An Open Letter to Evangelical Republicans: Post-Script on "Lesser Evil"

I wrote An Open Letter to Evangelical Republicans earlier in the week. One interesting thing that I found was how many people seemed to assume that its practical conclusion was “Now go vote democrat!” It’s interesting not only because I never said anything of the sort, but also because I in fact plan on voting third party. Another interesting thing has been the number of Christians who are genuinely concerned by Trump, but have resigned themselves to vote for him because they consider him the lesser of two evils.

Well, consider this a “P.S.” about that. This is a blog about the suffocation of theological hope and Christian political imagination. We have been seduced (and/or brought to despair) by the false binary presented to us. We’ve put our heads down and consented to participate in whichever form of evil will allow us to preserve a greater portion of our own comfort and sense of control.

I’ve heard a lot of Christians say that they’re voting Trump because yeah, he’s a pig, but at least he’s better than Hillary. I’ve heard a lot of evangelical republicans say that they hate what he’s done to the GOP and don’t think he’d make a good president, but voting third-party would be giving it to Hillary. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they actually like a third party candidate, but in a two-party system the Christian’s role is to choose the lesser of two evils. I’ve read Wayne Grudem declare that voting for Trump is the moral choice, because he would defeat the big scary liberal boogeyman.

Nonsense.

As though the Christian’s highest calling is to fight against “gender confusion.” As though religious vetting for immigration is not a moral issue. As though sheltering the alien and welcoming the poor and oppressed is not a moral issue (by the way, there’s not a national security clause applied to that command). As though supporting an egocentric billionaire with a flare for fascist rhetoric is not a moral issue. As though supporting a leader whose campaign has instilled new confidence in white supremacists doesn’t have moral implications.

Even if you’re convinced that a Clinton presidency would be a slightly greater evil than a Trump presidency, that is not a Christian answer. That is not an answer shaped by the hope and gospel of Jesus Christ. It is a decision driven by fear and unbelief. It is a decision that places American politicians at the right hand of the Father instead of the crucified and risen Lord. It is a renunciation of hope and a declaration that in the end, evil is a deeper reality than hope, so we might as well give in; that in the end, power is more important than faithfulness.

If you want to know how totalitarian governments and oppressive regimes start, look at world history. They happen when people make decisions based on fear. They happen when people rationalize evil because they’re promised that it’s for the greater good, and they’re afraid of the alternative. Every phase of this election cycle has been motivated and propelled by fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the other. Fear of the outsider. Fear of death. Both candidates seem largely incapable of appealing to anything besides the fear that people should feel at the prospect of the other candidate being elected.

But neither the pages of history nor the judgment of God will accept as valid the fearful excuse that we chose to support evil because we feared what might happen if we pursued an alternative to evil. To suppress conscience by accepting the binary rhetoric of “choosing the lesser evil,” as both parties have called upon their hesitant supporters to do, is to declare that in the end there is nothing in the world more powerful than the forces of fear and self-preservation. It is to admit by our actions that we believe fear conquers love and that worldly security is a deeper reality than the victory of the cross and the empty tomb.

There are other choices. If you’re disgusted by Trump’s egocentrism and concerned by his hateful rhetoric, but can’t in good conscience vote for Hillary either, then don’t vote for them. Vote for someone else. Use your vote as a witness to hope, a call for change, a rejection of a system that thrives on fear.

At hand are questions of deepest allegiance and deepest reality. It is a question of whether we really believe that Jesus is the world’s true Lord, and whether the hope that he brings has any bearing on the lives we actually live.

The church does not exist to resignedly minimize evil by controlling world history. Our calling is to be a witness to a broken world to the glorious hope of a crucified and risen Savior. It is to declare to all would-be lords that there is one true Lord, and that his kingdom is the deepest reality. And make no mistake, the political upheaval in which we find ourselves beckons us to declare in word and deed that our highest allegiance is to Elephant- or Donkey-shaped gods, to the false constructs of conservative and liberal.

Christians, to resign ourselves to the polarity of choosing between two evils because advocating for good might not work is to negate our witness by throwing in the towel on the hope given to us in Jesus Christ. To support lesser evil is to empower evil by being complicit in its mechanisms of fear, manipulation, and–most of all–hopelessness.

Imagine a world in which politicians knew that Christians would not be taken in by the false binaries of liberal and conservative. Imagine a world in which Christians advocated for what was right, instead of what they feared less. That is the world into which Jesus Christ calls us, the world that is opened to us by the reality of the resurrection of the Son of God.

 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.
(John 14)

 

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