off. Kasich’s logic was flawed as he had no momentum at all to start with and Rubio didn’t have enough as Cruz was the clear top challenger by then. Also I think the main chunk of the media that wanted a Clinton victory helped propel Trump with coverage in the primaries and probably thought he would be easy pickins for her (or dismissed her own fatal flaws) and it bit them back very hard. I really could write a long essay on why I think the primary turned out the way it did, but that is a basic overview. Why Kasich especially stayed in with no chance of winning is what baffled me. He seemed arrogant in the later debates too. Maybe out of desperation. I don’t know if any of this makes sense to you or not but at least I thank you for being reasonable with differing opinions.

      4. No no, your argument makes sense. I’m not disputing that Kasich was clearly supposed to win the primary or something.

        My point, which I still don’t know that you have told me what you think of, is that we should not pretend that Trump winning was a fluke, or a bad series of coincidences. Or even mismanagement by Rubio and Kasich.

        A wide field definitely helped, and I’m not defending their tactics. What you have not acknowledged is that, at the basic level, GOP primary voters gravitated to him, and even though (as we both know) anyone else was a better choice, and they all knew something was deeply wrong with Trump, the whole party fell in step.

        The problem goes deeper than tactics. Trump is not a conservative, but he is good enough to win. The system is not good enough to stop him. Failure to acknowledge that the game itself is vulnerable to people like this leaves us open to it happening again. Judging by your tone above, I think we agree that this was not a good thing.

        Am I making sense?

      5. Yeah, it makes sense. My main question before I comment further is are you talking primarily about those who voted for a Kasich/Cruz/Rubio etc. and fell in step for the general or those who supported Trump in the primary? Or both? I would say Trump’s core die hards was about 25-35% of the GOP primary voters. If you eliminate the primary votes after everyone else had dropped out after Indiana’s primary, he had roughly 11 million votes to 7.4 million for Cruz, 3. 7 million for Kasich and 3.5 million for Rubio who dropped out a month and a half before. Trump’s total primary votes, including the ones after the race was over equaled a bit over 10% of the general election turnout. I do see a problem with primary turnout. Trump energized supporters to turn out apparently, even with the rest of GOP votes exceeding previous primary seasons, they did not do as well with turnout. Trump had 14 million primary votes and close to 63 million general votes. 22%. Again, I think a big issue is turnout in primary elections compared to general. Trump got the nomination with 10% of the total votes cast in the general and even less than 10% of all registered voters. 60% turnout roughly in the general election. meaning he won the nomination with 6% of eligible voters. Any thoughts on these numbers?

      6. I can see why that’s confusing. Sorry for the ambiguity.

        I think the problem is 3-fold. I’ll try to be more clear.

        First, the system we use for primaries is vulnerable to exploitation. It has become very clear that the GOP has little control over the nomination process, to the point where someone who does not have a history of representing any of their positions, or any position consistently, won their game despite resistance from the establishment. I think this is because the most frightened and angry people turn out to primaries: The ones who are really convinced that the other side represents a threat to our continued existence as a nation are very motivated to be involved, and wield a disproportionate influence. Your stats, I think, illustrate what I’m saying: I would say you overestimate the enthusiastic Trump supporters, because I think his momentum attracted people who wouldn’t have voted for him otherwise simply because he was a foregone conclusion, but either way his nomination was secured, in large part, not because he had competition but because he had very motivated followers who turned out for him. So even though (and this is anecdotal, based on people I know) almost no one who was conservative WANTED Trump, they got him anyway. To some degree I think this problem could be dealt with if the ‘elites’ had more control over the process, but the party now has made enemies within itself to the point where I’m sure that’s not viable.

        Second, there was a failure in the general-electoral process that brought out the worst in both sides of the voting public. Because our system is all-or-nothing, people do not vote for someone they like generally. Presidents are almost never the first choice of a majority of the voting public- they’re just a viable option that is LESS scary than the alternative. Most of the people I know voted for Trump because, as has been said so many times, Clinton would be a disaster. Even if Trump was also a disaster, he’s less of a disaster than the alternative, so we minimize our losses this way. The fact that this is the reality of voting, I think, indicates that our system has major flaws and a chronic failure that has led to disillusionment and frustration. We all know the general election is not really an indicator of what we, the voters, want, but we feel powerless to change it and make it more representative. More to the point, the assumption that this system makes us take is negative: Compromising principles is good, because sticking to your position makes things worse for you. A libertarian always has to worry that, by not voting for one side or the other, they are going to be punished with the more frightening option. Our system, frankly, does not encourage us to actually vote for what we want, and that’s bad. This is where the conflicted voters who fell in line with Trump fit in my vision.

        Third, and most glaringly, the voices that represented the party officially utterly failed to stand up for themselves. I mean, it’s really just sad what happened to Cruz. A self-centered old man insulted him, called his wife ugly, called his father a commie stooge, and took the spotlight. Cruz famously, and accurately, explained exactly what he thought about Trump: A pathological liar. Someone who does not know what right and wrong are. The antithesis of a godly leader, someone that openly defies Christian principles and mocks the people who stand for them.

        And then Cruz called people to ask them to vote for Trump. This man who libeled his family. Cruz called his supporters, people who presumably AGREED with him about the utterly decrepit character of Trump, and convinced them to vote for him ANYWAY. And so did Rubio. And the establishment, who had honestly and worriedly made it clear that Trump did not represent their principles and was a bad choice, let him be their nominee. No voice that mattered stood up to this man who, as Jeb was dismayed to find, did in fact insult his way to the nomination, and thence to the highest office in the land. He insulted veterans. He insulted the families of dead veterans. And here is where I think the most obvious moral failure happened: No one stopped it. At some point we have an obligation to make a judgment call and protect our ideas. I honestly can’t imagine voting for most of these people once Trump is gone, because this failure to exercise even the most basic level of moral judgment frightens me. How could Cruz honestly advocate for someone who so personally and viscerally humiliated him, his family, and his ideals? It makes me sad thinking about it, but this is where we are.

        Hopefully that’s more clear. I am not disputing your stats, I’m trying to say that I think there are bigger, more fundamental, problems at play.

      7. You make very logical points. The one caution I would have of your first point is that you are saying someone needed to stop him. Aside from the voters themselves who should that be? In the Democrat primary we saw the other extreme, through super delegates, the party chair, etc. what can happen when the party exerts too much control. The Sanders movement had no chance simply because the party forced Hillary on them as the nominee. So I don’t think we want to overcompensate. Your second and third points I would be very cautious of a small group of party elites snatching control and stopping anyone voted in by the people they didn’t like. That could lead to much larger problems down the road. What voting system would you think could best address your concerns?

        As for people like Senator Cruz, and myself I guess. Side note: When I voted for President I was also voting for Vice President, potential cabinet positions, potential judges, and potential legislation. This makes it alot bigger than the one person at the top. We are designed to where we should not fear the power of any one person (King George at the time it was designed). I was looking at a bigger picture than the two candidates themselves. I think the Republicans who reluctantly supported him did as well. They knew the consequences of Hillary being President and that scared them much more. Just how they thought. I get the disagreement from your perspective.

      8. Daniel,

        Thanks so much for the civility. You’re a smart guy and I respect your opinion here.

        I sadly agree with your assessment: Alternatives would be difficult to come up with, and would almost certainly require dramatic reworking of our system, something I’m almost positive will not happen. Ideally, people’s sense of decency should have prevented Trump, I think. That it didn’t, despite widespread agreement within the party that he was a bad choice, is alarming. Would it be that bad for the parties to decide within themselves who represents them? That’s not unheard of in representative systems elsewhere. But we Americans are very skeptical of parties by comparison.

        If you want my actual opinion on good voting systems, it would depend on how much change we’d allow in the US government. I’m kind of attracted to parliamentary systems. I think the electoral college has downsides, and I’d prefer we did it in a more parliamentary way with a single-transferable vote. I also think mixed-member proportional representation could work well, but either one would be a pretty dramatic shift.

        For presidential elections, I think at least a runoff system would help get us out of this two-party, vote-out-of-fear slump that worries me. But like I’ve said elsewhere, I’m not sure that better systems will automatically make it better, especially when our leaders don’t seem to be very good at standing up for themselves. Maybe that’s a cop out, but here’s my thought, at its most basic:

        Even if there isn’t necessarily a better alternative, being aware of the weaknesses of our system is important so we can mitigate them.

        Which, I think, is why I can’t share your calculus about the other offices outweighing the president. I’m not trying to be pessimistic, but I feel like there’s something reckless about the assumption that one person can’t be bad enough to bring down the ship. I agree that our system is remarkable and durable, and it’s great that no one person controls everything, but we should not lean so heavily on the durability of this system. It is, after all, imperfect and has weaknesses. Overconfidence in its ability to weather people who are not interested in preserving it is dangerous. And rewarding people like Trump now means we will probably see more of them later… Or so I fear.

      9. “Would it be that bad for the parties to decide within themselves who represents them?”

        Actually it was in this century when primary voting actually got going. Before, conventions decided the nominee alone. Despite who won the nominations this past time, I still prefer a voting primary because it gives the people more of a say. I caution on blowing up a system just because it produced a bad outcome the most recent time. And as I said, the Democrat primary showed us over-control by the party on the other extreme.

        The electoral college’s main purpose is to prevent a small collection of population centers from controlling a straight popular vote. The founders didn’t want clusters of elites outweighing the average citizen spread throughout the country.

        I do not feel as you that Trump is not interested in preserving the system. He is not that reckless or extreme.

        You’re right, no system is perfect. I just don’t like fishing around for a perfect system every time we get an outcome that is not ideal. It could make things much worse and deviate from what was intended by the founders.

      1. Same to you. Unfortunately I have been in disagreements on this blog before where the person I was conversing with, rather than presenting well-thought logical arguments and being respectful of a differing opinion, was disrespectful and rude. Thanks for not being that way also.

  9. I think the question we should ask is that is it worth backing politicians who go against our moral believes? The answer in my stand point is yes. We are never going to find a leader who is without fault and especially not in a time where politicians need to appeal to many types of people so as to get elected. As Christians even if there is someone who runs as a pure evangelical Christian odds are he is a sinner like the rest of us. The media will use “scandals” and many different stories about politicians to sway voters into not voting for a specific politicians. Christians are but in a position where they can vote for either party both of whom do not represent their moral views.

  10. I agree with the basic argument that the Christian voter should be guided by the morals and ethical principles taught in Scripture that God expects of all humans in his/her choice of candidates. We Christians will probably held accountable by God on how we voted. That being said, I nevertheless agree with another commenter that finding such a candidate would be very difficult and amount to pretty slim pickings in the present social circumstances. Honestly, if I applied the test of principles strictly, I probably would seldom be able to vote for any candidate unless I could write one in. So, what is a workable and honest solution?

    1. Write a good candidate in. You got it! :-)

      Voting is not merely a binary matter of choosing from a list of two. Rather, it is an expression of conscience.

      If one truly believes God is in control, then one should not hesitate to do as you mentioned–write away!! But too many want to control the process themselves and will vote for someone who is clearly unethical or unqualified (or both) because they want their team to win. No wonder we have the problems we have, as Prof Smith mentioned.

      That approach is poor citizenship and represents weak faith.

      1. Are you saying that if we vote for someone we mostly agree with but who may not have the best ethical record, we don’t really believe in God and have weaker faith than those who don’t vote that way?

      2. @ Donny Petron

        Could it be that there is a difference from an average person who, like all of us, does not have a perfect record, and someone who brags about sexual assault? We are all sinners, but that does not make us all equally bad choices. I would think that there was a significant difference between David and Saul, even if they were both sinners.

        I find it odd that you aren’t arguing whether the choice is unqualified or immoral as Mr. Adams claims. Would you find that you mostly agree with someone unqualified and immoral? I think that is a weird thing to say.

      3. Jeff,

        It is not about ‘the team’ winning, it is about the country being better off in one instance over another. I didn’t vote for the President because he was a good Christian or because he was a Republican, I voted for him because I thought, rightly so from what I’m seeing, that the country would be better off with him President than Mrs Clinton. As far as voting ‘team’ I did not vote straight Republican locally. Can we separate a candidate’s personal life from the policies that candidate puts into law if their personal life is not affecting it?

      4. “We are all sinners, but that does not make us all equally bad choices. I would think that there was a significant difference between David and Saul, even if they were both sinners.”

        From my perspective, and others, this is exactly why we voted for Mr Trump. We saw a significant difference in him and Mrs Clinton with her being a worse choice. You are talking moral relativism here, like you said I was above.

      5. Donald,

        Can we separate a person’s morals from their political views? Sure. But can a Christian hold that flagrantly immoral people are capable of godly leadership? I think the answer is no. Bill Clinton’s infidelity and lack of self control affect his whole life. How can these vices not influence how he governs?

        Daniel,

        It makes me sad that you would compare King David to Donald Trump in a positive way. That is utterly disheartening.

        Still, my point is not moral relativism. I reject both Clinton and Trump. They are both godless, immoral schemers. Neither was an acceptable option.

        My point was merely that original sin does not mean moral voting is impossible. There are certain things that disqualify someone from being a good leader… I think there is room for discussion about which of two qualified candidates is more fit for an office. But no one here will defend Clinton or Trump because they are both unrepentant and lawless. Neither was fit in the slightest, and we are reaping back our judgment for our horrible decision. Not, as you point out, that we were going to wiggle out of judgment. It was coming one way or another. But in your view, I think it’s fair to say, what happened last November was a good thing. In mine, if either candidate won it would still be a bad thing, because they are both terrible people and awful leaders.

      6. I think Daniel’s only intended comparison between Trump and David was that just as you saw a difference between David and Saul so there was also a major difference many of us saw between Trump and Hillary. I do not think the intention was to say Trump = David.

        I think the real disagreement here is revolves around how one chooses to view the candidates. Some (including yourself) have clearly deemed both of them unfit and therefore equally undeserving of being voted for. Others (like myself) see many of the things you do and while we might say “both have many undesirable qualities that might make them unfit” we also see one (Clinton) as being substantially more unfit than the other.

  11. This is fascinating. I never really considered that we might be squandering our influence as Christians in politics by supporting Trump but it makes sense. “We are witnessing, I fear, the twilight of Evangelical influence, which has been sacrificed to maintain Evangelical power. We are now reliably, wholly Republican.” I hope that it is not the twilight of our influence, and I also wonder if it is true. I feel like in the world of politics, cold hard votes are what matter. If this is the case, we will still have “influence” in politics, even if this is just in the form of “power.” Though I don’t want the Evangelicals to become unprincipled hypocrites, I would like to know how, why and when this will lead to a lack of political influence. It could be that you were referring to another type of influence in which case I renege on this.

  12. Daniel said, “I voted for him because I thought, rightly so from what I’m seeing, that the country would be better off with him President than Mrs Clinton.”

    Now you are just guessing. We have NO way of knowing that the country would be worse off or better off with Clinton. It is too early to tell with any president after less than a year.

    It is disheartening that you seem OK with an immoral man leading the country. Your moral relativism and your my-team-first attitude are on full display here. Your posts only confirm what I am saying, so, please continue sharing here. :-)

    1. “Your posts only confirm what I am saying, so, please continue sharing here.”

      Jeff, your own pride is every bit the match of Donald Trump’s.

      1. Is that your only response? When have I ever bragged about anything here? If anything, I am one of the few who openly admit making error and acknowledge that all of us are fallible humans. In fact, I think I just did so yesterday.

        Is this a schoolyard or a forum?

        Please keep your taunts to yourself and address the topics here.

      2. Jeff, like it or not, in many ways your behavior at times reminds me of the way Trump sometimes behaves, in particular, the ad hominem attacks on those who disagree or oppose you. It was not a taunt, but an observation. You constantly attack others education and intelligence.

        If you truly believe that this is a forum and not a schoolyard then keep your own taunts to yourself and others will keep theirs to themselves.

  13. “This is fascinating. I never really considered that we might be squandering our influence as Christians in politics by supporting Trump but it makes sense.”

    (So-called) Christians have been squandering their influence as a moral force within politics for many years. See, for instance, their support of Richard Nixon, Jesse Helms, Ronald Reagan, and now Donald Trump; and their support of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, and Jim Crow laws, as well as their opposition to desegregated schools and to the Civil Rights Movement.

    These are introvertible facts. But I know many here rather ignore reality than face it. In the end, we are responsible for our own choices.

    1. There you go again, claiming that your false over generalizations about the level of Christian support for slavery, the KKK are incontrovertible facts.

      1. I make the claim only because it is TRUE and because it is so easily supported by FACTS. As with any generalization, there are and were exceptions. The “rule” is generally correct.

        I am sorry you don’t know the history of your own country.

        What do you think about the fact that Roy Moore, a so-called evangelical Christian, successfully opposed having the law mandating racially segregated schools removed from Alabama’s state constitution? Are you OK with that? I already know you were OK with the Confederacy, after all (summer of 2015 discussion, if I recall correctly).

      2. Too bad that it is NOT true and not supported by the facts. As i have pointed out, yes, many Christians wrongly supported slavery and racism. But your mistake, and since you only double down, clearly an intentional one, is painting ALL Christians in this light.

        The history I have read of my country shows that while segments of Christianity did take the wrong sides of these issue, many other segments were a driving force in the abolition movement. I am truly sorry you are unwilling to acknowledge the important role of Christianity in the abolitionist movements of the 19th century and only focus on the Christians who got it wrong.

        As for Roy Moore… why would I be okay with some of the things he has done? Have I ever said I was? No. As for my views of the Confederacy, you are oversimplifying a very complicated matter, but re-litigating the Civil War is a discussion for another time. Suffice it to say one can agree with certain aspects of the Confederacy but remain repulsed by and opposed to slavery.

      3. I hope you realize Jeff that you could not go five minutes without taunting and insulting Nathan and his educational level after telling him to not taunt. Just an observation. 12/2 @ 10:20– please keep your taunts to yourself…
        12/2 @ 10:24– I’m sorry you don’t know the history of your own country.
        Follow your own advice if you expect others to.

        That said, you seem to be prone to taking something horrible that happened or was believed by relatively small percentage of the population and blowing it up to say that everyone in the group believed that. I understand why you may think this way. After all, news puts more focus on the mistakes of Christians. For instance, if a pastor was arrested for theft, they would make sure they mentioned that it was a pastor. If Joe down road who works at Subway committed the same crime, they would say “Joe down the road was arrested for theft. Just because people tend to focus on the negative, does not mean that every aspect of *insert group here* is negative.

  14. Donny said, “Last I checked, Jeff, Christians hold the bible as their absolute moral standard.”

    You need to go back and check some more, lol.

    Evangelical Christians pick and choose whatever verses they want to support their own predilections. They look at never-changing Scripture with ever-changing eyes, eyes that are shaped by the social, cultural, economic, and political climate of the times.

    We ALL do this, yes, but at least the rest of us are honest and humble enough to admit it and do not claim that we have all of the answers when it comes to the very human process of interpreting Scripture.

    Pride goes before a fall, remember? :-)

    1. “Evangelical Christians pick and choose whatever verses they want to support their own predilections. They look at never-changing Scripture with ever-changing eyes, eyes that are shaped by the social, cultural, economic, and political climate of the times.”

      Kind of like you are picking and choosing part of what I said and taking out of context to fit your needs? I fully admitted that we don’t follow the Bible perfectly (which you seem to have neglected to take into account). Just because we can’t follow our standard perfectly or even close to perfectly, it doesn’t mean that the standard isn’t there and that majority of Christians aren’t trying to follow the Bible.

      1. I realize my last statement is a little confusing, even to me. Let me rephrase: Christians do not follow the biblical standard perfectly. This does not mean the biblical standard doesn’t exist. It does exist, despite our inability to perfectly follow it. The majority of Christians ARE trying to follow the biblical standard, but because of our sinful nature, we are failing miserably.

      2. I don’t have the time to address your entire post or those of others. Perhaps you do. Bully for you!

        Christians may well “try” but they miserably fail. I wish they would be more honest about their failures before they arrogantly tell the world that they are the only true Christians and that only they know how to interpret Scripture properly.

  15. I don’t think we should hold politicians to the same standards as pastors. They do not serve the same role, and if we were to do this, we would never feel comfortable voting for anyone. However, we need to pick the most reliable and seemingly moral candidates. It’s very hard to do this, but it would be impossible to participate in democracy if we held politicians to the same standards as pastors.

  16. There has been a continual use in this discussion, in a clearly derogatory and demeaning way, of what is being called the “my-team-first” attitude. It seems to be the attempt to portray politics as a sport competition with the importance placed on winning elections the same as your favorite sports team winning games and that principle does not matter as long as you win.

    Here is the chief problem with this portrayal of politics. As the previous President was fond of saying “elections have consequences”. Sports games, however, do not have such consequences attached. When people vote, there is so much more at stake than who wins the most seats or who wins the Presidency. Losing is not simply “oh shoot, we didn’t win”. Winning for one side means those who advocate for policies that can have lasting consequences have the ability to enact them. Losing for the other side means being unable in many cases to prevent what you think is bad policy from being enacted.

    When I, or someone else, am criticized for having a supposedly “my-team-first” attitude, basically what I hear them saying to me is that it is selfish for me to want those who will enact policies I support to get into office. Many simply do not see it this way. For me, as a Republican, wanting Republicans (in most cases) to win elections is not a “my-team first” attitude. Rather, if I genuinely believe the policies of one side are better than those of the other, it is not myself, but the well being of my State and country I am thinking about.

    Now, usually the accusation of the “my-team-first” attitude (true on this blog in most cases) is from those who disagree with those policies. I, of course, understand that to those with policy disagreements that my support of a flawed candidate will indeed seem like “my-team-first”. I can admit that at times I have similar thoughts about the other side as well.

    Democrats and liberal leaning independents cannot understand why anyone would vote for a man like Donald Trump therefore it must be a “my-team-at-any-cost” mentality. Republicans and conservative independents likewise cannot understand why anyone would vote for a woman like Hillary Clinton.

    Until we can accept that in most cases, support for Clinton and Trump is NOT simply a “my-team-first” proposition, we will never be able to have a constructive conversation about these issues. As long as we view “the other side” as “blind partisans” who would vote for Satan* if he ran as a member of their party, we are doomed to a future of mutual loathing of each other.

    * Yes I know, to some Trump and/or Clinton = Satan.

    1. Nathan,

      I do not think you are interacting with Dr. Smith’s argument at all. Do you think he is wrong to say that the Evangelical voting bloc is losing any credibility or high ground by protecting someone who do blatantly disdains their principles? Not that only one side can fall victim to this, but I think his argument acknowledged that there are stakes to abstaining on moral grounds. If this compromise effectively kills the weight of the”Christan right” is it really worth it?

      I’m all for respecting the other side, though. Good point.

      1. I have great respect for Dr. Smith and always take his views seriously (as I do yours, btw). I can definitely say I understand and see the logic behind his arguments. As to whether I think he is right or wrong… I do not think enough time has passed to know for sure. If I were to guess, I would say evangelical credibility will be lost in the eyes of some, but not in others.

  17. Rather than try to respond to each little comment, hopefully this one will address most of everything above. I agree with Nathan said above. My vote for Trump had absolutely nothing to do with the man, but the policies that would result from his election vs what would have resulted from Hillary Clinton’s policies. I believed, and still do, that the COUNTRY is better off as a result of these policies. The ‘team’ I am voting for is the well-being of America NOT Republicans.

    Jeff said above: “Now you are just guessing. We have NO way of knowing that the country would be worse off or better off with Clinton. It is too early to tell with any president after less than a year.”

    Hillary Clinton has been in the public spotlight for over a quarter-century. Her husband was President (a great role model for how to treat women btw). She has been Senator, Sec State, run for President twice. If there is any candidate whose policies, immorality, and ineptitude for office is clear, it is her.

    Theophilus, I was not comparing Trump to David by any means.

    1. My apologies for the confusion then. Glad to hear that.

      I would just say, then, that I disagree that we can separate a person, morally, from their policy. Perhaps Chairman Mao was more constructive, politically, than Josef Stalin or Kim Jong Un. I would never, in any election, cast a vote for any of them all the same because they are all so reprehensible that they are obviously disqualified from being a good leader.

      So too, with Trump. He may be better than Clinton. I suppose it’s nice that he doesn’t pretend to have a moral compass in the first place. All the same, he is utterly immoral (or perhaps worse, amoral). No one is disputing that. He is indefensible on principled grounds.

      I can accept that maybe I’m just an idealist. I think idealism is important. Granted that pragmatic concerns matter as well, I still cannot stomach advocating for this man. I accept our judgment. I do not enjoy it.

      We agree that Clinton is bad. I would say I think Trump is bad for the same reasons.

      1. Just a little thing to add, when you bring up people like Stalin, Chairman Mao, etc. one thing that separates any President we have from them are the checks and balances designed by the founding fathers we have in the Constitution on executive power. We have 3 branches that, ideally, all check each other as well as the people voting. One branch writes law, one implements, and one interprets, two are elected, one is appointed by an elected branch. the President can veto, the Congress can override (2/3 is alot but on something very serious is doable). Congress declares war, the President is C and C. You get the picture. All to say no one person should ever have close to the power those men have even if he is as immoral as them which I do not believe the President, or any President we’ve had, is even close to that.

      2. Agreed on separation of powers being good. Not sure that it’s comforting that the best defense that can be given for our president is that the system will keep him from being too damaging.

      3. It was not given as a defense of Trump, just as an analysis of how it would be much tougher for a person to do those things here than in a country without our Constitution and checks. If Trump had the opportunity of power those men had I doubt he would be doing any of the oppressive stuff they did. In my opinion while he has a very secular personality, he is not anywhere close to that kind of evil.

      4. Granted. I am not saying he has genocidal ambitions. He reminds me much more of Hugo Chavez than older figures. Chavez shares his disdain for judges and the media.

      5. Why are we comparing our President to genocidal dictators and a drug pushing cartel leader? Whether or not you agree with his policies, or his morals, or anything, he is still our president and we should show him the respect due to this position. We do not have to respect him as a person, but we do have to respect him as our President. Comparing him to such people is not respectful.

      6. Donald/Donny,

        Why are you disrespecting Stalin, Mao, and Chavez? They are also authorities that were in respectable offices of their own. Can we simultaneously give an office the respect it deserves while being honest about the person who occupies the office? I think your approach to this question is problematic.

        Why aren’t you answering my original question that I posed to you? “I don’t like your question” is not an answer. “I don’t like your comparison” is not an explanation for why the comparison is a bad one. I did not even say Trump was like Chairman Mao. I simply said that, even if Mao was comparatively better than another politician I would not vote for him because, I think we can agree, he has some glaring ethical failings that disqualify him. I will repeat my question: Can we really separate a person’s morals from their policies? I believe we need virtue in order to make our society work, that simply making the right laws is not enough. A person without virtue, then, does not contribute to a more virtuous society. Do you disagree?

        Why aren’t you defending Trump? I keep pointing out that no one here is interested, apparently, in explaining why he’s not morally a problem. I suspect we agree that he is not that interested in moral decision making. Do you have a defense you want to offer? Care to explain why it’s okay that he’s been in pornographic films? Why he won’t talk to use about his history with abortion? Why it’s okay that he didn’t pay contractors? Why swindling people for useless degrees is okay? Anything?

        Is talking about someone honestly disrespectful? Is it disrespectful to say that Bill Clinton was an adulterer? Is it disrespectful to acknowledge that Nixon was paranoid? Should we pretend that people don’t have any problems we should be wary of while they occupy a position of power?

        More importantly, you’re making a moral claim that you are not defending: Why should anyone respect an executive office holder? Do you have some argument for that? Does the Bible say we should avoid talking about the failings of our leaders out of respect for them?

        Was Elijah a bad citizen for publicly criticizing Ahab? Were the prophets all misguided when they condemned kings and rulers for their sins? I have heard this argument you’re making before, but I have yet to hear someone defend this weird, narrow understanding of what showing respect means. Please enlighten me.

      7. Theophilus,

        I apologize for not answering your question. I did not realize you were looking for my response. I thought it was a rhetorical question since you answered it yourself and did not ask for my thoughts. In answer to your question, yes, I do. For instance (and please don’t take the example and run with it, as I am not trying to spark a totally different debate), the president is pro-life, but after looking at all the facts and the situation of the country, he decides to sign a law that Congress passed legalizing abortion because while he believes abortion to be wrong, he concludes that allowing it would greatly benefit the wellbeing of the nation as a whole. (Again, not trying to spark an abortion debate, so please don’t accuse me of supporting or not supporting abortion. I am not taking a stand on either side here.) Are Trump’s personal beliefs really affecting the laws that he can’t make anyway? He signs the laws. Congress makes them. Thus, a person with fewer virtues can contribute to a virtuous society.
        I never said you compared him to Mao, I was merely saying that many of the comparisons that have been made between Trump and other political figures around the world are not the most accurate. You did however, compare to Trump to Chavez. Chavez was arrested for TREASON. Others (not you) have compared Trump to Hitler and Stalin, both of whom are directly responsible for the murders of millions upon millions of their own countrymen. When has Trump come close to ANY of these? Never, as far as I know.

        Talking about someone honestly can be disrespectful depending on the intentions of the speaker. It is not disrespectful to call Nixon paranoid or Clinton an adulterer because they were those things! I’m not saying that we should ignore the sin because of the position. Never once did I say we need to pretend our leaders don’t have flaws! I am saying that we should respect the position held and should not make false comparisons of our president to psychopathic murderers.

        Matthew 23:2-3 says, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not you after their works” 1 Peter 2:13-14 says, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the LORD’S sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” Obviously, we shouldn’t obey if it requires us to sin against God, but we do have to respect the office. We do not have to respect Trump as a person, but we do have to respect the office he holds (and that means to a certain extent, we must respect Trump and his choices [BUT ONLY AS THEY REGARD THE STATUS OF THE NATION OR ITS LAWS]). I do not believe the Bible says we should ignore talking about our leaders’ failings. I never said that it did or that we should either.

        You brought up the prophets and how they condemned many of the leaders of nations. You asked if it was wrong for them to do this. The prophets were directly called and directly guided by God in their words and deeds. The Lord spoke to them directly. They heard His voice. None of us have this privilege. We can criticize our leaders to our hearts content, but we must remember that they are still our leaders whether we like or not, whether we agree with them or not, and whether they are mostly morally upright or not. As long as they do not direct us to disobey a direct teaching of the Bible, they are owed our respect as our leaders.

      8. Donald,

        Thanks for the clarification. Sorry that it seemed I wasn’t asking your opinion. I was merely offering my view as a reference point, so you could explain where you thought I was wrong.

        In the example you provided, I’m still a bit confused. Someone who genuinely thought that abortion was murder of an innocent person could not, in good conscience, sign off on a law that encouraged such a thing, or at least as I see it (granted I could be wrong). But I think this example is also not quite what my point was getting at. I’ll try to illustrate.

        Say that Evangelicals were upset about some sort of change: Let’s use gay marriage as our example. They are upset because, in their view, marriage is important and should be kept in line with biblical standards on what marriage is. To be very clear here, what is important is NOT that more people should be married, or even that same-sex couples should be forced to separate or anything like that. What matters is the principle: Marriage is important, and there are certain conditions to keeping it the way it was meant to be.

        So Evangelicals go to the polls, and as a result of some weird disaster the only person who says they would protect marriage is someone who has a history of divorce, infidelity, and deviant sexual behavior outside of his marriages. Could this person really address the problem? I don’t think so, because the problem for Evangelicals isn’t that the laws should change: Really, an Evangelical should have at least as much of a problem with this hypothetical candidate as with a same-sex couple, because on principle neither one is properly respecting marriage. Using someone who obviously does not share your values to try and uphold your values is a doomed effort because that person can only enforce laws, whereas the example they are setting undermines the idea that the principle is important to begin with.

        Now, granted, people are variously bad, and some people have more virtues than others. But at some point a person has enough vices that we can’t trust them to defend our principles. We agree that this is the case with Clinton, I think. Where we disagree is that I (and I think Dr. Smith) find Trump to be similarly compromised. To return to my earlier comparisons, the fact that he might be better than someone else by comparison does not outweigh the threat they pose, which is the same line of reasoning I would use to reject other candidates (like the horrible people I mentioned).

        So I think that’s our basic disagreement- I don’t think getting the right set of laws will fix our problems as a culture. We need better people, not better laws, and Trump is not a good person. He’s not as bad as some people, but he is unacceptably bad.

        I should clarify that, as of now, there is no evidence that Trump committed treason. That wasn’t what I meant when I compared him to Chavez, and I apologize for being unclear. What I meant was, like Chavez, he has disdain for the forces that keep him in check, and publicly criticizes them in a way that is meant to weaken their influence. He calls judges ‘so-called judges’ when they do things he doesn’t like. He has called the media, in general, the enemy of the American people. These are bad things for a leader to do, because we rely on the judiciary to check the other branches, and we rely on the media to get us information on what is happening. We should be worried that he wants us to distrust everyone else in our civil society to free him up to ‘get stuff done.’ We should be worried that he has openly admired Hussein for ‘dealing with terrorists’ without ‘reading them their rights.’ That he is evidently impressed by how efficiently Kim Jong Un rules in DPRK. These are alarming things to hear from a president. They are not normal. They remind me of Chavez. That is why I made the comparison, not because he murdered anyone.

        You said:

        “Talking about someone honestly can be disrespectful depending on the intentions of the speaker. It is not disrespectful to call Nixon paranoid or Clinton an adulterer because they were those things! I’m not saying that we should ignore the sin because of the position. Never once did I say we need to pretend our leaders don’t have flaws! I am saying that we should respect the position held and should not make false comparisons of our president to psychopathic murderers.”

        Donald Trump is a charlatan. He is a narcissist. He is a liar. There is no disputing these things. These are definitely true about our sitting president. He is also an adulterer. He is also paranoid. He does not respect the presidency and encouraged people to believe lies about a sitting president. None of these are false comparisons. I have been very clear that I did not mean that he killed people, so with that aside, I think everything else is still enough to make us very VERY concerned. This is not normal.

        I think I have a better understanding of your idea of respect, and I would suggest that what you mean is ‘submit.’ And I agree, we should not violently attack anyone or break the new tax laws or any such thing. Reality is that this man is our president. But unlike Paul, we are able to voice our concerns about the way our nation is run, and we have a responsibility to challenge authority when it threatens our freedoms and the wellbeing of our society. I am not advocating for disruption. I am not telling you to break our laws. I’m asking that we look at our leaders and evaluate them honestly so that, hopefully, we can replace the lot of them with better people when we get the chance. I respect the executive branch, I respect the federal government. But there are people in the government that are not worthy of respect, people who want to undermine the government and push for ideas that would be destructive, and being a responsible citizen requires that we address these threats. Clearly we disagree on the threat immoral people pose to our society, but I think we actually agree on respecting the authority of our government. Thanks for clarifying. :)

        I agree that we are not in the same position as the prophets, I was just bringing them up as a clear illustration of speaking the truth to the powerful, which I think is still our duty as Christians in a world that often does not know or suppresses the truth.

        Thanks so much for the answer!

      9. Due to the length of the response, I’m going to respond in two comments (hopefully making it easier to follow). You’re right, abortion was a bad example, but I couldn’t think of anything else at the time. Your example much better and clearer than mine. To address it, while a leader with background of divorce, extra marital sexual behavior and infidelity may not be ideal, may not be the ideal person to legislate on the issue of marriage and family, I don’t see why it would be impossible. I think that if they double down on defending their actions as morally justified, then there is a bigger problem. However, if they admit that they did those things, but specify that their past actions do not define how they behave today, I have no problem there. I will readily admit that I have no idea what Trump has said regarding his past on this issue. If you could provide a source in which he is quoted or address something like this, I’d gladly take a honest look at it and let you know what I think, as time allows.

        Regarding your comparisons: you are right, a comparison doesn’t negate the threat. In many cases it could make it worse by numbing the people through “at least he/she is not as bad as *fill in the blank*” or “at least he/she doesn’t/didn’t do *action x*.” I do not think this is the case here however. You mentioned that he was like Chavez in his dislike of the court system and the checks and balances in place to keep him from really going crazy. I think Trump is hothead who says what he thinks in the moment. Is he always right? Absolutely not. Does he always say his views with the tact and poise that we are used to from the President? Absolutely not! He has also never had to deal with people telling him “no, you can’t do that.” Does this excuse his behavior? Not anymore (I think during the first few weeks, this may have been a legitimate excuse, but it’s been almost a year).

        I think you nailed what we disagree on and I don’t think either of us will be able to change the other’s mind right now, but that doesn’t mean the discussion is any less important!

  18. Another comment for B@tG: It appears that this article has lumped Judge Moore in with Trump and Clinton on the moral level. If so, why? He’s not proven guilty of the spurious charges yet in a hearing or court of law–“innocent until proven guilty…” That is true whether I agree or disagree with his faith or politics.

  19. Last comment: It seems this article is mainly negative against Republicans but it is soft-touch with handling of the Democrats (an underlying partisan bias?). Just saying…

    1. Barry,

      This particular article might be mainly against Republicans, but overall this site is NOT soft-touch with Democrats. In fact, there is at least one poster than consistently attacks the Bereans as being partisan Republicans. There is strong anti-Trump feelings among the Bereans, but there is definitely no underlying pro-Democrat sentiments.

    2. This post was written by the chair of a History and Government department that identifies itself as “conservative.” There is not a “liberal” bone in Professor Smith’s body, lol, or in any faculty member at Cedarville. If there were, that person would not be a faculty member for much longer.

      I know of no department at any university that so blatantly refers to itself (?!) as liberal or conservative. In my department, and I work at a state university, the issue never comes up. Why would it? We are too busy trying to discover truth, and when it come to truth, such human-manufactured concepts as “liberal” and “conservative” only get it in the way of the pursuit!

      Being critical of one party does not necessarily make one a supporter of the other.

      1. It is absolutely false that Cedarville has no liberal professors or gets rid of professors simply on that front. If they wanted to, though, as a private school, it would be their right.

  20. Considering we agree that the bible is or should be our guide in matters like this, i think your reference to God using “imperfect people” bears further exploration. If we asked 100 Christians what constitutes an acceptable candidate, i would hazzard there would be quite a divrrsity of opinion. What we’re really talking about is everyone’s opinion of acceptable imperfection. And the same could be said for our respective levels of political pragmatism. I also feel that Trump’s incredibly unlikely rise to power from a field of 16 or 18 political veterans (excepting Carson) should at least cause us to pause and consider if there isn’t an element of divine guidance involved. I have never seen a candidate with more opposition from the political, entertainment and media establishment, and yet he won. Gotta make you say hmmmm.

    1. Tom,

      There would, perhaps, be a diversity of opinion. There are moral absolutes though, whether opinions agree or not.

      “I also feel that Trump’s incredibly unlikely rise to power from a field of 16 or 18 political veterans (excepting Carson) should at least cause us to pause and consider if there isn’t an element of divine guidance involved.”

      Agreed. Judgment is often that way. Hitler was an unlikely Chancellor. Napoleon managed to seize the reins in France twice with remarkable ease. Sometimes improbable things happen, and have very bad consequences.

      Finally, whatever may be said about immoral or imperfect people, we should not compare ourselves and our political ends to an eternal God and his immutable will. What God does with the likes of Trump, or Nero, or Nebuchadnezzar has very little bearing on what our responsibilities are. That immoral leaders exist, and that they, like all things in God’s universe, have been used by Him for His purposes is not an argument for supporting an immoral person who, I continue to point out, no one in this entire comment chain has yet defended. We are all conceding that he is a hopelessly corrupt person. At least on this we can agree, it seems.

      1. Theophilus, I am a bit concerned by some of the people you have compared Trump to on this thread. Just as we recognized it is improper to compare him to leaders like David we must likewise not go down the road of comparing him to evil men like Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Lenin, or Nero. Trump is definitely NOT in the same category as these men, nor, I would argue, is he remotely close to it.

        And I will go on record as saying that I believe it is NOT a foregone conclusion that Donald Trump was a horrible decision nor are we currently reaping some sort of divine judgement for that decision. Has that decision been all good. No, of course not. No decision will ever be that. As always there are pros and cons and though I know you will strongly, perhaps vehemently, disagree, at this point I think the pros still outweigh the cons.

        That could change. And there are times I have been greatly disappointed in President Trump’s personal conduct. But as it stands, I have not yet come to regret the decision I made after long hours spent in weighing all the factors.

        So there it is. On a number of policies, I will support and defend the President even as in many instances of his personal conduct, I will not. If this means I stand alone among those who participate on this blog, so be it. I do not expect any smidgen of agreement or support and in fact expect to be held as nothing less than an utterly contemptible individual.

      2. Nathan,

        It’s good to see you, and I hope you’re well. Sorry I never returned your goodwill earlier.

        That said, I don’t think you’re contemptible. I think Trump is, obviously, and I’m not interested in hearing why his policies are good. Anyone can have good policies. An immoral person is incapable of cultivating the kind of virtues that make good policies work, though. We aren’t robots, where if we get the right arrangement of laws and codes then everything will be fine. Our virtues and vices define our society, and while Trump is emblematic of many of our vices, I cannot think of a single virtue he represents.

        You have suggested I should not compare him to evil men, and yes, I agree that he is not, in fact, Nero, Mao, Stalin, Hitler, etc. But he is, undeniably, an evil man. I don’t think you’d dispute that, and if you did I’m afraid his actions speak for themselves. He is certainly not genocidal, but you don’t have to kill people to be an awful person.

        To clarify, however, I don’t think 2016 was a test, where we chose the wrong of two options. Clinton would have been at least as much of a reckoning as Trump is. Our society has received more than its share of mercy, and no amount of Supreme Court appointees, tax cuts, or even an expanded navy will be enough to save us in the end. If a charlatan who swindled contractors out of fair pay, defrauded people for worthless degrees, and bloviated his way into the good graces of the Evangelical powers-that-be is supposed to put us on the right track, I shudder to think how truly ruined this society must already be.

        I am glad you are analyzing and arguing for policy instead of for this person. He doesn’t have any loyalty to your conservative ideology anyway, so its best to keep your focus on policy. But please, defend policy, not him. He doesn’t deserve your loyalty.

  21. Dr. Smith, I almost always agree with your reasoning, and I love your sprawling depths of insight. Very well written. But I must respectfully dissent.

    There is a fundamental assumption we have to make to accept your argument, namely that we can regain the moral high ground by refusing to back distasteful candidates for office. I can’t begin to count the number of times that I’ve heard, “Principles over party!” “Of the lesser of two evils, choose neither!” “Donald Trump is a moral reprobate, and so are you for voting for him!” The primary draw of this argument, of course, is that it is far and away the most respectable and pious thing to say. It rings sweetly of the brave citizen who stands tall and mighty above the robotic masses marching away to mindlessly support the next drone they have placed before them. Amidst the great rabble-rousing of the crowds comes this blessed tune:

    Oh the nobility of raging against the machine in all its clockwork madness.
    Stand tall, ye righteous few, when the immorality of it all leaves you aghast.
    Though pillars may crumble and great strain shall leave us in sadness,
    Our children will look back with gratitude, on us — the heroes of the past.

    And the God who sees all with righteous intent and holy paths divine,
    Shall smile kindly on you, defender of the faith, the stalwart man,
    By your actions, heaven on earth was saved, though hell for a time,
    For you alone, in truest of insight, perceived the sovereign plan.

    So croons the sweet tune, and it is a rather elite opinion which allows us to sit back with folded hands and knowing minds and say to each other, “Ha! Admire these fawning, little children playing with their muddy candidates and their soiled, supposed saints. If they only knew how wrong they were to act in such an ill-advised and repugnant manner of justification by merits alone. Poor devils…such a pity.”

    But this is not reality.

    First, America has never been and never will be a Christian nation. Oh, there’ll be academic labels that place us in religious categories for demographics’s sake, but God is rather unfond of such labels (Galatians 3:28). There are two categories at the end of the day, (a) those identifying with Christ, and (b) those in rebellion against him. This idea that God has a cushy corner in his heart for America, which just so happens to be approximating the shape once occupied by Israel is a lie. In fact, it’s not just a lie, it’s entirely too hubristic for us to accept in the face of other believers around the world. I don’t think you disagree with this, but it’s important to state this as a prefatory point because…

    Second, we are not going to regain the moral high ground through the ballot box. Suppose we go ahead and just stand tall for our virtues. Very well then, no one can accuse of violating our virtues. Good show, all. Except, they hate our virtues in the first place and wouldn’t give a eyelash’s bat to raking us over the coals for anything else. In all seriousness, can we honestly expect that because we stand tall for our virtues at the ballot box, we will somehow escape the scorning gaze of the world? They still think we hate gay people, they still think we want women locked in a perpetual cycle of housekeeping and baby production, they still think we are racist, Bible-thumping retards who want black people back on the plantation and Mexicans in the strawberry fields, they still think we worship a vicious, mean, old codger of a Lord who committed racial genocide against the Canaanites, they still think we just want power and influence over others, and they still think we are hypocrites regardless of what we do.

    And you know what? Maybe some “Christians” do want that. But it wouldn’t matter either way. The world is going to hate us regardless. John 15:18 – “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” 2 Timothy 3:12 – “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 1 John 3:13 – “Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” The bottom line is that we live in an age that is progressing towards increasing immorality and ultimately end times debauchery. We do not primarily combat that progression with “noble” voting behavior. We combat it with the gospel of Christ on an individual, day-to-day basis. Our image is already soiled in the world’s eyes because we identify with the one it hates.

    So what are the takeaways? First, those who dress up immoral men as saints are wrong. Here’s the bone I throw to those on the “nobility” side. Jerry Falwell Jr., Tony Perkins, James Dobson, and company are wrong for trying to paint Trump as the anointed one. In like manner, those who paint Christians voting for Trump as contributing to the downfall of our influence have clearly missed reality. We have far more work to do in our churches, families, and communities than we do in the ballot boxes. That should be our primary focus. Voting for Trump or Moore will not kill our influence, but fleeing from Scripture will. Could voting behavior be evidence of slipping away from Scripture? Perhaps, but I know plenty of faithful brethren who voted for Trump and have not slipped from Scripture. We keep dressing this issue up as the great divide between the sheep and the goats. I reject that creation. Can we please just let each other vote without haranguing them for months in “holier than thou” terms about how they are going to end up killing us all? I am tired of it all.

    May I propose the following method for sane voting:

    Step #1: Identify the candidate you prefer to vote for.
    Step #2: Campaign vigorously for said candidate or don’t (your choice)
    Step #3: Campaign vigorously against opposing candidates or don’t (your choice)
    Step #4: Go vote
    Step #5: Pop open a grape soda, thank the Lord for His blessings towards you, and keep fighting the good fight.

    Note: I am not calling for a cessation of rational critique and fervent debate, but this notion that our perceived hypocrisy will be our great undoing is rather strident and tiresome.

    1. Mr. Beal,

      Good to see you.

      I couldn’t agree more that our principles are not mainstream, nor are they respectable in the popular conscience. However, the rest of your picture is rather bleak. Are we no different than the rest of the world then? Must we also dirty our hands and elbow each other over who gets to appoint the next judicial vacancy? Your frustration is evident, but your proposal smacks of ambivalence that I am not sure is warranted.

      Besides, I don’t think your position is that far from Dr. Smith’s. He’s also suggesting that votes won’t save us, that the moral high ground requires a willingness to step away from the table and focus on what we know is good.

      I hope he answers you, though.

      Also, did you come up with that poem yourself?

      1. Good to hear from you too, Theophilus,

        I’m glad you raised this point because I actually finished my thoughts after I posted. First, I realize it does sound bleak, and, honestly, I think it is sometimes. Albert Mohler called this an “excruciating moment” for evangelicals. That being said, let’s consider the concept of voting from a Biblical standpoint.

        1. Voting definitely is not directly addressed in the Bible, primarily because it was hardly in play during Biblical times (what with kings and all). So, obviously we can’t just point to chapter and verse to say, “Aha! The answer!” We simply don’t have that luxury.

        2. We definitely do, however, have Biblical principles on what constitutes wisdom, godliness, righteousness, good decisions, etc. These serve as guides to how we should live and what we should work towards in our spiritual development. In the voting world, this can serve as a guide to choosing excellent candidates. Now, we shouldn’t believe in prosperity gospel, but we do know that, generally, Biblical living leads to quality life (consult Dr. Haymond for excellent research on this topic). Likewise, choosing excellent leaders with Biblical integrity will generally lead to quality government. However, there is no command to vote for such leaders, nor is there an indication that voting one way or another is necessarily sin (unwise perhaps, but sinful?).

        3. I think we can rightly consider voting a good gift from God, and we should steward it accordingly.

        4. This being considered, there are three problems we run into. (1) We still don’t have much instruction beyond general principles on how to steward this good gift. (2) Sometimes, we are stuck (assuming we want to cast a vote for a party that might win) with seemingly subprime choices. Of course, that choice may end up being better than we expect, but we don’t have hindsight until after the election. (3) Different believers have different standards for voting. I had no problem voting for Mitt Romney, but some believers may have had reservations about him being a Mormon. It wasn’t a problem for me, but it could be for others.

        Honestly, when I consider these facts, voting seems to fall under the canvas of Christian liberty, and that’s more or less what I was actually trying to get across. I don’t think we ought to parading these men around as our heroes, but I can’t look at a fellow believer and say, “A vote for Roy Moore is sin” or “A vote for Donald Trump is sin” or even “A vote for Barack Obama is a sin.” Certainly, we ought to exercise good judgment and wisdom, but that’s not what I am criticizing. I am criticizing the “doom and gloom” judgment passed on those who support such candidates, if with great apprehension.

        This, of course, is based on my belief that we will be viewed negatively regardless for the mere fact that we are Christians. Once we establish that, it very easily becomes a Christian liberty issue at that point, and each believer must make his own choice. I believe we are granted that freedom. I don’t think our vote for one candidate or another is necessarily a stain on our testimony. If we’re verbose about it, our focus is on the wrong thing already, and we deserve the testimony critique. If we honestly explain in calm terms why we voted a certain way, I don’t think our testimony need be stained by that.

        As one who begrudgingly voted for Trump, allow me to explain my own calculus I went through. I initially was pulling for Cruz or Rubio, and I did not care for Trump one bit. I voted for Cruz, ultimately, in the primaries (which I think is where Christians really ought to focus if we want good men because, after that, the tables are fairly well set). When it became clear Trump would be the nominee, I ultimately pulled the lever for him for two main reasons. (1) I don’t care for third party votes. Maybe it’s a shame that our system is set up this way, but we have two main parties, and one is going to win. I think that’s the harsh reality, and I vote accordingly. (2) When it came down to it, it was an easy choice to choose Trump over Hillary but not a pleasant one. But it is what it is, and I would not have changed my vote. I don’t know what lines he would have had to cross to lose my vote, but obviously he didn’t hit it.

        So, all said, it’s a matter of Christian liberty to me based on the fact that I believe our voting behavior will not really help or hurt our credibility all that much because we are already in the world’s dog pound. If it really did matter that much, the situation would be different, but, of course, I don’t believe we have that situation.

        And, yes, I did write that poem on the spot actually. Sorry if it’s no good…

      2. Well, if nothing else you’ve made your perspective much more clear. Thanks for explaining so thoroughly.

        I liked the poem, actually. I thought you must have taken it from somewhere else. Nicely done.

        What we really need is another movie review post now.

    2. Matt–
      Once again you are the star contributor to this blog (Theophilus, you are right up there too!). Well done, and not just because I agree with most of what you say. I find it amazing how little grace we still give to those that vote under very difficult choices.

      1. I realize that Matt’s explanation pretty well describes how I went through my personal deliberations in choosing the Presidential candidates. One difference I have is that I do not exercise as much grace towards those who support other opposing and “unworthy” candidates.

    3. “they still think we are racist, Bible-thumping retards who want black people back on the plantation and Mexicans in the strawberry fields.”

      Please do not use the word “retard.” It is a putdown. I know you meant no wrong. Thanks.

    4. I agree with Jeff about using that term. It is a putdown, but I know you didn’t mean it as such. You were just, accurately, describing how the secular world treats Christians. The term does describe the level of contempt they have for us when we stand for our values.

      “Except, they hate our virtues in the first place and wouldn’t give a eyelash’s bat to raking us over the coals for anything else”

      Well said.

  22. “What we really need is another movie review post now.”

    Two weeks until”The Last Jedi”. A review might be coming soon.

    1. I don’t mind really as long as they are the quality the first two have been. Last Jedi looks really good too. Nervous about the Han Solo movie simply because a new actor is portraying Harrison Ford’s most iconic (maybe second if you like Indy) character. We’ll see.

  23. I really appreciate posts like this, because now that I can vote and speak my voice, I need to know how to do that correctly. It really sucks that we are in this situation, because what has happened so far may just continue in the future. You made it very clear that we should still do our best to vote for those who actually represent the character of God. Yes, candidates are not held to the high standard of pastors, but they are still held to some standard. We need to always be aware of that when we vote.

    1. I agree, but as Dr. Smith pointed out, that is not happening. Voters are saying that they accept moral principles, and then go right ahead and vote in a way that betrays the very principles they claim to accept.

      What is the solution? I think it starts with completely divorcing contemporary politics from the eternal truth of the gospel, and to start using the brains that God gave us.

  24. As sad as it is to continually hear about the misconduct and abuse, I think that it is just a symptom of a larger problem. As the popular culture continues to glorify immorality, we should not be surprised when the larger culture reflects these values. Yes, what these people have done is wrong, but rather than just condemning the person, we should be seeking to change the culture at large.

  25. I think that many of us, certainly I am, are guilty of focusing too much on the big political picture. We want to shape the parties, candidates, and policy to our vision, but we do so by only discussing high profile federal level candidates. It is important to vote well for federal elections, yes, but we cannot neglect to concern ourselves with the affairs of local and state politics. These public officials will shape the small, day to day picture that we encounter everyday. Trump may have gotten his start at a high profile, federal level, but most politicians have much humbler beginnings. We cannot neglect our local and state politics when attempting to impact parties as a whole.

  26. McAllister says it is appropriate for us to hold pastors to these loftier standards, but not politicians. Politics is the “city of man” and exists outside of the “city of God,” where evangelicals’ narrow moral conceptions might prevail. I completely disagree with what McAllister said. I don’t think anyone exists outside the so called “city of God”. Everyone was created by God and exists because of God, and therefore will be judged by God. We should never give a politician a pass for acting a certain way just because they are involved in politics. I do recognize that there will never be a perfect political candidate because everyone is sinful and fallen in need of a savior, but this shouldn’t lower our standards when choosing candidates for office.

  27. As much as I would like to agree with McAllister when he says to not hold politicians at as high of a standard as pastors, I do not agree completely. I think we should not hold non-Christian politicians at a standard other than the law. But I think all Christians ought to be held at the same standard, whether that be a pastor or politician. For example, Donald Trump claims he “loves God” but does not always act accordingly. It does not mean he does not believe, but in my opinion, Christians should live out their faith in every aspect of life; personal and professional life. He is a politician and although is a very morally stressful position because he speaks on behalf of Christians and non-Christians, it is important in my opinion to think what Jesus would do as a politician. Of course, humans are flawed and no politician will ever be perfect, but I don’t think a “Christian” in politics should be held at any lower of a standard.

  28. Really interesting to hear about the feminist defense of Clinton and the democrats and then immediately talk about the current republican, evangelical issue with Trump and Moore. I thought it was a really good point to make and overall the post was really insightful to help people deal with the issue at hand.

  29. I found it interesting that the feminists were so willing to sacrifice their morals in order to maintain power. Was it really worth backing the Democrats if it meant sacrificing their principles? In our lives as Christians, I think it’s important for us to always uphold Biblical morals, despite what can be gained if we were to brush them aside.

  30. I agree with the point that it is very difficult to decide whether or not we should hold our politicians to the same moral code as pastors. I would like to think that this would be a feasible task, but with the state of our country now, I do not think that it is possible. There are going to be a few born-again Christians who run for office, but for the majority of the elections, there will not be a morally sound Christian to vote for.

  31. There’s probably not much that I can say that hasn’t already been said, but here’s my two cents anyway. I largely agree with those here that would say there is no such thing as a perfect candidate, and that we have to make choices based off which candidate most closely aligns with Biblical standards. Whether that candidate be Clinton, Trump, or somebody else is no concern of mine.

    When it comes to our beliefs and values, we are not responsible to the peers who voted with us to get a candidate in office. We are not responsible to the people who disagree with us and criticize our votes for an individual. We are not responsible to the government that we supported through voting. We are responsible to God, and if we feel that we could justify our choice to vote for Trump (or someone else) to God then nothing more needs said.

  32. I don’t personally think that politicians should be held to the same standard that we hold our pastors. While we might hope that they would act in accordance with our beliefs, they are ultimately responsible to the law and their job. This does of course make it difficult to decide how to use your vote to elect the best leader possible but I think the key is in looking for the best leader POSSIBLE with the choices that we have. No one will ever be able to live up to our ideals, but I do think that we should sometimes choose the lesser of evils, although the “level of evil” that we should be willing to risk is relative. Of course it is impossible to predict the way that someone will act once in office, so there is a degree of risk in every vote, regardless of the person’s promises or apparent character.

  33. While I agree that people that are confessing to being Christians should be held to a higher standard, simply not voting in the general election is not an effective way of holding him to a higher standard. If it was in the primary election and you have another person you can vote for that you feel is holding a higher standard, then you have another option. But when it comes to the general election, you are going to be stuck with one of the two nominees, so choosing the lesser of two evils is the only option you have. At that point, you should be wanting to vote for the candidate that will be the best for our country.

  34. It is truly a confusing and difficult time of politics in our country. When the typical evangelical glances at the political landscape, it is easy to become discouraged and disappointed by the lack of godly character present in political candidates. Many Christians decided not to vote in the 2016 presidential election. They insisted that their conscience would not allow them to cast a vote for an individual that differed so far from them ideologically. In general I believe that Christians should cast a vote for politicians, even candidates do not have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. The political realm is full of unbelievers, and very few Christians find themselves in the power hungry arena of Washington D.C. I think it is best for Christians to vote for and support those that do not outrightly oppose God’s laws and who stand for liberty and justice. I do not believe that simply standing by and refusing to cast a vote will make a positive difference.

  35. Great article and sequel to the last blog post about Ray Moore. I’m getting absolutely tired of the “politician, not a pastor” rationalization. We are selling out for worldly reasons if we fully endorse Trump, and are just as bad as non-Christian feminists for siding with the Clinton’s if we do not hold Trump accountable for his actions and truly think about our Presidential vote. Even though the republican agenda is important in many Christians’ eyes, we cannot make moral sacrifices for that, even if it means a certain tax bill or economic plan gets passed or denied.

  36. I am sometimes confused by people who say that we shouldn’t hold politicians who aren’t Christians to any standard other than the law. Even though they don’t acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, isn’t wrong still wrong and right still right? It’s definitely possible that I miss their point, but I don’t understand why we shouldn’t hold everyone to a moral standard. Either way, I agree that it is very complicated and I respect the opinions of others even though I might not agree.

  37. I enjoyed the article in general. I believe that feminist’s probably sacrifice their beliefs to the same extent as Christians do when it comes to voting. But us Christians having a higher purpose in our lives then their’s, it is kind of embarrassing that we do not stick to are morals more. There is a balance where we each in our own hearts have to strike between a bad person with good intentions. It makes voting very difficult for Christians.

  38. I think that when it comes down to, its evident that we are all sinners who live in a fallen world. That doesn’t mean that one’s past actions and mistakes are simply just “oh it was in the past”. However, when looking at politicians for election, it is important to analyze each one with a strict level of scrutiny, however, it is often the case of the lesser bad. It is unfortunate in this sexual harassment era, many stories are coming out. It is more important I think for people to report this as soon as it happens, and not just wait.

  39. What I found very interesting about this article is the statement that Evangelicals have given up their influence to keep their power. I have never thought about this issue from this perspective. The Feminist movement went through a very similar process and to gain power, they have lost influence because they have taken a political side. I agree that Evangelicals are going down this same path to keep power and in the process are losing their influence.

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