Hillary, Trump, and Christian Conscience

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Published on: August 1, 2016

“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.” ~ Romans 14:1 (NASB)

“Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” ~ Romans 14:5 (ESV)

The quickest way to start an argument among conservative Christians is to have a discussion about whether a sincerely devoted follower of Christ can vote for Donald Trump.

Sincere Christians are of two minds on this issue. While most Christians see a clear distinction between Trump and Clinton on issues such as immigration, the threat of Islam, and friendliness toward evangelicals, most accept the reality that Trump is a quite flawed candidate at best. Thus, the choice, in the minds of most, is between the lesser of two evils.

Some Christians have settled this matter by deciding to vote for Trump on the grounds that if the only choice a Christian has is between more evil and less evil, he should choose less evil. They will say, if I am  forced to choose between two poisons, one of which will make me sick for a while and the other of which will kill me, the smart and rational choice seems clear.

But other Christians have settled this matter by concluding that a vote for less evil is still a vote for evil and they can’t bring themselves to do it. If you don’t have to ingest either of the two poisons, why ingest at all? If the choice is between Stalin and Pol Pot, they will say, the Christian choice is neither. These Christians much prefer to cast a vote, even a write-in vote that won’t be counted, than use their vote to support either of two substandard choices.

Whichever side Christians come down on, they tend to land with a passionate and even angry attachment to their view. Some will say a vote for anyone other than Trump is a vote for Hillary. How can you bring yourself to do anything that will help that woman, with her anti-Christian, pro-abortion and pro-homosexual convictions, get anywhere close to the levers of political power?

Others will say, I think Trump is an immoral scoundrel who has no discernible values, no allegiance to the Constitution, and seems guided by whatever emotions he is feeling the strongest on a particular day. I cannot, they will say, in good conscience use my vote to help a man like that into office.

Even honest Trump supporters recognize that there is a chance, perhaps even a good one, that Trump will disappoint them. But they will say that with Trump there is at least a chance of a good outcome, on judges, for example, while with Hillary, there is none. Better to choose a slim chance over no chance at all.

My conscience leads me in that direction. As I have told my listening audience, while you cannot always vote for somebody, you can always vote against somebody. Sometimes you can, with a clear conscience, vote for a less-than-desirable option in order to prevent something far worse.

So how do we as believers not allow our strongly held differences of opinion to divide us on this matter, especially when a good case can be made on both sides of the equation? Simply by obeying Scripture.

The position of most (although certainly not all) Christians will be a matter of conscience and conviction. They truly cannot see any other way in which they can vote and feel good about themselves. Some feel passionately that they cannot do anything that promotes evil. Others feel passionately they must do everything in their power to stop evil, even if the alternative is risky.

Now the word of God is infallible, but conscience is not. It is simply an inner voice that bears witness to whatever standard I carry in my soul and spirit. The standard to which my conscience bears witness may change over time as I grow in understanding the unchanging word of God.

In Romans 14, Paul acknowledges that Christians may have different standards of conscience when it comes to diet (Romans 14:2-3), drinking alcoholic beverages (Romans 14:17), and days of worship (Romans 14:5). These fall into what are called gray areas, areas of conduct in which where there is no direct command of Scripture. Electoral choice is one of these gray areas, since there is no verse of Scripture that gives us a direct command regarding for whom to vote in this election.

While we should be free to discuss, dialogue, and even debate this issue with other Christians, what we must determine to do is accept the reality that the conscience of other believers may lead them to a different place than the one we’ve reached. We must respect their conscience and their choice, and refuse either to “despise” them or “pass judgment” on them (Romans 14:3). After all, they do not answer to me but to God for their decision.

“Who are you,” Paul says, “to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stand or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4).

Sen. Ted Cruz’s counsel, given during the Republican National Convention, was excellent counsel when it was given and remains excellent counsel today, since a vote based on conscience is never a wasted vote. “Don’t stay home in November. If you love our country… stand and speak and vote your conscience.”

“Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.” ~ Romans 14:1 (NASB)

(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)

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