Wayne Grudem, a popular and well-respected theologian among Evangelical Christians, recently made a ruckus on the internet by publishing his argument for “Why Voting for Donald Trump is a Morally Good Choice.” For the many Christians who have benefited from Grudem’s work in systematic theology and Biblical gender studies, this was a jarring read. The whiplash many experienced wasn’t merely because of his argument to vote for Trump but at how uncharacteristically unsound the argument felt. While many leaders have already tore apart Grudem’s argument, and though there are some who have surely supported it, my final reaction is mostly summed up in Douglas Wilson’s estimation: “I can understand why some will vote for Trump, while knowing that there is no real hope there. But I cannot abide the pressure to lie for Trump.” And Grudem, in his weak defense of Trump as being “fit” for presidency, does seem to be lying to himself, even if he thinks Trump would simply be a better fit than his opponent.
So I disagree with Grudem, but I probably don’t need to do a line-by-line take down of his argument, especially since better ones already exist. I do, however, want to make one comment as to why I, as a Christian desiring to do the Lord’s will with the one vote I have, believe there is a better option than voting for either major party candidate without simply not voting.
In order to do that, I want to revisit one of the most enjoyable movie scenes I had the pleasure of viewing last year.
In the movie Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, the everlastingly young Tom Cruise hero is faced with a scenario much like the one a Christian faces in this election. He is dispatched to a gaudy opera theater to locate and stop an assassin before it takes the life of nobleman sitting in the audience. When Cruise finally locates a position from which he can easily survey both the audience and the rafters from which the sniper is likely to be hiding, he realizes something unfortunate: there are two (three? memory fails me) assassins, each with a rifle aimed directly at the noblemen. Time has run out and Cruise has to make a split-second decision: Does he kill one of the assassins, perhaps he most dangerous looking one? Does he try to kill both and risk letting the noblemen die if he fails? Does he trust that one is another good guy and randomly pick the other? The scene does a great job of putting the audience in Cruise’s predicament and it is an excellent example of smart storytelling that doesn’t ruin the tension by settling for some stroke of unbelievable coincidence or conjuring some other lame cop-out. The stakes are real, and the solution Cruise devises is shrewd and costly: at the final second he shoots the noblemen in the leg, causing the noblemen to topple to the ground, which results in the other assassins both missing fatal shots when they fire a second later.
So yes, I am saying we need to shoot someone in the leg. And that someone, I think, should be the United States.
Here’s what I mean. Grudem, and many Christians who have reluctantly fallen behind Turmp, are in Cruise’s position, looking at the two assassins aiming at the shaky last leg of American Democracy and making a calculated risk: they believe one of the candidates is sure to do a great deal of bad, and that the other is slightly less likely to do the same. So they shoot the assassin they consider to be most dangerous (in this case, Hillary) and let Trump have his shot, but only with their fingers crossed. Others, of course would look at this situation and, in a vain desire to signal their “objectiveness”, “rationality”, and “common decency”, avoid shooting anyone or anything altogether lest they make a mistake and be blamed. This group wants the small comfort of being able to flaunt their “I didn’t vote for X” no matter who wins or loses, except that it is not driven by an authentic desire to better our nation, which at least the first group is doing, but rather a desire to appear like the wisest, sanest person in the room.
My tentative solution is similar to Cruise’s. In my honest assessment, Clinton will objectively do worse things to our country in four years then Trump will do, if only by nominating Supreme Court justices that hate anything reeking of transcendent morality. But I also look across the rafters at Trump, and think he will do nearly as much evil, even if he is not quite so intentional as she. I know Clinton will hit her target; Trump could misfire, try again, misfire again, and by the time all is said and done, there could be four bodies on the ground when there might have only been one. Worse yet: Trump will fire with the tacit approval – however reluctant – of the rotting carcass of the Evangelical Christian voting body. So I will write in someone else and suffer the likely election of Hillary Clinton.
If Clinton is nominated, she might be the worst president ever. I get that. Losing legs ain’t exactly a feel good solution. But if I honestly believes that the only possible solution to righting this country is through genuine repentance before God, widespread revival in the Church and in the various institutions of society, and by returning through a God-opened passage a la’ the Red Sea to truly conservative principles, than for me to nominate Trump represents as clear a betrayal of those goals as I could ever conceive.
Grudem and many others look at the options before them and choose the supposed “lesser of two evils” because they are viewing their action in the short-term. I concede to them that any vote not cast for Trump, though still not counting as a vote for Clinton like some falsely claim, will likely lead to her victory. But my refusal to do something evil does not make me morally responsible for other people choosing another evil. Contrary tot he common belief, you are not actually damned both ways.
You can vote for a write-in, or vote for everyone else on the ballot, and in so doing, make a vote for something different. If Clinton brings four years of terror on America, it would be worth it, if the utter collapse of the Republican party and this despicable imitation of “Christianity” is finally swept away and replaced with something genuine and principled. It would be worth it if a third party rises up that more accurately reflects the desires of citizens who refuse to settle for poison, whether it is served in blonde toupees or with a side of glass-ceiling smashing.
I am not God, nor can I predict what God will bring about up to and through this election and eventual presidency. I can only, as Grudem reminded us, trust God, seek His will and “seek the welfare of the city” in which we are currently exiled. Grudem says we do this best by voting for Trump. Some say it is by voting for Clinton. But the best way I know how to love this country right now is by voting on principle, even if it means letting the nation take a shot to the leg. And though only God knows, that painful bullet to shin may produce just the right amount of shock and clarity this nation needs to rouse itself before it loses its heart.