“I believe any Christian who would sit at home and not vote for the Republican nominee … that person is being motivated by pride rather than principle,” Robert Jeffress, Pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, recently told the Christian Post.
Well, I do not intend to sit at home. I will vote. I will vote because good people are running for offices other than the Presidency of the United States. I will vote because I pray a third-party option may emerge. I will vote even if one does not emerge, and write in the name of a candidate that does not require me to violate my conscience. Oh, yes, I will vote. But I will not vote for Donald Trump, the Republican nominee.
Contrary to Pastor Jeffress’ bewildering assertion, I do not believe I am motivated by pride. As far as I know my own heart, I am, in fact, motivated by principle. That principle is easily stated: I am a Christian, and therefore cannot violate my conscience by supporting what I believe to be evil.
My position requires some explanations, of course.
First, I am aware that in this world of fallen human beings, all candidates for office are flawed. But there is a difference between a primarily good person who has some flaws and a primarily bad person who has some good traits. I also acknowledge that the line between those two species is fuzzy, at best. So I am not asserting with the strength of moral certainty that Donald Trump is an evil man. I do not know him. I am saying that his behavior, his demeanor, his vulgarity, his adolescent predilections, his penchant for the crude and crass, his appeal to the basest sentiments of his followers… not to mention his erratic fluctuations on the issue of the sacredness of human life… all of these are enough to trigger alerts within me that I simply cannot overcome. Or more precisely, alarms that he has done nothing to overcome.
I have fellow Christians who do not feel the same way about Mr. Trump. That’s fine. Conscience is a uniquely individualistic reality, something that is not shared with another human being. The tightest bonds of fellowship cannot create a common conscience. So if you, like Pastor Jeffress, do not share my pangs of conscience, I understand. By all means, vote your conscience. But please do not ask me to violate mine by participating in what I believe to be capitulation to evil.
A common response to my position is that not voting for Donald Trump is the same as voting for Hillary Clinton. I am not moved by such a fallacy. That is a statement of pragmatism, not a statement of principle. My starting position is not that I am a pragmatist, but that I am a Christian. Indeed, after considering this subject for many years now, I have come to the personal conviction that pragmatism and Christianity are inexorably and diametrically opposed to one another. Pragmatism is amoral. It asks, “What will work?” without regard for the one question that is central to the Christian faith, “What is right?” I will not do what I believe to be wrong even to accomplish what I believe to be right. Much less will I do what I believe to be wrong merely to accomplish what someone else believes to be the “lesser of two evils.”
I will pray for the next President of the United States, as Scripture teaches me. If that should be President Donald Trump, I will even pray that he proves me wrong, and that I look back years hence to realize that my crisis of conscience was unwarranted. No one will ever be happier to discover he was wrong.
Finally, let me say that, as a Christian, I have not lost hope. Then again, my hope has never been in a President. “It is better to trust in the LORD, than to put confidence in people. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.” Psalm 118:8-9. Yes, better indeed. For in the LORD, I’ve never had occasion for a crisis of conscience at all.