A curious thing has happened this election cycle, the likes of which I have never witnessed in my 35 years of life: Christians are voting for a man that is completely morally bankrupt.
It’s an unusual place for people of faith to find themselves in. Usually, at least where I grew up, the sinner is the democrat, the evil fiend that supports partial birth abortion (which sickens me as much as many of you), cradle to grave financial assistance and condones anything, anyone, wants to do with their body. The choice, at least in the minds of many, has always been clear.
I literally did not meet my first Democrat Christian until I went to college but that’s because I didn’t know any Democrats in my Republican evangelical bubble. Until the ripe age of 18 I had no idea a Christian Democrat was even possible…and many still hold this opinion.
Republicans are Christian (family values) and Democrat’s support things that ain’t; It’s as simple as that.
This is what people usually mean when they say “I vote with a biblical worldview” and it usually results in social policy that reflects the Republican Party (since fiscally both parties are the same).
I know, I know, but don’t tune me out yet. I’m not trying to make you mad…I’m trying to make you think.
I am not saying that anyone has the moral high ground this election. I’m not saying that you should vote for Clinton (I’m not) but saying that morality is now relative or that one’s morality is at least better than the others (even though both Trump and Clinton have proven absent) is not an argument for anything.
It’s an argument to justify a decision.
I am stating that for many years now, at least since President Reagan, a large segment of voters have voted based on “Christian” values, and now, faced with voting for someone that doesn’t share those Christian values, but does sit atop the GOP ticket, Christians are scrambling to either jettison the importance of values or make Trump align with values he’s never embraced.
One of the many attempts to do so, and the object of this essay, is to suggest that since God used sinful people in the Old Testament that clearly means God can use sinful people to accomplish his goals and not merely use, but that God chose to implement this strategy.
Just find a random religious thread on Facebook or Twitter, a thread that uses the Bible to justify voting Trump, and you will find this argument.
I literally read in a thread (and since I have heard it countless times in various forms) that “since God used the midwives of Pharaoh, Samson, and the Assyrians to accomplish his will it is possible that God can use Trump as well…and he’s better than Clinton.”
So let me get this straight.
The reason we should vote for Trump is because he shares commonality with Assyria, Babylon, Egypt and Old Testament Heroes that were narcissistic? That’s the argument we are working with here?
We are not in Kansas anymore.
God “used” these “evil” or “sinful” realities to administer world history, therefore, we should vote for someone of the same character for God to continue to do so? A character the likes of which God’s prophets continually warned against using?
If this was the case, and Christians for so long have not voted democrat for EXACTLY that reason (evil, sinful, depraved policies) then why haven’t Christians been voting Democrat all along?
Maybe we could have expedited this whole American Exile thing that many people believe we have entered.
If there is any thread that runs throughout the scriptures it is not one of obedience, but one of a called, chosen people, disobeying God, repetitively being disciplined, corrected, and then redeemed.
Israel never “gets it” so to speak. God has to use that which is not sanctified because sanctified Israel is hardly of use. But it’s not like the Bible tells us that was pleasing to God.
But since the Bible says God used those things that weren’t holy to do his will we are now ready to embrace those unholy things because the unholy is the only choice we have…
The only issue I have here is that we don’t want to admit that. We want to justify it with our faith in order to sleep at night, but the result of doing so is damage to that very faith construct. The damage of which will be felt long after any election.
Personally, I do not care about the morality of my president (no I am not voting Trump). There was a time when people of government and official administration were mannered, polite and self-deferential for the common good. That time has long passed.
Recent American presidential history (at least from JFK to the present) gives us a cast of characters that set the bar very low when it comes to morality.
I wrote here during the primary season that it’s absurd to vote on values any longer. I argued we should vote on political principles and philosophy instead. This is how a Christian, like myself, can embrace the political philosophy of one Thomas Jefferson (an agnostic I would argue but some say atheist). We share different faith lenses but that doesn’t keep me from being persuaded of his political philosophy.
The very last thing we should do, however, is justify a flawed character because we believe the bible justified flawed characters.
This is both the problem, solution and brilliance of scripture.
Scripture has no recourse but to use flawed characters because that is literally all that it has. And that should make us all feel a little better about ourselves.
There is no biblical character, no hero of the bible, that is perfect. None of them are holy and contrite in every intention. The great heroes: Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon…they are all messed up people.
So the point is, yes, God uses flawed people because we are all flawed people.
But there is also an irony when you compare those flawed people with the cast of characters known as Assyria, Persia, and the rest: Those characters are NEVER used in the bible as exemplars of the kinds of people or nations God WANTS to use.
This is the large message of all of these Books in the Old Testament: Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings. In these books, the people of God FAIL to live as Deuteronomy instructs them. The bible heroes in these stories are tragic displays of unfaithfulness that God continues to work around, so in an ironic twist, we see them behave like Donald Trump, disobey commands, get themselves in precarious situations.
They are not exemplars of how to be faithful to God. God wants to use THESE people but because they are so dense he outsources to the nations and to characters who are not part of God’s people (in the narrative).
The message is: Don’t be like these people…it will not go well if you do. Samson committed suicide, Moses never entered the Promised Land, David never ruled a united Kingdom and Israel eventually went into Exile. All Bad stuff.
The fact that God has to use these other characters (Assyria, Persia, Pharaohs midwives, just pick your villain or non-Israelite cast member) is not a justification of them; it is an indictment against Israel. It is tongue in cheek.
It is not a “go and do likewise” commandment of Jesus.
Through them scripture teaches us this lesson: so you won’t fulfill the calling I have for you? Fine. Moving right along and this way may take a bit longer.
It’s never God’s preference to use Assyria, or the Philistines, or whomever. This is what ends up happening because God’s people are of no use.
This is why we find many stories in the Old Testament in which the least suspected characters are servants of God: God didn’t set out for Israel to be misguided but misguided it has been so God has to use other actors in history, not as a first resort, not as a vote FROM his people, but because there is a mission to accomplish.
At least this is what we find in the biblical narrative, the narrative that gives us theological justification for why history happened as it did.
The Bible records events years after the events themselves. Its authors have spent copious hours trying to understand, justify and make sense of the movement of history. What we find in scripture is the result of that process.
God using evil as a first choice, however, is never condoned. God’s people selecting kings that were blatantly antithetical to their principles as a people never happened intentionally (though one could argue that their initial intentions were flawed and such happened regularly such as King Saul or some of Solomon’s sons).
It makes little sense to use the Bible in this way, to suggest that because an event happened in the Bible and God used it, that that is God’s preferred way of doing things.
It makes even less sense to suggest that we should be implicated in wrong doing because God can use it anyhow.
Something about Jesus saying “it is written you shall not test the Lord your God” comes to mind here…
Sometimes the Bible is not a prescription for how we are to act. Sometimes it is a warning against how not to act. It teaches us what to prevent through its witness and what to avoid embracing…which is why all the Christian justification of Trump is so puzzling.
You want to vote for Trump, that’s cool, but don’t blame it on God or the Bible. Own it yourself.
Same goes if you want to vote Hillary. She’s not the benevolent government administrator one finds in Jacob.
I feel like we have fully become biblical Israel in this election because we have forgotten who we are and justified a vote for depravity with our faith. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Sounds a lot like another story I know, a story that finds God’s people doing what they thought was right even as a golden calf was being fashioned right before their eyes.
And we know what they did for the next 40 years after that vote was cast.