The lesser of two evils?

The Presidential election is coming up and once again Americans have a difficult decision to make. Do we vote for Barack Obama? Do we vote for John McCain? Do we vote for a third party candidate? Do we write in a candidate? Finally, do we simply sit by and not vote at all? From a biblical perspective I am convinced that it is our obligation to vote and to vote for someone who reflects biblical values. Recently in a conversation with my dad, we were discussing the church’s obligation to vote for someone who reflects godly values. The refrain that I consistently hear from believers is that they may not love any candidate, but they will vote for the “lesser of two evils” in order to not “waste their vote”. This is an interesting thought process, and honestly, is one that I embraced for a while. The problem arises when it is pointed out, as my father lovingly did, that to do so is to admit that you are voting for evil, albeit “less” evil than you might otherwise vote for.

As believers we need to think and pray deeply about the upcoming election. We need to evaluate each candidate, not against each other, but against God’s Word. If a candidate is found that is suitable to consider voting for, do so. At the same time, if you are convinced that none of the candidates are viable, biblicallly, than write a candidate in. You might argue that to do so is to waste your vote. I would strongly disagree. Remember America is not our home, our allegiance is ultimately to the Kingdom of God and not to an earthly political process. To vote in amanner that would reflect the most politically expedient option is to unfortunately believe that pragmatism, rather than holiness, is our highest aim.

Our goal is to please God, and not man. It’s often difficult, in our political climate, to remember that. I’ll be honest with you that I have not decided, at this point, how I am going to vote. I am convinced, however, that I will study and pray and I will vote this year for the candidate that most reflects my commitment to God and His word, even if that means writing in the name that I think be represents those characteristics.

What do you think?

Micah is a husband to Tracy & a daddy to Grace, Kessed & Haddon. He’s Senior Pastor at Brainerd Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN. Most of all, he’s a debtor to grace.

28 thoughts on “The lesser of two evils?

  1. Micah, well said. I think one of the most difficult aspects of voting today is finding out what the candidate really believes. We live in a world of sound bites and orchestrated press releases.

    As a pro-lifer it is interesting to me that so many, even from the prolife movement, are considering voting for Obama. We have never had a national candidate who is as markedly against the pro-life movement as Obama. He is not even willing to vote for a law outlawing partial birth abortion. The fact is Obama makes John Kerry look like a conservative in many areas and yet he is leading in all the polls.

    The sad truth is, in my opinion, the voting public, whether Christ followers or not, seem to vote based upon how the candidate looks and sounds verses what they actually day and do or have done.

  2. I think that is one of your more thought-provoking posts. What you point out about pragmatism is significant. Pragmatism is often the enemy of morality (it’s easier to lie, steal, kill, bed-hop, etc.).

    Still, I struggle with the idea that the candidate that I really don’t want to win might win by one vote, which I cast for a highly respectable but third-party/write-in candidate.

  3. Dennis-

    I struggle with the same thoughts about a single vote. The question in response that, as I see it, is primarily two-fold. First, do we sincerely trust God’s sovereignty in all things, even in the election of our leaders? Secondly, do we really hold allegiance to God to be of greater significance than our allegiance to our government process? If we trust God in both of these areas I think we must vote for values and godliness and allow the chips to fall where they may.

    I know many will disagree with my sentiment, however.

  4. Micah, I do trust in God’s sovereignty, to the extent that HE wants one of these two to be president. My task is to figure out which one He wants me to vote for.

    God used Pilate to paint a sign that said “Jesus .. King of the Jews”, which he refused to change after being challenged by a guard. The sign pointed one thief to salvation, which I don’t think Pilate intended.

    There’s nothing to say He wants a Godly man running our country. We do well enough getting that sort to run SBC Institutions.

    When we do.

  5. One commentator I enjoy reading says our country may ultimately be better off by going through four years of the worse candidate so that in the next election voters will react against that.

  6. Bob, I have to disagree with your statement that God wants one of “these two to be president.” It very well could be true but only if we believe we must vote for only one of the two mainline candidates. While it is true that we have two primary parties that present candidates in each election cycle it is a self imposed restriction to only choose between the democrat or republican candidate. Since He has placed us in a country where we can dissent from the two parties and actually vote for whoever we want…write in, we are free from the two party system.

    Again, this is my opinion, but I think many voters feel they must vote or should vote for someone who can win. Winning then becomes more important than righteousness. Even the candidates admit this when, after being in battle against each other, they come together “for the good of the party.” That is why people will vote, many times, for someone that is completely opposite of their own views but is from their party. It is also the reason many give for voting for the “lesser of two evils.”

    The great news is, as you pointed out Bob, God is sovereign and uses both the ungodly and the Godly to carry out His will.

  7. Bob (and Paul)-

    I would take your statement a bit further. First, I would agree with you that God is sovereign over the election. I would also clarify, however, that I don’t speak for God and I have no idea who He wants as President. I would argue then, in light of that, that I have an obligation to vote in such a way that I would please Him with my behavior and let Him be sovereign over the election process. That way He continues to be sovereign over the election and I continue to be faithful in my commitment to Him.

  8. dear bro. Micah, I find this post to be one of the most challenging posts I’ve read on this subject and hope all Christians will read it. I agree with your statement:
    “as I see it, is primarily two-fold. First, do we sincerely trust God’s sovereignty in all things, even in the election of our leaders? Secondly, do we really hold allegiance to God to be of greater significance than our allegiance to our government process? If we trust God in both of these areas I think we must vote for values and godliness and allow the chips to fall where they may.”

    When you punctuated that point with your response to Bob (and Paul): ” I have an obligation to vote in such a way that I would please Him with my behavior and let Him be sovereign over the election process. That way He continues to be sovereign over the election and I continue to be faithful in my commitment to Him.”

    I see this not as who is going to win but Whom are we really voting for with our privilege and right to vote. Until the Lord so annoints with oil the head of one of the candidates, I cannot in all good conscience say I’d vote for either. I definitely will not be voting for Obama, so that leaves me with three other options: McCain, another on the ballot, or my write-in. I do not take my write-in as valueless. God will honor me and protect me and mine no matter what when I honor and reverently abide in Him and follow His righteousness.

    So we get placed in a fiery furnace, a lion’s den, a field of Philistines…who cares! God is Sovereign and is just as able to keep us as He kept the saints of old. Praise His Holy Name! selahV

  9. About #6 – I understand where that argument is coming from, but it’s not like we can just start with a fresh slate 4 years down the road. Those Supreme Court Justices are there for life, and that’s one reason I’m taking this so seriously. I don’t have a horse in this race yet, but I’m praying that will change. And if it doesn’t then I’m thankful, as Micah pointed out, America isn’t my forever home.

  10. Another thought on this subject – it would be right to work for the defeat of a candidate who has the potential (the objective) to do great harm (like, for instance, supporting further abortion “rights”).

    As I recall, I had a similar quandry at the primary. I was able to tell my ten-year-old daughter that I ended up voting for the candidate I thought was the best choice and not the one others were saying had a better chance of winning if we didn’t split our votes.

  11. I would consider a write in vote. I am disappointed with the choices we have this year and as of now do not think I could in all good conscience vote for either one. Harriette hit on something with what she said in the last part of her comment that also got me thinking.

    I’m glad you wrote this post Micah. I know I seriously considered not voting this year, but other options that you have posted here do have me thinking. I’m sure we are not alone in our dilemma.

  12. Micah –

    I am glad that you are thinking through this seriously, and not merely checking a box out of habit, and agree that all Christians should do the same.

    However, I would disagree that a pragmatic vote for the “lesser of two evils” is inherently wrong. In an imperfect world we are given only imperfect choices. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us; “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” So, even in a “perfect” election we are going to vote for an “evil,” and must necessarily vote the lesser of those evils. Such is the sad reality of a fallen world.

    No one outside of Christ is going to reflect the values of God perfectly, and outside of me, no one is going to reflect my values perfectly. So the only recourse I have is to vote for the candidate that most closely reflects those values. And trust the sovereignty of God beyond that.

  13. John D & Bob Cleveland – Agreed.

    When Jesus runs for office then I’ll vote for Him. Until that time I’ll have to vote for for whichever politically posturing pagan best reflects a direction of goodness for the nation that will result in a context that makes for living a peaceful life of service to the Lord.

    Good post, Micah.

  14. Micah,

    I don’t understand why many conservative evangelicals feel as if they must vote for a candidate (whether for President or a local sheriff) “who reflects godly values.” Do you take the same position when it comes to choosing a cardiac surgeon, a lawyer, a plumber, or a barber? No! Most people just want someone with experience and training to do the job!

    There’s nothing in the constitution that requires a president to give allegiance to God at all; and our obligations as Christians are to submit, to give respect, and to honor the elected officials who rule over us (1 Peter 2:13-17). Paul even says they are God’s servants, ordained by Him and granted the power to govern for our good (Romans 13:1-7).

    Maybe it’s too difficult for Christians to assess a candidate’s ability to govern; therefore, the election becomes a “spiritual beauty pageant” where the person with the most “godly values” wins the vote of evangelical Christians. I don’t need someone sitting in the Oval Office who thinks exactly like I do on a laundry list of moral issues: I want someone who can lead the nation in what has to be the most complex and difficult environment on the planet.

    Writing in a candidate IS a wasted vote, in my opinion, and simply a form of protest against our present party system that has chosen ballot contenders for our nation’s entire history. You might as well not vote.

    Or you could do your homework, choose the best candidate, and trust Paul’s words in Romans 13:1, “The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Pray for that leader while serving his/her term, whether Republican, Democrat, or independent.

  15. Bill-

    Interesting thoughts. As I said, I’m still walking through this process in my own mind and trying to think biblically about my obligation to vote. I would offer that I think there is a fundamental difference between someone chosen to run a government and someone chosen to perform heart surgery, but I admit that I could be wrong. 🙂

    John Daly-

    While I appreciate your optimism, and I hope that you are right about the potential of Roe V. Wade being overturned, I continue to find it highly unlikely that it will ever happen, regardless of the judges who are appointed. I hope my skepticism hasn’t overtaken my ability to reason, but that’s where I am at unfortunately.

  16. I disagree with Bill’s premise that we are (should be?) indiscriminate about who we hire for various jobs except in their ability to do that job. I look for people from my church for things I need done. And I know that here in the KC area at least, there is a “yellow pages” called “The Shepherd’s Guide” that lists businesses that profess to be Christian. In terms of hiring people, it (hopefully) lessens the chances that you’ll be cheated, and the money should be going to better places (like a local church instead of a local bar).

    With our government leaders, non-Christians and even some who would profess to be Christians have a completely different world-view. They may be a great leader, but that world-view will affect their decisions.

  17. Micah: I’m not so sure we have an “obligation” to vote. We have the opportunity to exercise a privilege that some citizens only dream about (Zimbabwe comes to mind), but I wouldn’t want to heap legalistic burdens on those who choose not to vote. That too, is a freedom we enjoy.

    Dennis: Oh no! Please tell me you’re just kidding with the “Christian ghetto” or “Christian bubble” mentality. Why don’t we all just move to Utah, set up a “Christians only” community, and sing “Kum Ba Yah” in our wonderfully artificial world. 😉 We can just let all those nice, hard-working, honest (but unsaved) plumbers, doctors, retailers go to hell without ever rubbing shoulders with a real Christian—since we have our “Shepherd’s Guide” (what a blasphemous title) to provide all that we need.

  18. Bill-

    Fair enough. I don’t think I can textually argue against that premise.

    As an aside, this has been a great dialogue. This is a good example of helpful blogging. It’s a bit refreshing after too many experiences of people simply yelling at each other. 🙂

  19. Charlie K: I don’t see how that quotation has any relevance to the situation we’re discussing: it’s quite absurd and meaningless, in my opinion. If the quote was, “I’d rather have a third-rate fireman than a born-again rookie who can’t find a fire hydrant,” then I would agree completely (in fact, it would make my point).

    Your second statement denigrates the office of President of the United States, trivializing every complex and gut-wrenching decision made in the Oval Office. Although the outcome of Roe v. Wade is mind-blowing and tragic from an evangelical perspective, that one issue does not define any political office, especially the presidency. It’s symptomatic of the depravity that runs through every level of American culture and it’s NOT something that one man can fix in four years.

  20. Charlie K: I would happily retract any word, phrase or sentence that you believe sounds arrogant, if you will simply point me in the right direction. It was not my intention to sound that way. However, if you’re just upset that I questioned your comments or you just don’t have a reasonable defense for your remarks, then there’s nothing I can do about that. I stand behind my comments and I am willing to explain, defend, or even apologize for anything I write in such a public forum.

  21. Bill L: I was in agreement with you until the end. . . you did sound a bit arrogant there with the “absurd and meaningless” comment. Other than that. . .I agree with most all of your comments.

    I live in a foreign country where people elect a President then throw him out in a repeated cycle because they are awaiting a Messiah-type candidate who will “save” their country. When the president here fails, he is often forcibly, violently removed from office. There’s only one true Messiah, and He doesn’t need to run for office!

    Think about it. . . if we lived in Bible times, would we vote for David–an adulterer and murderer? Solomon–a womanizer? There are flaws in every man. None of us are perfect.

    I don’t know exactly what I will do this election. But sometimes God works in ways we don’t understand. I’m NOT voting for Obama, but beyond that, I’m not sure. McCain, maybe? I don’t know.

    Dennis (and everybody else): I have lots of friends who love the “Shepherd’s Guide” thing, and I don’t mean to insult anyone unnecessarily. But a gentle scolding, maybe? Make it a matter of prayer, seriously. Jesus was IN this world. He rubbed shoulders with outcasts and said that if someone cheated us we should give them even more (total paraphrase there, but you know what I’m saying, right?). He ate with tax collectors/ prostitutes/ etc.. How will you ever reach the world if you don’t know anyone who’s not saved? More important than how we vote–and this is VERY VERY important–is how we love our neighbors. Read that over and over and let it sink in. Sometimes voting is the easy thing, when God is calling us to more than that.

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