A video entitled "FaithTrumpsFear" seems to be making its rounds on social media. It's appeared with glowing recommendations on The Resurgent, RedState, Caffeinated Thoughts, and even captures the personal view of the Southern Baptist Convention's Pastors' Conference president, Dave Miller: "Is it time we started viewing things differently? For me, it is. this video encapsulates my view."1
Produced by a small video production company in Austin, Texas run by CEO, Paul Hastings (who is featured in the video), the reason indicated making it was because that by voting for Donald Trump, evangelicals are allegedly suggesting "that values no longer mattered. It was incredibly disheartening to hear many of my Christian friends begin repeating what these leaders were saying. That we needed to support Trump because he was the only hope we have to stop Hillary."
Check out Hastings' video.
Responding to #FaithTrumpsFear
Of course, as we've noted several times here and on Facebook, evangelicals voting for Trump have not remotely suggested that "values no longer mattered." In fact, Christian values remain at the heart of evangelicals who are voting Trump, values like concern for the unborn; a free church in a free state; immigration reform; affordable but functional healthcare for all people; a strong military; a supported military; protected borders; among many, many others. To suggest Trump voters tossed Christian values aside to vote Trump is both false and roundly absurd.
Nor do evangelicals affirm Trump as the only hope to stop Hillary Clinton. God is God, and being an All-powerful God He is able to stop Clinton or Trump from being POTUS in any way consistent with His holy character He desires. It does stand to reason that Trump is the only political hope in stopping Clinton from taking the White House. We'd invite Hastings or any other to argue differently. What's more, apparently Hastings isn't aware that he's advocating the only way to stop Clinton or Trump from being POTUS is to vote for somebody else. But if evangelicals deserve criticism in voting for Trump to stop Clinton, why does voting for a third candidate to stop Trump and Clinton not also deserve the same criticism? Where's Hastings' faith in God instead of a third candidate?
My major reservations about Hastings' video do not concern his plea to vote his conscience. Most every evangelical voting for Trump whom I know or have read has not a scintilla of reluctance in offering the same courtesy to non-Trump voters as they themselves expect. Apart from perhaps a few examples on the peripheral, there's simply no debate here. And anyone suggesting otherwise needs to produce the goods or stop insisting something that's entirely false. Namely, that Trump voters are pushing non-Trump voters to vote against their conscience.
So, what's wrong with Hastings' view as he presented it in the video?
Below are some highlights (embolden) in Hastings' video and my response following:
Is it possible as Christians that God has a higher calling on our lives than voting for either of two candidates who are so completely hostile to His commands? [...] We are not called to choose the lesser of two evils, we are called to holiness. In response, while Hastings rightly suggests believers are "called to holiness," he wrongly implies that a) voting and/or voting incorrectly is an unholy act; b) voting for a candidate who does not meet our moral expectations is an unholy act; c) that the "lesser of two evils" view contains no moral force whatsoever; d) that the "higher calling of God" demands we vote neither Trump nor Clinton. Not a single one of Hastings' assumptions remains inarguable.2
God desires the trust of His people more than their strategies. Agreed. But if voting for Donald Trump necessarily implies distrust in God, then voting for any candidate for any public office holding any view necessarily implies distrust in God. Even if we vote for a candidate that matches our views of America and the Christian faith in every way possible, it could always be suggested that the voter is attempting to do God's work for Him thus forfeiting faith. If it is replied, "Well, God doesn't want us to sit back and not participate in voting for key individuals for public office," then how is voting for key people we find acceptable for public office rather than unacceptable for public office not a strategy itself? But if voting for a particular candidate according to what he or she believes is a strategic maneuver itself, then why is this not trusting strategy more than God? Hastings remains fundamentally contradictory at this point.
He desires our personal obedience more than he desires us to speculate about whoever the next Supreme Court justice may be [...] Yet, even then, He will still remain in control no matter who sits in the White House, no matter who rules in the courthouse, a higher King should rule in our hearts. Again, Hastings is assuming personal obedience because of a "higher King" ruling our hearts means not voting for Donald Trump (or Clinton). In addition, Hastings implies speculating about who will be on the bench of the Supreme Court somehow goes against personal obedience to God. Is Hastings suggesting who is on the high court bench should not be a valid concern of evangelicals?
Hastings' political naivete, youthful inexperience, and contradictory moral argument finally surface for all to see. While Hastings is an outstanding young communicator, his message remains one of the most vacuous--both intellectually and politically-- I've personally encountered concerning the 2016 presidential election. Hastings should stick to what he's good at--producing quality videos rather than offering political advice or moral theory.
Thus, for evangelicals to uncritically host Hastings' video on their sites--not to mention the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference president to state that Hastings' view "encapsulates" his view--remains embarrassing concerning the division over voting for Donald Trump.
Here's the bottom line.
On the one hand, we ought to encourage every evangelical to vote according to his or her conscience. No exceptions. That's what's being an American is--freedom. And it's certainly what it means to be an evangelical--at least being a Baptist evangelical.
On the other hand, we should take full exception with any evangelical--including Paul Hastings, Dave Miller, Russell Moore, or Al Mohler--insisting or implying in some way that a vote for Donald Trump necessarily sacrifices Christian integrity and/or surrenders one's desire to follow God's highest calling upon one's life.
1Since traditionally, most of the attenders at the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors' Conference have been advocates of the old "Religious Right" so to speak, and therefore have been assumed by Russell Moore and others as being the chief voting block for Donald Trump, I'm wondering how they are going to take to the president of the 2017 Pastors' Conference summarily indicating their vote for Trump as being an unholy alliance with the kingdoms of this world that compromises Christian integrity and shames the Christian church (though Miller did not say this himself, he nonetheless implies it when he says of Hastings' video, "this video encapsulates my view"). Personally, I don't think most of the pastors traditionally attending the conference would appreciate that and perhaps may even demonstrate it by ignoring the 2017 Pastors' Conference over which Miller is president.
2In response to
- a) voting wrongly is an unholy act--this assumption is absurd. All of us have voted wrongly at times in our lives, and to assume we sinned in doing so makes no moral sense whatever.
- b) voting for a candidate who does not meet our moral expectations is an unholy act--no candidate outside of Jesus could fit.
- c) that the "lesser of two evils" view contains no moral force whatsoever--Hastings among other evangelicals I've considered have no appreciation for Christian moral theory. The "lesser of two evils" approach to conflicting values (i.e. moral norms) in a fallen, sinful world is and has been held by countless evangelicals including J. W. Montgomery, James Montgomery Boice, and even Southern seminary professor, Thomas R. Schreiner. Hastings is apparently unaware of this since he summarily dismisses it as a non-existent Christian option. I don't agree with the position advocated by the "lesser of two evils" option but highly respect many evangelicals who do.
- d) that the "higher calling of God" demands we vote neither Trump nor Clinton--we legitimately infer from this premise that if Trump voters want to follow the "high calling of God," then they are required to vote for somebody else. Anything less is unholy. Now who's trying to get others to vote against his or her conscience by suggesting that a vote for Trump is a vote against God's "high calling" to "holiness"?