Two days ago, I posted an excellent piece by Dan Phillips on whether Christians should vote for Mitt Romney (duh!), or rather sit this one out (i.e., support Obama) or vote third party (again, i.e., support Obama).
We keep coming back to this issue of “the lesser of two evils”, a strawman if there ever were one. Purists in assorted third parties constantly invoke it, as do plenty of Evangelical and Reformed activists. Presented as they present it, their argument is sound.
But what does the Bible say? And what did God direct His people to do in similar situations?
Let’s take a look. My additional comments (originally by private email) below:
Actually, let me expand on one point just a bit. Dan Phillips rightly notes that the whole “lesser of two evils” argument is antithetical to Christianity — we, believing that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, have no opportunity to EVER vote for anyone who is NOT evil: we have ONLY the opportunity for “the lesser of two evils”, or more accurately “the better of two choices” — and denying this is in effect embracing humanism. This is the fundamental flaw in the “perfectionist” position.
But we don’t have to abstract this. We do have precedent. Israel was not an absolute monarchy, but a primitive federal republic. So let’s consider a few of their elections.
1. Should the tribal elders (Israel’s electoral college) have voted for Absolom the usurper — who was undeniably taking better care of the interests of the people than the King — or should they have voted for David, the adulterous murderer who had cast out Absolom for rendering the justice to Amnon which his father the King would not?
==> NOTA BENE: the modern “perfectionist” position would be to sit out this election, OR to find a third candidate; but this was NOT God’s position.
2. Should the tribal elders have backed Adonijah, the rightful heir by line of descent and rank in the succession, and whom we are told was never once rebuked by the King; or should they have backed Solomon, born of adultery and far, far down the line of succession, simply because a bunch of insiders wanted it that way?
==> AGAIN: the modern “perfectionist” position would almost have to select Adonijah. God chose Solomon.
3. As I mentioned previously, should the tribal elders have selected the idolater Jeroboam, or the tyrant Rehoboam? And was “sitting out” this election a valid option? (Obvious answer: no.)
Now in the first two examples, there’s an actual question, and if you think about it, had you been on the ground, lacking the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and any direct revelation from a prophet, you are lying to yourself if you claim you would have known with certainty the right thing to do. The second case is especially difficult since it involves no overthrow of the King, and since the King had not given any reason for any of the public to believe he was establishing an unorthodox succession (one which most of us, absent special revelation, would denounce as illegitimate).
This is actually the whole point of those examples: that those claiming “one must never vote for Romney” frankly are ignoring the testimony of Scripture, because the Scripture is pretty clear that God comes out of left field on this sort of thing a lot more often than we’d like to think, in the pursuit of a much bigger plan than we easily perceive. Childlike faith in the Lord’s anointed would have gotten you the right answer in one of these cases but not both, and would have gotten you the wrong answer earlier when David was anointed over Judah, Simeon and Benjamin, but not over the northern tribes, over which Saul continued to rule with the blessing of the elders. To the degree an answer could easily be discerned in these cases, one would have to find it through a combination of wisdom (like the Sons of Issachar) and prayer: law alone would get you nowhere.
Now let’s take the third case. There’s a clear answer here, and we all agree: Rehoboam was God’s man. But wait: Rehoboam was only “the lesser of two evils”! He provoked the northern tribes to revolt through what can only be called abject tyranny. He was a fool, who listened to fools. Yes, Jeroboam was a usurper, but God had only promised the throne to David’s descendants so long as they kept His commandments, and Solomon had already strayed hopelessly from that path; moreover, had not David been a usurper too — certainly not of the House of Saul — and was not Jeroboam promised the throne by God Himself? There is a clear answer for sure. But it’s VERY messy.
Is that not exactly where we are today?
Obama is a usurper, raised to the throne by God Himself (for surely no man can take the throne any other way). But this does not entitle him to it, nor does it excuse his acts. He is a tyrant, he brushes away the law as though so many gnats, and he seeks to destroy all of the works of the righteous if not the righteous themselves. He puts Islam and Marxist theory in the “high places”, and forces or cajoles all to bow down.
Probably like Rehoboam, Romney does not believe in our God as we do. But he stands against those who would sweep away religious freedoms which apply equally to his faith and ours. He has clearly done things in office we cannot abide — like Rehoboam — but by no means does he seek to sweep away the foundations of our nation in the manner of Obama & Jeroboam. You can argue all you wish about specific issues, but in that regard, Romney is far Rehoboam’s superior: he has now run not once but twice on a platform that could have been written by Ronald Reagan. If it is all lies, we at least can say with honor we voted for the promises, not the breaking of them; and we voted against the breaking of all our country’s heritage and covenants as represented by Obama.
But just as then, the one thing we cannot do is sit it out. In Christ’s words, “the lukewarm I spit out of my mouth.” On that day, you either stood with Rehoboam or Jeroboam. Both were awful. Both were an enormous let down from what had recently been. Both were beneath what the faithful wanted, though perhaps more than many in Israel deserved.
Yet there WAS a right answer. It was a literal lesser of two evils. But it was right. And if you did not stand with it, you stood against God Himself.
With Romney, our faith is unthreatened. With Obama, our faith most likely will be deeply restricted if not banned over the next few years: the groundwork is already laid with his assault on the Catholics, and in Canada, the speech codes already exist banning the preaching of texts like Romans 1. You can argue all you want about the jots and tittles of Romney’s time as governor, but you cannot argue that Romney has sought to close our Bibles: Obama has, and will, and given enough opportunity to appoint judges, will succeed.
There’s not a lot more to it to this for me.
Now, if anyone has a verse telling me I may only vote for “perfection” or some personal idea of same, I’ll be very interested to read it. Again, that’s not what God asked of His people when they had a vote in the Old Testament (nor even an opportunity He provided to them); nor is it what He demanded of them individually when He sent Esther and Mordecai and Joseph and Obadiah and Nehemiah and plenty of others into wicked governments at home and abroad; nor is it anything vaguely like what He suggests in Romans 13.
The fact is, government by Christians is a privilege, for us and for the unbeliever. We should count it as a comparatively rare blessing, historically speaking, although one our system allows us to work toward and for at all times. But our system is a Republic: we only get what a majority wants, and we have to persuade that majority, we have no right to its votes. God does have a right to everyone’s votes, of course, but we are not God and should not confuse ourselves with Him. So while some of my friends get quite irate at the state of things, I cannot, though I can be frustrated and saddened and reinvigorated to fight again tomorrow: irate implies I have a right to something, and the fact is that if I am insufficiently persuasive toward our countrymen, I am not “entitled” to their votes.
How do we persuade them? Activism of course, and church planting even more so: the one deals with the immediate, the other lays a better foundation for the future of our country and of civilization.
But the point is, we do have a duty to persuade. I am disgusted and permanently at enmity with the corrupt forces that too often run our Party, but I do not blame them for being what they are, or those who vote for them either: I have not done MY job of persuading them, or at least those who would vote them out. We should spend less time accusing others and more time examining self. I do not say that in a touchy-feely reflective way that would impede action: quite the contrary. I say that to provoke action. If we were doing our job, and particularly if we were reaching the lost all around us, these issues would not be facing us.
Indeed, if the church had been doing its job this past century, we would not have lacked a godly government at any point.