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Americans Have Elected Sinners since Our Founding

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

America’s Founders emphasized the importance of voting, fully aware that mankind is neither infallible nor impeccable. Put simply, they urged us to vote for the best candidates among our fellow sinners.

“In Adam’s fall, we sinned all” was taught to schoolchildren by the New England Primer, both before and after the Constitution was ratified.

Government itself is the greatest of all reflections on human nature, according to James Madison:

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” Federalist 51

God ordained human government to reward good and punish evil. He instructed His people to appoint officials who would pursue justice according to His standards:

“They are to judge the people with righteous judgment. Do not deny justice or show partiality to anyone. Do not accept a bribe, for it blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.” (Deut. 16: 18,19)

What man more delicately refers to as “imperfect,” God calls sin, unrighteousness and evil. What Isaiah condemned in the human race, the apostle Paul also laments. Both Jews and Gentiles need the Messiah. In the meantime, we’re left with sinners running government.

Because the Founders recognized man’s sinful nature, they created a Constitution with limited government and separation of powers—sinners checking and balancing sinners.

Some say they won’t vote for president in the coming election. The “lesser of evils” is a choice too far for them.

Reflecting on the biblical story of Esther is helpful for “such a time as this.” This is not to imply that refusing to vote means our destruction as a people or a nation. There are principles that we can apply, however, in deciding whether to vote and for whom.

The Jewish people were exiled in Persia under control of a pagan, loutish King Ahasuerus. In a fit of humiliation and anger, he impulsively and regretfully banished his queen from the empire after she refused to “show off her beauty” to his drunken subjects at an extravagant banquet. On the advice of his “wise men,” Ahasuerus initiated a search for a replacement queen. After Esther was taken to the palace for consideration, her guardian, Uncle Mordecai, instructed her to keep her Jewish identity secret. By God’s providence she became the queen.

Thereafter, Ahasuerus appointed the truly evil Haman as his chief official. Haman hated Mordecai, and plotted to annihilate him and the Jewish people. God made Mordecai aware of Haman’s plot, and Mordecai convinced Esther that she wouldn’t be safe in the palace once her identity was known. She had become queen “for such a time as this.” Thus began a God-directed plot against Haman. With her life at stake for approaching the king on her own, Esther informed Ahasuerus about Haman’s plot. She convinced the king to allow the Jews to arm and defend themselves, and they did. Think of it as a God-ordained precursor of the Second Amendment.

Throughout history, God has used imperfect people to align with an ungodly ruler in order to stop a greater evil. God used Ahasuerus—He didn’t endorse him or his sinful ways.

Our Founders understood this. Consider:

John Adams: “Let us examine, then, with a sober, a manly . . . and a Christian spirit; let us neglect all party [loyalty] and advert to facts; let us believe no man to be infallible or impeccable in government any more than in religion; take no man’s word against evidence, nor implicitly adopt the sentiments of others who may be deceived themselves, or may be interested in deceiving us.” The Papers of John Adams.

Samuel Adams: “Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.” The Writings of Samuel Adams.

Noah Webster: “When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers, "just men who will rule in the fear of God." History of the United States.

Thomas Jefferson: “The elective franchise, if guarded as the ark of our safety, will peaceably dissipate all combinations to subvert a Constitution, dictated by the wisdom, and resting on the will of the people.” The Writings of Thomas Jefferson.

George Washington: “Though, in reviewing the incidents of my Administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend.” George Washington’s Farewell Address.

Occasionally, we are blessed to choose for president a person after God’s own heart, but a sinner nonetheless. Sometimes the choices are more akin to Ahasuerus and Haman.

God is still on the throne. Let’s pray, “take no person’s word against the evidence,” and make the best choice available.

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