This article originally appeared in Volume VI of tBR, our monthly, subscription publication. We thought it might serve greater purposes if it was more readily accessible – so here we are.
The Presidential election is quite close. You can tell both by the calendar and the aggregate tweet content of soft evangelicals excusing Christians who vote far-left. As that last sentence implies, I’m here to tell you how to vote next month. I realize that this is not a very evangelical thing to do – I should write an ambiguous article affirming broad truths that allow you to justify whatever your ballot choice will be. Six paragraphs of “God hates infanticide, but He also expects rulers to have integrity. So vote your conscience.” Rough draft, edit one, proposal, edit two, final revision, publication, tag the Gospel Coalition.
There would be nothing risky in an article like that, and consequently nothing substantial. I want to actually say something – the kind of something that draws lines, makes distinctions, and proposes definitions – something that can be disagreed with, refuted, and shared on Facebook with a disapproving emoji. That kind of something means I can’t be ambiguous. It also means I have to be relevant. Imagine a German pastor preaching a series on financial responsibility at the height of the Third Reich. Or imagine a swath of ministers who, in the wake of Obergefell, finish 2015 with a sound demonstration of the Doctrines of Grace in the Gospel of John, yet make no application in their expositions to the landmark, societal plunge into depravity. Teaching sound doctrine is not enough. You must teach every sound doctrine, which includes hot topics. In fact, the hot topics warrant more time and energy, because they are the contemporary point of confusion and rebellion.
So, as previously stated, I’m going to tell you how to vote next month. In brief, you should vote for the honorable Donald J. Trump. Conversely, you should not vote for Joe Biden. Not voting for Trump could be chocked up to well-intended confusion. However, voting for Biden would be immoral and wrong, at best a costly mistake, at very best culpable ignorance, but fundamentally sinful, and definitely not good. Now, with qualifications laid and my objective unmasked, let’s begin.
Voting and Coalitions
Democracy comes in various forms, but practically speaking, it pivots on the fundamental practice of election. Democratic societies are generally ruled by elected officials. Of course, this does not mean we always get what we want – in fact, it ensures that we often do not. There are always more than two options, and even when there are only two, you may walk away thinking, “Is that it?” Say three people ran for the office of mayor. Among the possible election scenarios is a 40-30-30 division of votes, where most voters chose someone other than the new mayor.
We typically associate voting with outright preference. You are free to vote for whomever you wish, and so the candidate who receives your vote naturally must be the man you want for the job, with no qualifications. Of all contenders, you voted for the man you liked the most, or who you believed would do the best job. I admit that this is the natural implication of democratic elections, but we must now pull away the facade. Voting may, but does not necessarily, designate the candidate you prefer.
In addition to voting, every democracy also involves coalitions. A coalition is a united political front, comprised of people who don’t agree on everything – perhaps even most things – but who are likeminded enough to work together for the time being. Coalitions are inevitably defined by the moral landscape of the nation. In a time of national holiness, coalitions may distinguish themselves by splitting hairs. In a time of national unholiness, coalitions naturally distinguish themselves by vast worldview disagreement.
Every democracy forms coalitions. The question is, “When are the coalitions formed?” Democracies such as Great Britain and Israel form their coalitions after the vote – post-electoral coalitions. If an elected official fails to form a favorable coalition after the vote, another election is held. We are familiar with a different system in the United States: pre-electoral coalitions. There is no period of coalition-formation after the voting is closed. These agreements to work together must be made before election day. I’m not here to argue whether post- or pre-electoral coalitions are preferable (I lean toward post, but am mostly indifferent). Right now, I’m simply pointing out that coalitions are real and necessary. Pretending they don’t exist is like pretending you don’t have to put oil in your car. It’s simply not the way cars and democracies work. How are pre-electoral coalitions formed? Through endorsements, which are public agreements to vote for a particular candidate.
Notice how these two methods of coalition formation change the meaning of voting. In post-electoral coalitions, the vote is literally concerned with who you would like to see in office. You are not factoring in any details other than which of the candidates you believe will be best. Your vote manifests who you prefer. Contrary to this, in pre-electoral coalitions, the vote is only partially concerned with who you would like to see in office. Fundamentally, your vote manifests which of the viable candidates you prefer to work with. Your vote does not necessarily reveal who, among all running candidates, you believe would be best. This is because the coalitions are formed before the vote is cast. This is perhaps best on display in political conventions, when various candidates acquiesce to another and encourage their supporters to do the same with their future votes. Therefore, an endorsement in pre-electoral coalitions is not the same thing as an endorsement in post-electoral coalitions.
Inevitably, pre-electoral coalitions demand we consider the feasibility of a candidate. Imagine that you need a bridge built. So you arrange a conference and fill the room with six potential contractors, all of whom are vying for the chance to build your bridge. You prefer contractor #4, but upon further discussion you realize that he does not have sufficient tools or laborers to complete the bridge. What should you do? The choice is obvious, I think: no matter how much you prefer #4, you’ll have to make do with another, because #4 cannot build the bridge. In the same way, pre-electoral coalitions demand that we consider the feasibility of a candidate: that is, his possibility of winning the election. Your vote manifests which of the viable candidates you prefer to work with. There may be ten names on the ballot, but you know that only x, y, and z actually have a chance at winning. A reasonable voter takes note of this and chooses among those three.
What factors should be considered when voting in pre-electoral coalitions? We are not approaching this question from a man-centered, relativistic worldview. We have to answer in the light of Scripture. So consider the following: morality, responsibility, capability, feasibility. These four characteristics should inform our democratic voting habits.
- Morality: the candidate’s personal character, including temperament, promiscuity, and honesty. Solomon’s lust for women exemplified a civil magistrate of poor morality (1 Kings 11).
- Responsibility: the candidate’s federal viability, which is his willingness to be accountable and fight the good fight. David’s leadership in fighting Israel’s enemies exemplified a civil magistrate of good responsibility (2 Samuel 6).
- Capability: the candidate’s skill to fulfill the magisterial role for which he is running. Solomon’s great wisdom exemplified a civil magistrate of good capability (1 Kings 3).
- Feasibility: the candidate’s chance of success in an election (i.e. to form a coalition). We are hard-pressed to find examples of democracy in Scripture, but Christ’s logic will suffice here: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” (Luke 14:28).
The 2020 Presidential Election
The cunning reader will already know what I’m about to say, so I’ll go ahead and say it. Simply put, you should vote for Donald J. Trump next month because he wins out by the above fourfold metric. Trump possesses the greatest aggregate score among the four categories of morality, responsibility, capability, and feasibility. The fourth category (i.e. the candidate’s chance of success in an election) is the kicker, the Gideon test of scooping water with the hand. There are men more moral, responsible, and capable than Trump at executing the office of President, and who would be willing to fill said office. However, all such candidates fail the test of feasibility: they don’t have the man-power or tools to build the bridge. They don’t have enough money to complete the tower. Realistically, we all know that only one of two people will be President of the United States next year: Donald J. Trump or Kamala Harris. Gack! I mean, Joe Biden.
John MacArthur’s argument for why he voted for Trump in 2016 holds out here. Running between Trump and Biden is a line called “worldview.” The Biden Coalition (BC) wants the Biblical worldview of “one nation under God” stricken from our courthouses, our homes, and even our history books. BC wants to permit, perpetrate, and promote the genocide of our children. For the children who survive, BC wants to become supreme educator. In brief, BC calls for an outright abandonment of God, which seems eerily familiar (hint: Romans 1). In contrast, the Trump Coalition (TC) explicitly stands for the necessity of what most call a “Judeo-Christian Worldview.” TC is intent on stopping the genocide and wicked indoctrination of our children. In brief, TC is calling for the maintenance of at least some semblance of Coram Deo, life in the presence of God, our Creator.
“But Trump is on-board with the LGBTQ+ agenda.” He seems to be, but this gets at the nature of coalitions. If the U.S. is going to repent, she will have to reinstitute laws against sodomy. But she will also have to do a hundred other things, and speaking of feasibility, I am perfectly fine with tackling a few issues at a time. Further, I prefer to handle the most important, urgent matters first, and I unashamedly submit to you that the ongoing slaughter of babies in abortion mills is a more pressing issue than dialing back the sodomy clock.
“But Trump is a meany.” Certainly, and he’s also hot-headed, prideful, and seemingly unapologetic for past immoralities. First, this gets back to the “feasibility” category, because the question is not whether Trump is or isn’t perfect, the question is whether or not Biden is more perfecter, and hopefully we’re all up-to-speed enough to know the answer to that conundrum. Second, I think the real problem evangelicals have with Trump is his masculinity. He needs to get a handle on his temper. He needs to learn more self-control. He needs to be humble, especially before God. However, all in all, the man is masculine, and he takes his masculinity into the oval office, into the United Nations, into the press meetings, and into the Twitter-verse.
Qualifications, of course: I’m not talking about his sins (already mentioned). What I’m talking about is his refusal to back down from a fight. He unabashedly stands upon a Biblical worldview – whether or not he actually believes and loves it is another thing, but it is clear enough that he is standing on it. He presents a posture of strength, of stoutness, of unapologetic “act like a man-ness.” That is a good thing, which we need more of – not his brashness or any of his other sins, but his simple, albeit raw, masculinity. So, at the very least, TC has the upper hand on BC when it comes to knowing what a man is.
And that’s the problem I think evangelicals have with Trump. Most Christians in this country are not used to seeing a grown man step into the pulpit and stand on doctrine unapologetically – not sinfully, but stoutly all the same. Most Christians in this country are not used to having a father who steps into the authority he has over the home, to be responsible for every nook and cranny. We’re more accustomed to the seminary eunuch who can preach for a decade without getting into any controversies. We’re used to the good-ole-boy who can look like Paul Bunyan in the pulpit, but only behind the veil of a topic everyone already agrees on. We know the politicians who give generic speeches about generic promises and ideals, but we aren’t so familiar with men who actually say something, who actually stand somewhere and don’t move when the snowflakes start complaining.
In brief, evangelicals are having a difficult time seeing Samson in the hall of faith. He was a brash, immoral son-of-a-gun who couldn’t put the lid on his temper. He was the kind of guy whose tweets made you groan, “Would someone just take his phone away?” And yet, Hebrews 11:32-34 is still in there. I’m not interested in buying a Donald J. Trump bobble head, or getting behind his podium at one of those fiery speeches, or frankly ever seeing him in office again. I am, however, very interested in the coalition he has formed behind him, a group of conservative-leaning Americans who aren’t quite ready to be “one nation under Marx.” If God has mercy on us in the next decade and the Communist wave is withstood, there will be other fights to be had. In those fights, I will not be on the same team/coalition as many “Republicans.” But for today, while the commie aliens are burning down Portland, I’m willing to set my rifle down beside a liberal Roman Catholic, or a remarkably conservative atheist, or a virtuous Muslim. The lawn needs to be mowed, I understand – but that putrid smell in your nostrils is a housefire, and that should probably be addressed first.