Culture At Large

A Christian Call to Vote Third Party

Matt Arildsen

Sometimes, the right thing to do is to vote your heart.

For many election cycles, Christians have held their noses, to greater or lesser degrees, voting for the “lesser of two evils” in an attempt to achieve maximum political impact. Many people would have rather voted for a third-party candidate, but—choosing mind over heart—they recognized that third-party votes usually hand a victory to whichever main candidate was furthest away ideologically from the third-party one. So even if you thought Ralph Nader would have been the best president, you should not have voted for him because, in all likelihood, the same reasons you have for preferring Nader over all candidates still suffice to put Al Gore over George W. Bush in a head-to-head contest.

Consequently, Christians must vote for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, right? Not so fast.

It seems that every election cycle, we get the same insistence that “this time, it’s different.” But I assure you that there are objective differences in this election. One of those is that many people are more likely to be voting for Candidate A as a way of expressing distaste for Candidate B, rather than voting for Candidate A as a way of expressing approval for Candidate A. Some have argued that the problem here is the “lesser of two evils” mentality itself, but this is an oversimplification.

The problem isn’t that Christians should never vote for “the lesser of two evils,” when that phrase is simply shorthand for a “severely flawed but good enough” candidate. The problem is that there is a certain threshold of evil and beyond that threshold, Christians must recuse themselves for the sake of the reputation of the Church and the honor of Christ. Abortion is one such threshold.

Voting for either of the main candidates is to claim that Christ values short-run political power over protection of the unborn.

When we vote, we are going on the record not only as individual citizens, but as members of demographic groups. When the Church votes a certain way, we are publicly declaring the candidate Jesus would support for president. If we allow ourselves to vote for either candidate, we cannot complain when the media correctly report that when it comes to abortion, Christians talk a big game but will ultimately tow the party line, especially if that party line is dressed up to look even barely religious.

Instead, we must remember that as Christians, there are some evils we cannot support. To vote for either of the main candidates is to claim that Christ values short-run political power over protection of the unborn, and this is absurd. Consequently, since both TrumpandClinton have a record of supporting abortion, neither should expect the votes of Christians, especially at a time when the pro-life movement has only been growing in its political effectiveness and popularity. To relent now would be to squander the blessings and opportunities that God has given to the pro-life movement and dishonor Christ’s name by claiming his ambivalence.

This does not mean we should not vote in this election. Certain third-party presidential candidates, especially independent conservative candidate Evan McMullin, as well as legislators such as Nebraska senator Ben Sasse and Illinois representative Randy Hultgren, have demonstrated their pro-life bona fides. We need have no illusions of short-run victory in the electoral college when we understand that voting is not merely about the power to select the president, but also about giving voice to the truth, preserving the narrative of the Church’s love, and ordering our political priorities in imitation of Christ’s values.  

While voting third party may not make any difference in the short term, it will actually safeguard the pro-life movement in the long term because it will prove to politicians that they must earn our votes and actually care about ending abortion. In these rare cases of extreme major party candidates on all sides, the heart's longings for moral purity and the mind's orientation towards strategy are not at odds. Voting third party proves to politicians that we will put our collective vote where our mouth is, and that they must come home to us—not the other way around. In this way, every congregation has the opportunity to advance God’s kingdom and advocate for the unborn.

Topics: Culture At Large, News & Politics, Justice, Politics