Many years ago I was visited by a rather prominent evangelical who urged me to endorse a certain political candidate. I gave him two reasons why I would not do so, and those reasons have stood me in good stead to this very day.
First, I did not want anyone to think that the Gospel was tied to a political party. If I were to endorse a candidate, people would identify Christianity with that political label, and this would be a stumbling block to those of the opposing political party. Instead of endorsements, over the years I have preached on those issues which cross the biblical/political divide, such as abortion, the role of law, same-sex marriage, etc. But throughout I have always insisted that the cross of Christ must be held above political wrangling, particularly before an election. We must be able to say to Democrats, to Republicans, and to Independents, “All of you are lost forever if you do not put your faith in Christ.”
The second reason for my refusal was that I feared a politician I endorsed could turn out to be a disappointment, and I would then be embarrassed that I had lent my name (and by extension that of The Moody Church) to the man or woman who acted in an un-Christian manner. My visitor actually agreed with this reason; he even told me about a politician who had been endorsed by a prominent Christian leader and won the election, but whose name then appeared a few years later in a “black book” kept by a woman in prostitution.
I disagree with some of my evangelical friends who openly endorsed Trump several months ago. I was invited to join other evangelicals for a meeting with “The Donald” this past spring, but I declined. I realize that not all who attended such meetings or joined his “advisory council” ended up endorsing him, but some did. Even then, though, there was plenty of evidence of Trump’s egomania and lack of common decency. When he told Anderson Cooper that he had never asked God for forgiveness because he could not think of anything he had done that was wrong, I knew this man was not “Christian” in any sense of the word. When the lewd recording surfaced a few days ago, I for one was not surprised. Trump has bragged about his womanizing for years; why should we be shocked now?
I fear that we as evangelicals are very confusing to the world. The common American must wonder who we really are. Why would we want our names and our churches associated with a man who is so obviously flawed, and worse, a man who cannot see himself for what he is? A man who lacks the ability to genuinely apologize, and whose primary defense is to try to make others look worse than himself?
Please understand that my criticism of a candidate does not translate into support for his/her opponent. In other words, my criticism of Trump does not mean that I encourage people to vote for Hillary. In fact, when I am asked (as I frequently am) what I think of the two candidates running for the highest office in our land, I frankly grieve … both parties could have chosen better candidates, candidates without cartloads of baggage. Indeed, if we could simply “flip” the tickets so that the vice presidents were at the top, we would then be faced with a more acceptable choice. However, in our present predicament, one person put it this way: “I have not yet decided who I will vote against.”
In my opinion, both candidates lack the moral authority to be president. Whether their backgrounds involve moral, ethical, or legal concerns, both candidates are equally unworthy of the presidency. I am pained by one bumper sticker I saw that said “I already hate our next president!”
But, as I am fond of saying, “It is what it is.” I do not agree with my friends who say they will not vote, or will vote for a third-party candidate, or perhaps will just write in their favorite politician. We have a say in who our next president will be, and we must prayerfully accept this privilege and responsibility. In other words, get out and vote!
Since, in my opinion, the moral values (or lack thereof) of our current presidential candidates cancel each other out, then this year we have to look beyond character issues and vote for the candidate who best represents the positions which are important to us. You may have your own list, but for me, three primary issues are religious freedom, matters of national security, and the appointment of judges.
Each of us must prayerfully weigh our options and do the best we can with what God has given us (yes, the Bible teaches that God ultimately guides the affairs of nations). As a nation we have deliberately chosen to accept darkness rather than light; we have chosen a path that will ultimately destroy us, regardless of who is elected. I believe politics is very important, but it does not have ultimate importance. As believers, we have a hope that transcends politics. Only the gospel—not politicians!— can stop our moral and spiritual freefall.
Regardless of who is elected, our next president will inherit a deeply divided and angry country. And in the midst of such hostility, the church stands and says to a broken world, “Let us tell you about a Savior who can reconcile us to God and to one another.”
This election reminds us that the church is still the best hope for the world.