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LETTER FROM AMERICA: The 2016 American presidential election

November 2016 | by Ben Wilkerson

One of the fundamental privileges of belonging to a democratic nation is being able to vote. Our desire, especially as Christian citizens, is to make an impact on our nation and culture through that vote.

We want to have good laws passed, and just rulers and judges put in places of authority, so that we and our children can enjoy peace and prosperity in our country.

That being said, the 2016 presidential election has been a bewildering and perplexing thing to watch, and a more dreadful one to think about. As I voted in the Republican primaries in June, I hoped that someone more ‘conventional’ would become the primary candidate.

Donald Trump’s success in becoming the Republican candidate has left many conservatives in surprise and shock. To be honest, most Americans probably thought it was some kind of joke. Hillary Clinton’s success has not been as big a surprise, but I never dreamed in my wildest dreams that it would be a choice between Clinton or Trump.

As a conservative Christian, it’s one of those situations where you ask yourself, ‘How do I vote for the lesser of two evils?’ As election time comes (8 November), how do I, as a Christian, vote, when I have no desire to vote for either candidate; and possibly wrestle with the idea that one of the two may be the lesser of two evils?

The ‘miracle’ of Trump

The ‘miracle’ (if you could even use that term) of Donald Trump’s success has boggled the minds of most here in America. His movement from what seemed a theatrical stunt to having real potential for becoming President is astounding in the history of the United States and 21st century politics.

But, looking at it bluntly, there’s no magical reason why he’s in the position he is now. While he may be immensely popular with many for his ‘America is Number One’ mantra and his ‘honest’, un-politically correct statements and policies, his success is largely due to his wealth.

According to POLITICO, Mr Trump has a net value of $10 billion and a yearly income of $557 million (Ben White, POLITICO, 31 May 2016). Fortune Magazine estimated that it takes roughly $10 million just to get a presidential campaign started, and then, by the time you’ve gone through the first four states on the campaign trail, you’ve spent $149 million (, 3/28/15). As you probably realised, this is ‘small change’ for the multi-billionaire businessman.

This financial backing has gone hand in hand with his popularity as an untypical politician — someone who isn’t part of the Washington political career scene. Writer Robert Montgomerie explains Mr. Trump’s popularity this way: ‘The majority of Americans, having that one crass and vulgar relative with an endless supply of flatulence jokes and odd charisma, aren’t entirely repulsed by this caricature, but are rather drawn to him.

‘Trump embodies a middle America that is uninterested in the puritanesque self-righteousness of the social justice warrior or similar liberal. He sanctions the fear they have of the Mexican who picks the produce they buy in the grocery store and hangs their dry wall for rock bottom wages.

‘In any case, and perhaps of more importance, Donald Trump has been on television, and certainly a man paid millions for uttering the words, “You’re fired”, and locking up with Vince McMahon [a wrestler] at Summerslam [a professional wrestling event], has something positive to bring to Washington, DC. He is a performer and middle America is in love with him’ (The megalomaniacal Donald Trump and The art of the deal).

Lesser evil?

You may be asking why I would use the ‘lesser of two evils’ adage in speaking about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Who’s more evil? Comparatively speaking, they are both equally ‘evil’. Anyone is, if they are not in Christ.

Many would claim that either candidate is ‘the lesser of two evils’ because of the political ideals or policies they are willing to put up with. Generally speaking, conservative Christians do not vote for Hillary Clinton, because of her stand on abortion and healthcare. Clinton’s views and policies are definitely ‘left-wing’, and conservative American Christians typically have not voted in favour of someone on that platform.

Sadly, a conservative American Christian is more likely to vote for a brazen adulterer who has a stringent stance on immigration, brings more industries home, limits central government, and spends more on defence than someone who is a self-proclaimed liberal with progressive views on healthcare and education.

Many Christians have written back and forth on whether we should vote, or who we might vote for. Franklin Graham said: ‘Vote for the candidates that best support biblical truth and biblical values … In some races, it may not always be clear. You may have to hold your nose and choose of the two’ (quote from ‘Should Christians vote for Donald Trump’, Todd Starnes, Fox, 12 May 2016).

Influential conservatives like Mike Huckabee, Eric Metaxas, Samuel Rodriguez and Richard Land have also voiced that Christians should and can vote for Trump. Others are planning to vote for a third party candidate. Still others might stay home and not vote.

However, at the time of writing, that determined right-wing support is floundering somewhat. Since 7 October, videos and interviews have brought to the limelight at least six women who allege past sexual assault by Mr Trump. He has flatly denied all this, but the women have given graphic detail. At this point, ‘nearly 20 per cent of the 331 current Republican governors, senators and house members have renounced their party’s nominee’ (David Johnson, Chris Wilson, TIME, 12 October). Other Republicans have stated they would accept his apology and would continue to support him (Ibid).

What should we do? Prayer for wisdom and guidance should be our first action. We must also trust God, that he knows all things and does not sit in the heavens wringing his hands with worry over the present political or cultural climate of America (or Britain).

God is in control and does everything that he pleases (Psalm 115:3). He is the one who has put the rulers in their places and commanded us to pray for them (Romans 13; 1 Timothy 2:2).

Then we are to act. Not voting is ‘voting’ (from one perspective), and I would say that that is perhaps a worse option than voting for either candidate. Some might argue that voting for a third party candidate is a waste of your vote, since they probably won’t make a huge impact.

Christ’s kingdom

Whatever an American Christian’s decision, it is up to them to vote responsibly and out of conscience. I don’t think I could vote for Clinton or Trump with a clear conscience, certainly less so with Clinton. Please continue to pray for your brothers and sisters in America who face a difficult choice in November.

Toward the earlier part of this year, I thought about the presidential election as I was driving home from work and recorded a thought on my phone. I compared the way that American Christians prayed and pined for the ‘right’ president was the same way the Jews desired a political Messiah during Jesus’ lifetime. They wanted a political Messiah to redeem them nationally from the Romans and serve their own desires for their agenda.

While the desire for freedom to worship, the prohibition of abortion and more freedom for Christians are not bad desires, they can become an end in and of themselves and therefore become our gods.

Our God is in the heavens and our home is not of this earth. We have been made into new creations in Christ. We are no longer our own, but have been bought with a price. I think our fears and worries in regard to the current political climate are often tied to our view of our own lives.

But we must fix our gaze heavenward and trust God, not fearing those who hate us, or evil rulers that may take away our freedoms. We have a sure hope and our goal should be to spread that hope abroad, no matter what happens politically. I hope this thought is as encouraging to you as it is to me.

Ben Wilkerson served with Sheffield Presbyterian Church, UK, and is a Christian writer residing in the USA.