Elections in the U.S. are never about voting for a person who believes entirely the same way we do and will focus on accomplishing everything we consider to be urgent or important. If this were the case we would be voting for ourselves. Instead, upon entering the voting booth we are handed a list of names from which to choose. Unless we are voting for an office in local government, we rarely have a personal relationship with the individual for which we are handing power to conduct government affairs on our behalf. Despite this scenarios even if we agree with the individual on most issues, rarely will we agree with all their decisions.
The 2016 Presidential election was no different from any other election. Yet, for many evangelical Christians the choice was not so cut and dry. From a Christian worldview, there were strengths and weaknesses associated with both of the leading candidates. There were positions affiliated with each candidate which would have created victories for Christians at the expense of other Christian values. This should only prove to demonstrate that we are not a Christian nation, we have never been a Christian nation, nor should we ever place hope in government to create an environment which fully implements a biblical worldview. Government institutions are not people, they are led, managed and run by a group of people, of which being a Christian is not a qualifying requirement. Just as we are held individually responsible for our own actions, it is only the politician who will be held responsible before God for their actions while in a position of power. Only the gospel is capable of reversing the sinful nature which follows every politician into their office.
This is the crucial point which will be missed if we attempt to place any elected official on a pedestal as the solution to a problem which can only be resolved through the power of the gospel, not the enforcement of morality on those who reject Christ and are merely being made to look like Christians. In a representative, democratic form of government, we are only able to extend our political influence to the point where there exists both a willing participant and a willing majority who believes similarly to our beliefs. Unfortunately, the well is drying up in both categories and thus our options each election year will continue to present challenges, but these should not be considered compromises.
Thabiti Anyabwile recently wrote in a Washington Post commentary that Christians who voted for Donald Trump compromised on racial injustice for the sake of hoping to end abortion through the appointment of pro-life Supreme Court justices. Such a claim creates too many assumptions. Both abortion and racial reconciliation are certainly important, gospel issues, but Thabiti’s statement implies racial reconciliation at a national level, not within the church, is more important than the murder of innocent lives who never have an opportunity to hear the gospel. It assumes abortion was the only issue at stake for Christians as they entered the ballot box in November 2016. And it assumes Hillary Clinton would have resolved racial reconciliation and minority group suffering if she had won the election.
In a complex world where the U.S. is facing an increasing political divide, there is never a presidential election which hinges on just one primary issue. Abortion may have been a starting point for some Christians to posture Trump as the “evangelical vote,” but despite Thabiti’s view this was not the only consideration for evangelical Christians. Selecting the best candidate from the short list of options on a card provided in the ballot box does not make a Christian indifferent to moral issues and other forms of suffering. God doesn’t judge His people on the basis of four minutes every four years in a ballot box, but on the basis of our own gospel ministry. Government should never be the answer to a problem only the gospel can resolve. Government will always fail to satisfy the Christian worldview and when it does, it gives us the opportunity to be salt and light to the world. It is not those who elect a person to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick, and visit those in prison who are righteous, but those who do these things as individuals because of their faith in Christ; they are the righteous ones.