Culture At Large

The pretense of lesser evil voting

John C. Nugent

Evangelicals are rapidly endorsing Donald Trump, who seemed anathema to them only months ago. In their mind, he represents the “lesser of two evils.” Sure, he’s not very moral, he’s politically inexperienced and he routinely alienates minority groups and women, but “crooked Hillary,” to use Trump’s words, is considered much worse.

I wonder whether Christians have any business resorting to lesser evil calculations. Would God authorize us to choose evil at all? Those without hope have been conditioned to think that a life without a vote is hardly worth living. But are Christians so obligated to participate in national elections that we must do so even if we believe that both viable candidates represent evil in one form or another?

Scripture takes a fairly strong stance against evil. Jesus, Peter and Paul make clear that God is against and will condemn those who do evil. Paul goes so far as to consider it slander to accuse someone of doing evil that good may come of it (Rom 3:8). Since Christ died to set us free from this present evil age, we must abstain from all evil and may not use our freedom as a cloak for doing evil.

The New Testament witness is clear that God’s people should have nothing to do with evil. Though they are willing to suffer from the evil of others, Jesus and His followers never chose evil for the sake of the common good — not even for the Gospel.

We’ve duped ourselves into thinking God has called us to fix this world.

What, then, attracts us to lesser evil thinking? Few Christians want to commit, partner with or otherwise support evil. What we want, however, is to be responsible. And we’ve duped ourselves into thinking God has called us to fix this world. Together we comprise a significant voting bloc and we’ve bought into the superhero romanticism that “with great power comes great responsibility.” We are convinced that our ability to participate in the political process is one of the greatest powers available to us.

Heated elections like this one give Christians an opportunity to think about what God has truly asked of us. Is He calling Christians to make America great? If the early church refused to participate in lesser evils for the sake of the Gospel, what makes us think that God would have us do so for the American dream?

Evangelicals are quite capable of seeing through false choices, such as the choice between unplanned pregnancy and protected sex or the choice between abortion and a ruined life. Abstinence and adoption are obvious alternatives. Likewise, this election doesn’t force Christians to choose between two perceived evils. There are other candidates, and we are always free to abstain. That we feel as if we are faced with a lesser-evil choice suggests that we have made other commitments, such as being “responsible” as the power bearers of this world or choosing a candidate who actually has a chance of winning.

There may be good reasons to vote Trump or Clinton. But if we as Christians consider one of these candidates “evil,” let’s not pretend that we are victims of circumstance, trapped to make choices we can’t avoid. We put ourselves in this position. Nothing in Scripture obligates us. Perhaps we need the Apostle Peter’s reminder: “live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil.”

Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Theology, News & Politics, North America, Politics