Tomorrow I will vote, and I will vote my conscience

Tomorrow is election day, and what a year it has been leading up to this point. If anyone back then had said that the two major candidates would be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the rest of us would have nodded in agreement to the first prediction and shaken our heads and laughed at the second. Yet here we are.

To call this election “contentious”, even among evangelicals, would be an understatement. I think most of us are ready for November 9 so we can see the end of robocalls, political ads on TV, and Facebook posts about how civilization as we know it will come to an end if either major candidate is elected, or how it’s morally unconscionable for a Christian to vote or not vote for Trump.

Tomorrow I will go vote. Though this election is about our choice for president, there is also much more on our ballots. In my county, one of the most contested races is for coroner, of all things. And when I vote for each candidate and issue, I will vote my conscience, and then I will go to sleep on Tuesday night trusting that Jesus is still on the throne.

As I make my decision, here are a few things that will guide my choices and I hope may guide yours as well…

First, there are certain issues that ARE that important. In other words: deal breakers exist. Frankly, I’m an odd conservative at times. Though agreeing that the second amendment clearly protects a person’s right to own a gun, I favor stronger laws concerning background checks, assault style weapons, and safety education. I would also like to see an end to fracking, the Keystone pipeline not built, and more money pumped into research and development of “greener” energy sources. Yet depending on the candidate, on these things I am somewhat flexible. These are not deal breakers.

The candidate’s view on the sanctity of human life, on the other hand, is. I could agree with a candidate’s position down to the minutia of every other issue, yet if they are pro-killing-babies-in-the-womb, they will not receive my vote. Human life is human life, no matter how small and no matter where it is located. While there may be rare cases where abortion becomes medically necessary, such as the sure endangerment of the life of the mother, most abortions do not fit into this category. Ultimately, what we need is a pro-life platform that points to solutions for poverty, health care, and other issues that play into the tough decisions women face. But pro-life convictions are a necessity for one to have my vote.

Second, character matters as much if not more than platform. The Bible is replete with examples of good character among the rulers leading to prosperous times within a country and bad character leading to disaster and ruin. Proverbs 29:2 captures this reality well: “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” Simply put, it doesn’t matter what a person promises according to his or her platform, if their character is highly suspect and visibly corrupt, they will not receive my vote.

It is amazing the things that some Christians say to defend politicians of poor character. “Nobody is perfect, and we’re not electing a pastor but a president/governor/senator/etc.” True, but character still matters. No one is perfect (including pastors and presidents), but a person can still strive for integrity and other virtues. “God used wicked rulers in the Bible to accomplish his will.” Again, true. But God’s faithful people didn’t vote them into office.

If righteous leaders help the people rejoice and wicked leaders cause the people to groan, then character matters greatly. A person who has demonstrated poor character as a matter of lifestyle will not receive my vote.

Third, in the end, I must act according to my conscience and faith. All of us Christians should hold this principle in great regard. The Bible doesn’t say much about casting votes in a democratic-republic. It gives us certain things to consider, like those mentioned above. As an informed voter, I must search scripture and spend time in prayer. I must look into the candidates and issues while seeking the wisdom of God above the rhetoric of man to guide me. Then I must act in faith and according to my conscience.

In Romans 14:23, after teaching on what we call “Christian liberty”—our views and actions concerning things to which the Bible does not directly speak, Paul concluded: “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” In terms of God’s commands and laws, it may not be a sin to vote for Candidate X; but if it goes against my conscience to vote for Candidate X, then I have sinned. I have acted contrary to my trust in God.

This is a category that seems to be lacking in much of what Christians have written on the topic of this election. We’re not going to agree on the candidates, that much is for sure. However, we must respect one another’s conscience decision and not judge one another whether or not we agree on a particular candidate and even whether or not we agree on the necessity of voting.

Fourth, when the day is done, go to bed and sleep well. When David was being pursued by his son Absalom, he cried out to God and said:

You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around. ~Psalm 3:3-6

No matter who will be president after the vote on November 8, Jesus is still on his throne. The United States is a part of God’s plan, but it is not the center of God’s plan. His plan is for the global exaltation of Christ, and no matter who the rulers are or what they do, Jesus will be exalted above all (Psalm 2, Acts 17, Philippians 2). We do not worry about tomorrow, for God is not worried about tomorrow. So, when election night is over, we can lay down at night and sleep well knowing that Jesus is still on his throne.

Not long ago, I heard a radio advertisement for a conference featuring a particular former presidential candidate as the main speaker. One of the lines in the advertisement was: “If we lose religious liberty, we lose everything.”

We should pray for, cherish, and work for religious liberty in our land as much as we can, but the ad is wrong. Even if the laws of the land declare Christianity illegal, if we have Christ, then we have everything. If we have nothing other than Jesus, then we have everything. Our hope is not in politics and laws, but in the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

So tomorrow, I will vote. I will vote for people who I believe have good character, I will vote for those who are pro-life, and I will vote according to my conscience. Then when the day is done, I will rejoice and rest in the reality that Jesus is King.

A grown man in the girl’s restroom

We need to be better spokespersons on the issue of transgenderism. It seems the message from conservatives can be boiled down to one question. I’ve seen it all over Facebook, heard it in conversations, and saw that even Ted Cruz was touting it during his last-ditch effort to stave off a Trump nomination:

“Do you want a grown man to follow your little girl into the women’s restroom?”

In a world of sound bytes and 140 character limits, it’s not surprising that conservatives have settled on this as the summary representative of their argument, thinking that their position is so obvious that only a complete idiot would fail to be convinced by it. But it’s not winning hearts and minds, and instead it’s actually feeding the liberal belief that conservatives, and Christians in particular, are bigots and fear mongers who must be repudiated and silenced lest they acquire enough power to force everyone to adopt their restrictive ways.

The question above implies that allowing transgendered individuals access to their restroom of choice will expose others to child molestation and rape. It’s an argument based on fear, and a highly exaggerated one at that. After all, isn’t your little boy just as much at risk from a male sexual predator in places where people must use the bathroom matching their biological sex? Common sense tells us that people who commit such crimes try to do so without witnesses milling about. A man doesn’t have to pretend to be transgendered in order to sexually assault a woman in a public restroom. He just has to have sufficient opportunity to do so where there isn’t anybody around. Truth be told, that probably accounts for most, if not all, public restroom rapes, not someone pretending to be the opposite sex.

The real problem with this “enabling sexual predators” question is that it shifts the focus away from the real issue. The root of the problem is not that a pedophile or rapist could abuse the system. The root of the problem is that it allows and even encourages people to adopt a false reality that stems from and inevitably contributes to serious mental health issues and sin.

Our society says the liberal stance on transgenderism is about equality and fighting discrimination and oppression. Christianity says the problem lies with a society that is willing to deny reality for the sake of the right to self-determination. This is idolatry: the exaltation of self as supreme. Our culture is not really concerned for transgendered individuals. And if our argument can be reduced to, “Do you want a grown man to follow your little girl into the women’s restroom?” then neither are we.

As Christians, we should always occupy the moral high ground in our dealings with a corrupt and sinful society. We can do that by being better advocates for transgendered individuals than society is. We advocate for them by pointing out the cruelty telling people they can change reality to fit their feelings when this approach will not fix their problems and does not work in other areas of life such as finances, employment, or relationships. We advocate for them by affirming the inherent goodness of every individual’s biological sex. We advocate for them by providing and challenging the world to provide real mental health care that affirms that goodness and treats the mind, not “care” that involves mutilating a healthy body.

The next time you’re tempted to make that post on Facebook or throw in that zinger in your conversation, stop and refocus on the central issue of the inherent goodness of our biological sex.

A grown man in the girl’s restroom

We need to be better spokespersons on the issue of transgenderism. It seems the message from conservatives can be boiled down to one question. I’ve seen it all over Facebook, heard it in conversations, and saw that even Ted Cruz was touting it during his last-ditch effort to stave off a Trump nomination:

“Do you want a grown man to follow your little girl into the women’s restroom?”

In a world of sound bytes and 140 character limits, it’s not surprising that conservatives have settled on this as the summary representative of their argument, thinking that their position is so obvious that only a complete idiot would fail to be convinced by it. But it’s not winning hearts and minds, and instead it’s actually feeding the liberal belief that conservatives, and Christians in particular, are bigots and fear mongers who must be repudiated and silenced lest they acquire enough power to force everyone to adopt their restrictive ways.

The question above implies that allowing transgendered individuals access to their restroom of choice will expose others to child molestation and rape. It’s an argument based on fear, and a highly exaggerated one at that. After all, isn’t your little boy just as much at risk from a male sexual predator in places where people must use the bathroom matching their biological sex? Common sense tells us that people who commit such crimes try to do so without witnesses milling about. A man doesn’t have to pretend to be transgendered in order to sexually assault a woman in a public restroom. He just has to have sufficient opportunity to do so where there isn’t anybody around. Truth be told, that probably accounts for most, if not all, public restroom rapes, not someone pretending to be the opposite sex.

The real problem with this “enabling sexual predators” question is that it shifts the focus away from the real issue. The root of the problem is not that a pedophile or rapist could abuse the system. The root of the problem is that it allows and even encourages people to adopt a false reality that stems from and inevitably contributes to serious mental health issues and sin.

Our society says the liberal stance on transgenderism is about equality and fighting discrimination and oppression. Christianity says the problem lies with a society that is willing to deny reality for the sake of the right to self-determination. This is idolatry: the exaltation of self as supreme. Our culture is not really concerned for transgendered individuals. And if our argument can be reduced to, “Do you want a grown man to follow your little girl into the women’s restroom?” then neither are we.

As Christians, we should always occupy the moral high ground in our dealings with a corrupt and sinful society. We can do that by being better advocates for transgendered individuals than society is. We advocate for them by pointing out the cruelty telling people they can change reality to fit their feelings when this approach will not fix their problems and does not work in other areas of life such as finances, employment, or relationships. We advocate for them by affirming the inherent goodness of every individual’s biological sex. We advocate for them by providing and challenging the world to provide real mental health care that affirms that goodness and treats the mind, not “care” that involves mutilating a healthy body.

The next time you’re tempted to make that post on Facebook or throw in that zinger in your conversation, stop and refocus on the central issue of the inherent goodness of our biological sex.

Yellow Dog Christianity

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In sixth grade I donned a “chili-bowl” haircut, named such because it looked like someone put a chili bowl on my head and cut off the excess hair. I thought it was the coolest haircut imaginable, but it wasn’t. In Spanish class my teacher used it as an illustration to teach us a new Spanish word, specifically how unique my haircut was. I felt like Chewbacca at a Beauty Salon Convention. I got a haircut the next day.

Sometimes things happen that challenge what we’ve always believed. A heart attack can make us realize we need to change our diet, or maybe we’re being used as an illustration in Spanish class. None of us have it all figured out, and we need to be willing to question how we’ve always done it, while simultaneously holding tightly to God’s Word.

The 2016 election elucidates this. Christians have struggled to support some earlier candidates, but never like this. Many are adamantly opposed to voting for either party’s leading candidate. Hillary, some say, was never a real option, and Trump, others say, is a donkey in elephant’s clothing. For some Trump isn’t their first choice, but “he is better than Hillary, and a non-vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary.”

While it’s true that not voting for Trump could put Hillary in the White House, how much solace can a Christian take in such an incentive? Should a Christian really have to vote for someone just because he isn’t Hillary? Moreover, is a Christian obligated to vote for his party’s candidate?

I once heard someone say that Christians who are Americans must consider the order of the two descriptors, suggesting that the rationale of our political choices is defined by the adjective that precedes the noun. And so we can either be an “American Christian” or a “Christian American.” If we say we are a “Christian American,” then we are saying we are Americans that happen to also be Christian, and our nationality is more important than our faith. But if we say we are “American Christians,” then we believe we are Christians who happen to also be Americans, and our faith is more important than our nationality.

Thus, the answer to the aforementioned questions might rest in how we understand the relationship between our faith and our nationality, namely, which word modifies the other.

Biblically, there is no directive that requires a Christian to vote for a party’s candidate. There is an encouragement to be involved in the voting process (Rom 13), and there are principles that guide us in how to vote, one of which is that we “ought to obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29). In this passage, some of the disciples wrestle with the Jerusalem government over the practice of their faith, and their response is that they were “Jewish Christians,” not “Christian Jews.” Their faith was more important than their nationality, and they were convinced that their status with God was far more important than their status as Jews; they were willing to go to jail for it.

American Christians have usually had a feasible option in at least one of the major parties—even if it meant holding one’s nose while voting—but there is usually enough respectability about the candidate that a Christian could vote for him without at the same time undermining his conscience. This, however, has produced a “yellow-dog” mentality for some Christians—the belief that Christians must vote for his party’s candidate, even if it is a yellow dog. This simply isn’t biblical. What is biblical is yellow dog Christianity, meaning that in whatever is happening politically, a Christian’s responsibility is first to God, not a political system. If forced to choose between a yellow-dog democrat and a yellow-dog Republican, a Christian should choose yellow-dog Christianity.

God never directs us to choose evil, even some “lesser” evil, but he does tell us to reject every kind of it (1 Thess 5:22).

Christians struggling with their 2016 presidential vote need to consider whether they are Christians who are American or Americans who are Christian, and then vote in a way compatible with living on the new earth with an eternal God, more so than living on the present earth under a temporary president. Moreover, Christians shouldn’t feel obligated to vote for one of the two major candidates, and Christians shouldn’t pressure other Christians to do so. This should be the case with every election, but this particular election has forced us to rethink the issue. So let’s do our American duty and vote, but let’s allow our Christianity to trump our Americanism, because this is the “trump” that matters most.