Saturday, October 1, 2016

On Not Voting

Norman Geisler wrote a piece for Christianity Today telling everyone why he's for Donald Trump and why that's what Christians ought to do. That he is a theologian might lead you to expect he's going to make a Biblical case for Trump, and he does try to drape some verse citations here and there, There is the one remotely reasonable argument (Supreme Court appointments), and then there are knee-slappers like, a vote for Trump is "a vote for international respect." And also, a vote for Trump is "a vote against national corruptions." Say what?

Non-sequiturs like these aside, Geisler's case come down to good old-fashioned lesser evil thinking. But don't let that word "evil" get in the way. Doing the lesser evil is actually equivalent to doing the greater good, he says. You're doing good by voting for Donald, don't you see that? And isn't do-gooding what Christians are all about?

All this lesser evil thinking is fine, but you'd kind of expect a Christian theologian might take some time to say something about, oh, let's call it the deep-in-the-grain rottenness of character that is called Donald Trump. I mean, even the rudimentary question, what would Jesus do?, would have to give us pause, wouldn't it? That is, if we even cared.

Me, I think that Geisler's article is just another example of how American Evangelicalism has, well, come unmoored. We have gradually slipped into being a crew of religious-y Republicans, lesser eviling our way from election to election, until now we can't even remember what we used to be and should be still. Though we are supposed to be ambassadors of a kingdom of peace, we make excuses for unending war. Though we are supposed to have put aside worldliness in favor of the message of the Gospel, we have bought into the dream of more stuff, and bigger stuff, and upward mobility, putting our hope in the pursuit of the almighty dollar, just as much as the most worldly unbelievers out there. To me, Geisler and his ilk (throw Wayne Grudem and Jerry Falwell, Jr. into the mix) are like people who hear the words of Jesus and say, "Jesus, I do want to follow you, but first let me campaign to defeat Hillary Clinton, then I will leave all to follow you." See Luke 9:57f or Mark 8:18f for a sample of how Jesus might respond to that.

Geisler does admit that Trump is a flawed candidate, which sort of understates the case just a wee bit. Yup, I do realize nobody's perfect, and we're not voting for saints, etc. But this election is requiring us to deduce somehow that the repercussions of putting one truly repugnant creep in office will be less baleful than setting up the other repugnant creep there instead. Maybe you can make this case with regard to one issue or another (and I do think the case could be made with regard to the Supreme Court, for example, that Trump is probably a better choice), but on the whole, given the precarious state of the world, guessing that less evil will come from putting Trump behind the levers of power than putting Clinton there is really just a fool's play. No one knows, and the thought of either choice leaves me praying for Jesus to come quickly.

Bottom line, this is not something I am willing to venture a guess about. I can't really predict just how the evil will repercuss when Trumpian self-regard, pomposity, dishonesty, and sham takes hold of the levers of power. It's beyond my abilities as an amateur prognosticator. And by the way, I don't respect Geisler's ability in that regard either. Just how far the evil will repercuss when we have Trump in office as opposed to Clinton, who can say?  Less far? Maybe. A lot farther? Also maybe.

Which brings me to my point. The third option, not voting at all. Geisler, citing no Biblical argument at all, calls this the the coward's way out. To which I'd like to say, where do you get off, Norman? I mean, I think a case could be made that not adding my voice to one of the two contending choruses for one evil choice vs. the other is a perfectly Jesus-y thing to do.

You go your way Trumpians. Clintonistas, you go yours. You both promise wonderful things if I will just follow you into the darkness, but I'd just as soon sit here by my campfire and wait for morning. I have no obligation to follow either, and you can't shame me into thinking I must by calling me a coward. In fact, I'm on my way somewhere, and the choices you two present are something like the choices the evil one presented to Jesus while he sojourned in the desert. They're meant to lead away, they're intentional misdirections. I've heard some Christians say Trump is God's choice in this hour, but I think the better reading is that he is the devil's choice, and so is Clinton. Jesus would respond, get away from me, Liar. The way of the Kingdom coincides with neither of these paths.

When I became a Christian I became a citizen of a far kingdom, a kingdom not yet of this world, although sometimes, now and then, the fog lifts and I can see it in the hazy distance. It's my home, and I'm headed that way, and you can follow me if you like. I'm following Jesus. I too sometimes lose my bearings, and I too chase after deceitful lights shining through the mist, but this time, in this election year, I'm not doing that. If you like, a non-vote is my way of saying, none of the above, but the truth is, I don't care how you interpret it. We Christians have an old cliche about being in the world but not of it. It was  lie we told ourselves, mostly. The truth is, we are all more "of it" than we'd like to admit. But this election is more "of it" than most. This time, I'm saying no to all that. I'm digging in my heals, going no further. I'll not be a part of this charade dressed up as a choice. I'm out.

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