A growing number of Christian leaders have taken to asserting that voting for Donald Trump is morally necessary. Threads of their arguments stem from the classic but highly flawed “lesser of two evils” defense of the Trump candidacy: arguments that Trump is pro-life, and the claim that a President Trump will make better choices when appointing justices of the Supreme Court.
Author and Christian apologist Eric Metaxas took the pro-Trump lesser of two evils argument to an extreme by asserting on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal, that we will have to face the severe judgment of God on the Last Day if we do not subject ourselves to voting for Donald Trump. This instrumentalization of religion and of that, which is most sacred, is nothing short of deplorable. It borders on the blasphemous to claim God’s will is a Trump vote. Eric Metaxas of course can offer nothing to substantiate this sublime knowledge he offers to the public. Using God’s name for the sake of very dubious temporal political aims, to serve Trump, needs to be soundly rejected.
I hope Eric Metaxas, whom I know, comes to realize that much we have learned about Donald Trump by simply observing his behavior and studying his history, seems plausibly inconsistent with everything we know of the spirit of Christ. This is something all must freely judge based on the evidence at hand. Not on “private revelations.”
The Lesser of Two Evils Fallacy
Metaxas built his argument on a fallacy of logic, namely that this election is a binary choice. Many have already retorted to this obvious falsehood noting that nothing consisting of more than two choices is binary. The fact that we can vote for a third party, a different candidate, vote only in the races for House of Representative and Senate—or decline to vote at all—makes clear that the binary dogma is logically unsustainable. A binary choice would be to vote or not to vote, no third option. The fact that we can foresee the likelihood of Hillary or Trump winning in the present circumstances does not leave voters facing a simple binary choice.
The second error embedded in the lesser of two evils argument derives from the lack of understanding of the fundamental principle of extension of a moral action. An individual is responsible for one thing and one thing only, and that is the vote he or she casts. Individuals have no moral responsibility for things that they cannot control. It is not rational for an individual to feel morally responsible for the result of an election. The only vote he must account for is the one he cast. The argument that somehow if Clinton gets into power it is the fault of those who did not vote for Trump is manipulation of the minds of the less informed.
It is not sound to vote for an unfit candidate, regardless of whether or not we can find a fit candidate to vote for. The responsibility to never vote for an unfit candidate seems a reasonable standard by which we should abide. Nor are we morally obliged to figure out who is most unfit—an impossible exercise. Once we see a candidate is unfit, we must take him or her off the table. Nearly every Trump supporter I talk to would not hire Trump. Why should they then foist him upon America?
If we were to deem all candidates unfit we simply would have to refrain from casting a vote for any of them. Trump is not simply a flawed candidate. This characterization is a clever euphemism that seeks to camouflage the unmitigated disaster that Trump has shown himself to be. He is intellectually underdeveloped as a candidate (very likely suffering from attention deficit disorder, acutely); he seems morally depraved; he has assaulted women as he bragged; he likely has psychopathy and narcissistic clinical disorder. He simply seems to many of us mentally not competent to serve as president of the United States.
Trump and the Right to Life
Trump is also gaining momentum among pro-life leaders. Their thinking is likewise influenced by the lesser of two evils fallacy.
These pro-lifers decry the fact that Hillary is pro-abortion, undoubtedly the case. Exactly! Do not vote for Hillary. Of Trump we know his position is potentially a greater evil than being anti-life: He has promised to bring abortion into the currently pro-life platform of the Republican Party. This great evil, which would effectively vanquish America’s sole viable pro-life party, is a far worse evil than the Democrats’ ongoing war on women through abortion. How can we ever vote licitly for the GOP if it goes the way of the death culture? Why would a “pro-life” candidate make the promise to bring abortion into the GOP platform?
It is helpful to remember that while we in the pro-life movement were fighting the pro-abortion designs of Pelosi, Schumer, and Clinton, Trump was the person helping to fund their campaigns. He has stated that Planned Parenthood does great things for millions of women. He has supported partial birth abortion. Trump sees corruption everywhere—the FBI the government, the GOP, the media, the polls—and yet Planned Parenthood is, according to Trump, a wonderful organization.
Trump deceptively claims he will defund Planned Parenthood of taxpayers’ money to do abortions. He knows well that this is already forbidden by law, with the exception of rape and incest, exceptions that Trump wants inserted into the Republican platform. His desire to include abortion exceptions in the Republican platform would give him the maneuvering room to avoid cutting funds from Planned Parenthood and pull off the con that he defunded them. Let’s not forget the lessons of history. We know historically where the exception excuses lead: abortion on demand.
Trump will not defend the sanctity of marriage. Trump’s unfurling and proud waving of the rainbow flag this week highlights the nature of the new America Trump is planning to unleash. Would a conservative be happily waving the rainbow flag to the sound of a patriotic-inspired song?
Even some Catholic leaders have tried to apply the notion of the lesser of two evils to justify their support for Trump. The argument that a legislator can licitly vote for a law that reduces abortion but does not abolish it—thereby choosing the so-called lesser of two evils—is not applicable to the case of voting for Trump to be president. In the case of the legislation that curtails the murder of the unborn during the last trimester of pregnancy, one is voting under the unfortunate banner of the lesser of two evils for no evil. But this is not inconsistent in any way with the fact that the legislator holds that no abortion should ever be committed at any time during a pregnancy. The legislator is voting for something very clearly delineated, a bill that has no variables: no abortions in the last three months. The extent of his vote has no guessing, no taking chances, none of “let’s see what happens.” It is perfectly clear that he will vote against abortion anytime he gets a chance and that is a clear and clean vote for something that is good and necessary. There is never a direct vote for evil in this case. The vote is for a good. It is entirely clear that the no abortion for the last trimester is completely good, and it is clear what he is voting for, this why it is licit.
This is, of course, not the case in voting for Trump or any individual for an elected office. Voting for a person means taking the good and the bad, one cannot delineate in these ways. It is always a prudential decision and one cannot find safety in the lesser of two evils notion. Trump cannot be circumscribed with such clarity. It is not a policy that we are voting for, or a bill in black and white. With Trump you have to vote for the person as a whole and one cannot invoke the lesser of two evils. This decision is prudential and what must be determined is whether the person is fit morally, psychologically, intellectually to serve as president. Secondarily, one must examine his policies but first comes the character, mental and moral soundness of the individual candidate. But to be clear it is never licit to do evil that good may come about. The ends do not justify the means.
The Supreme Court boogey man is equally false. What the justices will do is completely outside of the power of the president. Republicans appointed six of the nine justices that gave us Roe vs. Wade. Another telling story is that of Justice John Roberts. Conservatives praised Roberts almost unanimously at the time of his nomination. Then came his vote on Obamacare. Furthermore there is only one vacant seat in the court and the other justices are likely to hold on until they get a Democrat in the White House. The court would remain an equally liberal 5-4 and the damage would continue. Metaxas also knows that during the meeting with religious leaders in NYC, we were both there, Trump reminded us that besides his conservative list of candidates to the Supreme Court, he also has five other names which he will disclose at a later date. Wonderful can’t wait.
Vice presidential candidate Mike Pence has promised that he and Trump will overturn Roe vs. Wade. This lie is designed to bring in evangelicals and conservatives. Both Trump and Pence know they have no power to keep that promise. It is vain to promise things about which you have no control.
The dogmatic and false premise that Clinton is worse than Trump and therefore we must vote Trump is the fallacy of using an unproven first premise to reach a false conclusion. They cannot prove that Clinton is worse. Clinton may be assumed will be worse in some aspects but the way in which Trump could be worse is also easily foreseen.
People like Eric Metaxas and others, some unfortunately priests who ignore scripture to manipulate people into voting for Trump. Since people such as Metaxas and others are making a “scary” appeal to God, who will apparently condemn us for not voting Trump, it is good to recall that in the time of Jesus the zealots (much like the Trump followers) were trying to convince Jesus to take over politically, to become king. To overthrow the oppressive Roman Empire and get hold of the keys to power and change. These revolutionaries were tempted to compromise the truth and the road of the cross for temporal mirages of political or judicial power. On one occasion when Peter was impatiently trying to convince Christ to avoid the harder way, he was rebuked by Christ with these words: “ Get behind me Satan.” The Christian way is to uphold goodness, virtue, morals, and principle. It is not to surrender all this to a man or a woman who are some of the most prominent political anti-thesis to the gospels at present.
The Trump illusion about someone who will save America is professed by those who have forgotten there is only one Savior. America is in God’s hands. This anxiety over a temporal Savior is that of men who suffer of illusions of grandeur. Metaxas wonders why we should put our trust in God and not take things into our own hands? What anti-evangelical madness is this?
The Trump temptations to the American public interestingly, parallel the temptations of the devil when Christ was praying and fasting in the desert. “ I will make America rich again…” Trump states. He will make us the most powerful nation. He will make us winners. For as he states, he is the change we have been waiting for our entire lives. Pledge your loyalty to me, he encourages.
Not much difference with Satan’s own voice, “… turn these stones into bread…showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give to you.”(Matt 4: 1-11).
Christian voters should ponder the question of how to truly recognize the working of the Holy Spirit in the actions of a candidate for public office. Paul teaches in his letter to the Galatians: “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22). Trump is not faithful, he brags about his adulterous escapades openly. Kindness is not his creed for life. His self-control is worse than that of most teenagers. Gentleness? Please, wake up. It should be evident to all that none of which Paul states about the Spirit of God is something Trump possesses even remotely. To my friend Eric Metaxas I say, is he thinking that Jesus would vote for Trump?
Those of us who have opposed these false prophets who use the name of God to manipulate people’s minds into voting for Trump will gladly on the last day face account for a no-vote for a man that embodies exactly what the scriptures warn against. Fighting the evil that may come with Hillary is precisely the way of the cross and that which we signed up for. But worse than evil, which will always exist, is the unabashed corruption of the good.
These politicians now stumping for Trump are like reeds in the wind, blowing wherever they think their political chances of remaining relevant will take them. Rick Perry before he succumbed to the temptation said this: Trump, “ offers a barking carnival act… a toxic mix of demagoguery and mean-spiritedness and nonsense that will lead the Republican party to perdition…” Ted Cruz just a few months ago, Trump is, “… narcissist”, “pathological liar”, “utterly amoral”, a “serial philanderer.” Mike Pence thought that some of Trump’s policies were “… offensive and unconstitutional.”
Whatever happened to Santorum and Huckabee’s family values position? Trump has made it clear that he does not ask God for forgiveness. In which Gospel is it that these faux Christian leaders find the doctrine of un-repentance to be laudable? For the scriptures I read state that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.