If you follow me on social media at all, you may or may not have noticed that I am mildly opposed to the GOP nominee for president. (Because the internet is largely devoid of tone, except for very skilled writers, of which I am not one, that was understatement for effect.)
Some of my fellow conservatives have found this position to be rather alarming. Many fellow Christians are alarmed at the current political situation and looking for leadership. Many voices are offering opinions. Very few are offering leadership. I’m not sure I’ve done a good job of offering any to those that would look to me for it either.
This post is an attempt to clarify my thinking and purpose on the issue.
This post is written to my fellow Christian believers who have at some point in the past aligned themselves with conservative politics.
There are in-house issues here that I do not expect non-Christians or non-conservatives to jive with or even understand all that well. Fine and fine.
Also I am not addressing in this article that I cannot and will not, for issues of philosophy, theology, or conscience vote for Hillary Clinton either. In case that needed saying.
Keep in mind that it (along with almost everything written on the internet) is written while working from home with a boisterous house, full of life of four busy, homeschooled daughters ages 2 to 10, an emotionally needy cat, as well as pressing deadlines of running a small business, pastoring a church, and preparing to teach on one of the most difficult passages of scripture in the Bible this weekend (Romans 9). (Not bragging, just giving reasons for why this essay might get a C- in a school…)
My purpose in engaging on social media
What I am trying to do on social media is provide some counter balance to very loud “evangelical” voices that are declaring the end of society if we do not vote for Donal Trump in an effort to “do everything we can to stop Hillary” – which apparently would be the worst thing for Christians since Nero. (Okay, that was a little hyperbolic. I’m just weary of the argument.)
I am trying to be a voice whose consciences (like mine) cannot bring themselves to vote for a man with character so clearly demonstrated by Donald Trump.
“But Matt,” you say, “we are not voting for a pastor, we are voting for the president.” All I can say to that common retort (which oddly enough, I’ve been hearing less and less frequently) is that I wouldn’t hire the dude to work in my business, or babysit my children, on the basis of his character alone.
My primary desire is that each individual act with freedom and clarity of conscience. That we act out of peace, contentment, vision for the future, and courage. That we do not act out of fear or compulsion in anything.
I understand this is difficult
I have a strange corner of my theology that says that God can, and does, lead His people’s consciences differently. (Or maybe rather that He allows a wide variety of freedom of conscience?)
If we were all thinking perfectly clearly, logically, and had all insight, I’m sure we would all agree on which candidate should be elected. We would also agree on every theological position, every philosophy of ministry, and every church governance structure. As it is, we do not have omniscience, perfect logic, and our insight is not even that clear much of the time. So this is not the situation we find ourselves in.
I understand that a variety of evangelical believers have a variety of beliefs on this issue. I have seen some very good arguments for voting for trump, and some excellent arguments for not.
My friend Alex has a great post along this line calling for the right kind of unity and thoughtfulness. Read it. Unity, not conformity or uniformity.
I reject pragmatism
I’m a bit of an idealist. I am also practical. I have to be. I’m a businessman and a father. I am at times pragmatic in my approach to things. What I am not, however, is pragmatistic. Pragmatism evaluates the truth of something by its “success” in the real world. And, well, that’s simply not how truth works. (The problem is mis-identification of success metrics. See above re: omniscience.)
The way our electoral system works, your vote counts for 1-in-about-150-million. You move the needle 1/150,000,000th of the total. And total vote for what? For informing our electors how they should vote. In some states, this is “informational” only, in some it (allegedly) commands their vote. Your individual vote is very abstracted from the actual outcome. Your vote is a request for your opinion. You should give it. With a clear conscience, with conviction, and with a sense of freedom.
Your individual vote will not make or break the election. Have no fear of that.
Our attempt to play strategy in this arena has got us the two-party system that we all hate, and has gotten us increasingly terrible candidates.
Stop playing strategy. Vote your conscience.
Stop demanding that others toe the line.
Some have called me out for hypocrisy on this front. That I am demanding you toe my line. But my line I demand you toe is your conscience. Not mine. That’s the difference.
I reject false dichotomies
A false dichotomy is a formal logical fallacy. This means that when you utter one you automatically lose the argument according to the rules of logic. (And if you refuse to operate according to logic, then we literally cannot have a discussion. Not because I don’t want to, but because it is literally impossible to discuss something with someone who can insist that up is down and down is up, which is the kind of thing you are doing when committing a logical fallacy.)
“A non-vote for Trump is a vote for Hilalry.” My favorite false dichotomy. It happens every election, and Hillary supporters are doing it as well: “A non-vote for Hillary is a vote for Trump.”
What I love about this is that my non-vote for Trump is a vote for Hillary and my non-vote for Hillary is a vote for Trump. So there. We’re even.
This fallacy was actually uttered yesterday by a theologian I have massively immense respect for. His argument has given me much pause. And if he wasn’t in this camp, I’d feel much more strongly than I currently do on this point.
However, I still stand resolutely that there are a number of people on the ballot, and that ever-present write-in line.
There are more than two people on the ballot.
Said theologian’s major premise is that a third-party win is impossible. This is only true if everyone acts like it is. This is the major premise I reject.
McMullin is currently making waves in Utah. In some polls he is actually in the lead there. Johnson is nipping at the heels in others.
If more people were released from the false dichotomy of the non-vote, they’d be doing even better.
How I am voting.
I’m tempted to go through, objection by objection that I’ve received and answer here. Examples of arguments that carry no weight with me.
- “A third party vote is a vote for Hillary.” See above.
- “Vote platform, not person.” If I had any confidence that Trump would do as he’s said (in the last month, mind you, he changes so often), or that the GOP would do anything differently from what they’ve been up to for a decade, I might consider this. As it stands, nope.
- “The liberal media has convinced you….” – Nope. Trump’s twitter feed has. (He writes that, yes? Or does a Clinton staffer control it? Sometimes I can’t tell..)
- “[Something about the “greater good”]” – that’s precisely what I’m doing.
- “So many evangelicals are supporting him!” – Actually that’s false. Most evangelicals are not supporting him. Some very prominent “celebrity” “Evangelical” “leaders” (all the above in scare quotes) are outspoken about him, but the only reason they are getting a platform is because the media is giving it to them. Very few of the “evangelical” “leaders” who are voicing unqualified support for, and apology for, Trump and his actions, are actually evangelical in the Biblical sense, and several of the prominent ones are actually false teachers. And don’t write that statement (that they are false teachers) off too quickly.
- “I’m older than you, and you aren’t listening to me…” – Oh, I’m listening.
- “The Supreme court!!” – Is not supreme.
- “What kind of future do you want your kids to have?” – I want them to be fearless, full of faith, with absolute confidence in Christ, boldness in mission, and living in a world where they won’t be lulled to sleep by comfort.
- “This is a uniquely historic election.” They all are. I’m well aware of that.
But statistics show men that you aren’t still reading. And even if you were, the lack of bias-confirmation is causing you to dismiss this in the first place. So I’ll close here.
How I am going to vote: I am going to vote as if I were not voting.
If you want to know what that means, take your next devotional time and read this article by John Piper. Then take the rest of your devotional times between now and the election and read nothing but Proverbs.
My political philosophy, which is an opinion I don’t want to shove on anyone, is conservative, constitutionalist, libertarian, and (apparently in the current era) reformational. I’m not sure I have a man in the race. McMullin is the closest I have right now from a pragmatic standpoint. Castle and the constitution party is close, but non-pragmatic.
God bless you.