October 18, 2016

Evangelicals Face a Difficult Choice on Nov. 8

Christians and their leaders are fairly divided on the best course.

All of us are struggling with the difficult task of selecting which presidential candidate will get our vote on Nov. 8. The two leading candidates having shown themselves to be highly flawed. But perhaps evangelical Christians (however you define the term) have the most difficult task.

Since NBC released the 11-year-old recording of Donald Trump’s vulgar banter, and since the recent accusations of Trump making inappropriate sexual advances on several women years ago, Christians face the question of how to react to the moral infractions that have been shown and alleged.

Andy Crouch, the executive editor of Christianity Today, expressed the general displeasure of evangelical leaders. He wrote, “[T]here is hardly any public person in America today who has more exemplified the ‘earthly nature’ … that Paul urges the Colossians to shed: ‘sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, and greed, which is idolatry’ (3:5). This is an incredibly apt summary of Trump’s life to date. Idolatry, greed, and sexual immorality are intertwined in individual lives and whole societies.”

Those who have been around for more than a few years remember a similar situation involving Bill Clinton and then-First Lady, and now presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. In both cases religious folks had plenty to object to on moral grounds.

Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern led to his impeachment by the House of Representatives, not for his immoral conduct, but for lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice. Despite this, Clinton was able to finish his second term as president.

While everyone agrees that such conduct is wrong, not everyone agrees on how important these kinds of things are in terms of whether they should disqualify someone from becoming or remaining president of the United States. Democrats obviously didn’t consider it important enough to remove Bill Clinton from office.

There’s also a sense of that was then and this is now, because Christians and Christian activities now are being criticized as never before. A sizable faction of the public wants to ban public Christmas scenes, to malign religious institutions in general, and to force Christians to bow the knee to the Rainbow Mafia.

Trump’s political enemies think evangelicals must focus on the she-said/he-said of the recent allegations of inappropriate sexual advances on women, and believe that if these allegations are true he should be disqualified from the presidency.

However, many evangelical Republican leaders are sticking with Trump, saying that despite his lewd comments there is no other real option for them. Clinton will be terrible on issues like abortion, marriage and religious liberty. Trump might be ok. They generally say they will not abandon Trump, as quite a few Republicans in Congress have already done.

“It’s not like this is new,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. “That’s why I aggressively supported another candidate in the primary, Ted Cruz, who I share values with. But we only have a choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump now.”

Franklin Graham conceded that while Trump’s comments on the recording are troubling, they are not sufficient to abandon him, and that the “godless progressive agenda of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton likewise cannot be defended.” Jerry Falwell Jr., James Dobson and Ralph Reed all agree.

Evangelicals face criticism for not walking away from Trump and his immoral behavior, but they realize that one of the two flawed candidates will win the election, and they must support the one who has the best plan for the country and the most favorable view of the place of religion in their lives.

American Values President Gary Bauer believes that if Clinton becomes president, religious schools will be forced to do things that are against their religious principles; she will appoint leftist justices to the Supreme Court; religious displays in the public square will face bans; and she will target Second Amendment rights for restriction. Trump takes the appropriate view of these things. Bauer argues, “A Christian who cannot see the difference between a candidate who has sinned and yet promises good policies, and a candidate who has sinned and promises bad policies, has been failed along the way — either by our educational system, our political leaders or our faith leaders.”

Basically, most evangelical leaders seem to offer this rationale: We are not voting to fill a vacancy in the church, we are voting for the president of the United States. They realize that Trump’s views on the Supreme Court, the flawed tax system, the dangerously high national debt and deficit spending, the severely weakened military, our weakened relations with foreign nations, the stagnant economy and lack of good jobs, immigration problems, and leftist attacks on guaranteed rights are the most important considerations in who to vote for in this election.

All Christian leaders are displeased with Trump’s words and actions, but many conclude that as imperfect as he may be as a human being, he is a vastly better choice for president than Hillary Clinton.

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