Four years ago I wrote a post about the need to be ethical in our voting (here). In that 2016 election I had friends who voted for the Republican, Democrat, Libertarian & Green candidates I also had friends who wrote in names and abstained from voting altogether. And I mean friends, individuals I talk with and learn from, people I respect and I hope respect me. I still feel it is inappropriate for me to endorse candidates, but I do think we as Christians must be able to articulate why we are casting our votes for those we support. I particularly see this need in light of how polarized our election has become. The problem is many Americans seem to shout from the hilltops who they support but cannot articulate why. A person might give a vague answer like, “I am pro-life” or “I want a president who is respectful”. But as I question most people on Trump’s abortion record or what makes Biden decent, there is silence. The truth is we hear catch words but have little understanding of the issues which matter to us. I do not fault people for this failure, honestly life does not permit most people the opportunity to truly delve deep into many issues.
Eric Metaxas & David French recently held a debate on the topic “Should Christians Vote for Trump“. As the moderator is introducing the speakers he says, “They both share in a mutual commitment to the conservative intellectual tradition. And this is what makes tonight so interesting, they agree on many first principles.” As I watched the debate I found one speaker clearly made a better case; but I was able to learn from each presenter. I was able to learn from each presenter because I took seriously the moderator’s comment. I accepted as fact that both men truly started from a Christian conscientious. If there is one thing especially I learned from Eric Metaxas’ presentation, is that in some ways my 2016 position was somewhat harsh. I still feel that in voting ethics matter and that when we support a candidate we accept some responsibility for that candidate’s actions. However, I realize my 2016 approach was somewhat dogmatic and many do feel conflicted because there is no candidate who truly aligns with the Christian ideals. No matter who we vote for as Christians there is a compromise.
So what is an honest vote for me in 2020? I would suggest an honest vote is one where I have a clear expectation of the result of my vote. In other words, if I, like Metaxas, vote Trump I must have a clear reason why I want him to win (i.e. promote conservative judges). Or if, like French, I vote against Trump I should have a clear motive (i.e. continuing a stance on the need for morality in the White House). I still believe ethics matter, and the degree to which I endorse a candidate is the degree to which I am bound to that candidate.
My advice to most is to stay mum about which candidate you intend to support. The reason is that most of us are simply not well enough informed to make strong arguments for our candidate. I tend to push back on people when they tell me who they will vote for and I find they often cannot defend themselves. Most of us are sadly ignorant on many issues we care about and on how candidates truly impact those issues. Wisdom dictates that unless I am well read on both the issue and the candidate I should keep my opinions quiet.
Another reason to stay somewhat quiet is that as I said, I had friends (and will have friends) who vote across the political spectrum. What I should be discussing with my friends is not “who are you voting for?” What I should be discussing is, “How do you deal with this issue that matters to both of us?” Recently, a group of pro-life evangelicals endorsed Joe Biden for President. I do not praise or fault this group, though admittedly there are individuals within the group whom I respect greatly. I think that if we are to actually carry out our commitments as Christians the conversation between this group and pro-life evangelicals voting for Mr. Trump should begin with, “Why do you feel that your candidate provides the best outcome for our shared goal?” And then (as I have repeated throughout 2020) LISTEN, listen with a mindset that my opinion might be changed. I have had my mind changed on voting over the last four years, not simply on who to vote for but on what constitutes an ethical vote. I should not be trying to change someone’s mind so much as representing what is valuable to me and what drove me to reach my current decisions.
Over the last four year I have come to see that my ethics might lead me to vote for someone I disagree with on many issues. What has stayed consistant in my thinking is that we need to have clear ethics that guide us. We must be able to articulate what drives us toward the decisions we make, and we must be humble enough to listen to the perspectives of others as they explain their thoughts.