Dereliction of Duty

Evangelical leaders are speaking out endorsing political candidates. Here are the endorsements meted out by a few. Will this compromise their calling?

For Trump:
President of Liberty University – Jerry Falwell Jr.
Founder of Focus of the Family – James Dobson

Against Trump, but short of endorsing Clinton:
President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission – Russell Moore
Christian Author – Max Lucado

For Clinton:
Executive advisor to the World Evangelical Alliance-Deborah Fikes

As I have observed various Christian leaders endorsing candidates for election in the United States, I have had to consider whether it is advisable for these leaders to do so.

What is the role of a pastor? To go into the world and make disciples, baptize believers, and teach believers to obey God’s commandments (The Great Commission).

What is the primary expression of Christian faith? According to Jesus, the law of God is summed up with two commandments (Matthew 222:36ff). To love God more than anyone or anything. To love our neighbors. Jesus also says that the important matters of the law are justice, mercy, and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23).

If you are a pastor considering endorsing a political candidate or with an even broader brush a political party, I would ask you a simple question. Will your endorsement enhance or impair your primary, God-given calling to attract people to Jesus?

To say that one has to vote for Hillary or Donald to be a good Christian is somewhat ludicrous. One or the other may align more closely with your views and prejudices. But to claim either as a paradigm of Christian values is to unnecessarily taint a church leader’s position when it comes to the one to whom they should be pointing us, Jesus.

As I consider my own decision as to how I will vote, I will keep in mind that my primary allegiance is not to a political party or political philosophy. My primary allegiance should be to God and His Word. But politics plays an extremely important role in our freedom to live out God’s kingdom on earth. I will try to make my political decisions based on some very fundamental biblical principles.

Justice and Mercy. These concepts are woven together in Scripture. God calls on His people to champion the weak, the oppressed, the poor, the foreigner, the widower, and the orphan. He says that people of different ethnicities, social status, and gender are all one in Christ.

Relating faith to American politics is challenging and many devout believers differ as to how their faith should be applied in the political arena. Broadly speaking Republicans emphasize opportunity and meritocracy. Democrats emphasize mercy in the form of a safety net for our most disenfranchised.

The Old Testament concept that relates here is the Jubilee. In the fiftieth year of Jubilee all land reverted to its original tribe and all slaves were freed. During the forty-nine years each individual had the opportunity to build from a place with equal footing. To put it in terms of the Jubilee, Republicans emphasize the forty-nine years of opportunity and competition and Democrats emphasize the Jubilee year of leveling the playing field. To put it another way, Republicans are more for equal OPPORTUNITY. Democrats are more for EQUAL opportunity.

Paul makes it clear that we cannot separate ourselves from those outside our faith community who do not hold to our ethical standards (1 Corinthians 5:9-10). Jesus warns us about judging others (Matthew 7:1-2). Personally, I think that Christian leaders would do better to take stands on issues rather than endorsing political figures. Like me, politicians are sinners made in the image of God – what some might call a mixed bag. Because of that, endorsing one candidate or another sends out a mixed message.

But I do think pastors should talk about the light faith can shed on issues that relate to biblical truths (not liberal, conservative, or personal philosophies). Let’s consider some of those principles and see where the candidates stand.

Perhaps the weakest and most disenfranchised of our people are those who have yet to be born. The Bible talks about our lives before our births (Psalm 139:13-16, Jeremiah 1:5, and Galatians 1:15). Many, if not most, Christians take this to mean that life starts at conception but the language of the Bible is not specific beyond life starting in the womb.

What does Trump say about the unborn person’s right to live?

His judicial philosophy is not clear. It is difficult to judge what kind of Supreme Court nominees he would put forward.

What does Clinton say about the unborn person’s right to live?

Clinton would be expected to add Supreme Court nominees who would confirm Roe v Wade and its wider implications.

Next, let’s look at what Donald Trump says about the weak, for example a handicapped reporter.

Hillary Clinton worked for the Children’s Defense Fund. She worked with families with disabled children in Massachusetts. She worked with Republicans to help create the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CHIP cut the uninsured rate of American children by half. Today it provides health care to more than 8 million kids.

Let’s look at what Trump has to say about those who were oppressed prisoners of war (POWs).

Later Trump says he doesn’t mean to disparage POWs but refuses to apologize to McCain.

Here is what Donald Trump has to say about women.

Here is how he clarified his position.

How does Trump treat small businesses and individuals that lack his economic clout?

Trump denies the claim of Jeb Bush that he tried to make a donation to the Republican party in Florida in trade for making it legal to build a casino there.

On a related note, the accusation of pay-to-play relates to giving special privilege to the rich and powerful that “regular” people wouldn’t have. Clinton has been accused of providing special privileges to those who make large donations to her family’s charitable foundation. The Washington Post appeared to take one email (from a Clinton aid) to support this accusation. There is no evidence that this or any other email actually resulted in special access, but opponents insist that it indicates an attempt to give pay-to-play access on the part of the aid.

What is Trump’s position on racial minorities?

His campaign had a half-Indian Trump supporter escorted from the Wilmington rally. The young man stated that he felt that he had been profiled.

I could not find any articles or speeches detailing what policies Trump would propose to support his professed love of minorities.

Unfortunately, I could not find any articles articulating Clinton’s positions on minorities and the issues that are important to them. In the primaries, black voters heavily favored Clinton over Sanders.

The Bible makes a big deal about how we treat the foreigner in our land (e.g., Exodus 22:21).

What does Trump say about immigrants?

What does Clinton say about immigrants?

“Who is my neighbor?” Trying to avoid the Bible’s mandate for compassion and service, a Pharisee posed this question to Jesus. Jesus responded with the well-known Parable of the Good Samaritan.

Hillary Clinton has a long history of service to those in need, as stated earlier. Her family has a charitable foundation. The Trump campaign has claimed that their foundation is a front for pay-to-play.

Donald Trump claims to have made $102 million in donations to charity in the last five years. None of the gifts were made with his money but were associated with charitable use of his properties or services. The Washington Post gives a detailed accounting.

Another important Christian principle is honesty, integrity, and doing things out in the open (lately we’ve been referring this last as ‘transparency’).

According to the FBI, Clinton was not truthful with her statements to the public about her emails. Hillary continues to hide her emails.

Trump repeatedly falsely stated that the sitting President of the U.S. was the founder of ISIS. Trump continues to hide his taxes.

One of the most radical principles of Christianity is Christ telling us to love our enemies. How do our politicians measure up on this one?

Donald Trump

Trump built his base largely by insulting other Republicans because they were short, boring, or tweeting a picture implying that their wife was ugly.

Hillary Clinton

I wrote this article because I was so deeply disturbed that people who were supposed to be pointing us to Jesus were pointing us to Trump. He’s some kind of saint? That is absurd. James Dobson even claimed that Trump was born again. (I have never heard Trump make such a claim.) This a failure of responsibility on the part of those who are supposed to be instilling Christian values in those they lead. Speak truth to the issues, but those issues which are clearly defined in the Scriptures. Because you happen to have a personal view or prejudice does not make it a Christian position so why are you squandering the reputations of your ministries? Are you trying to show how powerful you are? Blessed are the meek. Are you trying to show how important you are? Blessed are the poor in spirit. Stop it. Just stop it. In a world with too much hate and cruelty we need to be pointed to the light of the world, not a politician.

So, what about us among the rank and file? How should we vote? Evangelicals are split as to whether we should choose the lesser evil, vote for a third party candidate, or not vote. There are a lot of issues I haven’t broached in this article. Trying to apply Christian values as to form a position on whether the minimum wage should be raised, common core belongs in education, or whether trade deals help the people who need it most are not so clear as whether we should lie, hate, or take life versus speak the truth, show compassion for our neighbor and level the playing field, while giving value to every human life.

As citizens we have to use our critical thinking to determine how our vote can best serve the country and our voices can continue to point others to Jesus, accepting no human substitutes. Study, listen, discuss, and pray. Maybe we’ll get it wrong, but we have a duty to do our best.

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