Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How can a Christian vote in our world today?

The 2016 Presidential election is going to be different for me than any other election since I became old enough to vote. Why? Because this is the first election since I truly became a Christian- and giving my life to Christ has changed everything. Let me explain.

The first election in which I was old enough to vote was 1992. Bill Clinton won and I voted for him. Back then if you would have asked me if I was a Christian I would have said yes. I was raised Catholic, and, even though by 1992 I was no longer going to Church, I still believed in God. What I didn't do, even though I claimed to be a Christian, was follow or even give a second thought to the Ten Commandments, go to church, read or even own a Bible, or ever pray to God unless I was in big trouble and in desperate need of a miracle to fix a problem I had created through my own bad choices.

Over the next 20 years there would be five more elections and two more Presidents and nothing much changed for me. I continued to drift further and further from God while still claiming to be a Christian. I still didn't own a Bible and had never considered purchasing one. I voted a mixture of Republican and Democrat in all those elections but barely paid attention to politics and didn't have the first clue what any of the candidates actually stood for or had actually ever done. I'm not sure how I made my decisions in the voting booth, but by golly I never missed my chance to vote and let my "voice" be heard because, suffrage! Ethics, values, morals- what were those? I couldn't have articulated what I myself believed so why would I have paid any attention to what the future President believed? Were they popular with "my people"? Did they sound good? Were they "better than the other guy? Good enough for me!

Fast forward to 2013- Jesus Christ came into my life and turned it completely upside down. My heart was turned to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit and God's never ending pursuit of me, and I've never been the same. My love for Jesus Christ informs every single thing I do now- and I seek to honor Him in every decision I make . Because of this profound change, I cannot look at the upcoming election through anything other than the lens of a Christian committed to following God's Word and commands.... and I view checking that box on November 8th as my testimony to God that I will follow His commands of me and trust Him to be in control of the ultimate outcome no matter what the immediate consequences are. What does this mean as I consider my choice? Whether or not there is any chance the person I vote for will get elected my #1 goal is to follow God, not to "win".

Ever since it became obvious that Donald Trump was going to win the Republican nomination- it has been a tough road for true Evangelical Christians. I have to put the world "true" in because there are many who claim to be Evangelical Christian, or even just Christian, whose actions and decisions do not generally support that claim. Of course we all fail at times- we are sinners! God knows following him perfectly is impossible for us, which is why he sent Jesus. Because I am no better at keeping God's laws 100% of the time than anyone, it has been hard for me to articulate well why I think supporting Trump goes against a true Christian's beliefs until I watched a video by Pastor Cary Gordon called Voting For the Lesser of two Evils. I have never heard of this pastor before this video, but found what he had to say in the video to be very much in line with what I believe is wrong with today's popular "lesser of two evils" approach to voting. I recommend you take the time to watch it, but have summarized and commented on some of what he says below.

DISCLAIMER- my audience for this post are Christians. If you are not a Christian and do not believe that God is your Lord and is sovereign over you I fully expect you to disagree on the motivation to do what is right here.  If you are a Christian but make exceptions to the things that God controls and requires of us, then I encourage you to study what it actually means to be a Christian because, in the words of Mandy Patinkin's character in Princess Bride, "You keep using that word; I do not think it means what you think it means".

First of all- voting for someone you consider the "lesser of two evils" means you are voting for someone who doesn't share your values and ethics on moral issues. When you do this, you are displaying situational ethics (voting is an ethical decision). Situational Ethics describes "ethics" that are a moving target. They are based on the assumption that truth is relative (right and wrong are based on different things depending on the person or culture and can change randomly). Situational ethics are not in line with Christianity. Christians believe that we get truth and morals from God and that they are ABSOLUTE. This means that something is true or moral REGARDLESS of how we feel about it or what the consequences from believing and following them are. Absolute truths do not change for any reason. This is not an easy concept for many to get in our culture today. I know this because I didn't really get it prior to becoming a Believer and devoting my life to Christ 3 years ago.

When something is morally relative anything goes because it is based on social, cultural, historical, or personal circumstances. What is considered wrong today, may not be wrong tomorrow. There is no way to know what is right or what is wrong unless you know the details of all the above, and when you move or when the person in charge changes then what is considered right and wrong can also change. It's tough to live in a morally relative world because you can find yourself on the "wrong" side of things without ever changing a stance or behavior that used to be considered "right".

EXAMPLE: Abortion used to be considered morally wrong in our culture. Anyone with a pulse can see that those who still consider it morally wrong have somehow moved from the majority to the minority in the last 40 years. Abortion didn't change. God's stance on murder or whether or not a "fetus" is a human at conception didn't change. The culture did due to moral relativism.

When you live in a world of moral absolutes what is considered right and wrong doesn't change, and once you learn what those things are you can be confident that they will always be that way no matter who is in charge or where you live. If you believe that God is ultimately in charge and that His Word (The Bible) gives us all the instructions we will ever need about how to live, then you also believe in moral absolutes as opposed to moral relativism. You cannot believe in God's ultimate authority and sovereignty and also believe in moral relativism- no matter how much easier it would make your life to do so. Why? Because God doesn't change. He is constant, and so are his truths/laws/commands.

So, what is a Christian to do in 2016 when our only two viable choices for President are referred to as "two evils" (one possibly being the lesser of the two depending on who you ask)? How do you decide when you are told that your only choice is to choose one of those two evils and you personally don't distinguish an "evil" by degree? I've already established that the situational ethics way of making decisions is NOT right for Christians.  For a Christian anything classified as evil is evil, period. Just like God doesn't distinguish between little sins and big sins (even if WE do), God doesn't distinguish between a little evil and a lot of evil.

"For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law." James 2:10-11

Add to this challenge the constant barrage from others in our Conservative circles that we HAVE to vote or are morally obligated to vote for Donald Trump because a vote for anyone else is a vote for Hillary.  Hear this loud and clear- there is no such thing as a moral obligation to vote for someone that you find morally objectionable. As a Christian, I take my moral direction- actually ALL direction- from God. Only from God. If you are truly a Christian I hope you are saying the same thing. To tell me that I am morally obligated to support someone who doesn't also take his moral direction from God just because he is "less immoral" than someone else is ludicrous, and you really should be ashamed of yourself for even THINKING much less saying it.

Telling anyone to suspend their ethics and values to support a "lesser of two evils" is a pagan, humanist system of moral judgment and puts WINNING above God.

Look at it this way- if you are given the choice between two extreme evils and asked to choose the lesser of the two, you would say it is a ridiculous choice and you would never choose either (the example given in the video was choosing between Pol Pot and Hitler in a voting booth). The point of that type of exercise isn't to give you an incredibly ridiculous choice that would never happen in reality, but rather, to give you an extreme choice to make it easier to see how flawed the situational ethics way of thinking is as a process for decision making. It reminds you that you have a threshold you won't cross- most people do. The problem is, when moral relativism is the mode by which you judge things, that line you will never cross moves and changes with the tide. This would be expected of a non-Christian who doesn't have God to lead where he/she should go, but if you call yourself a Christian then you need to remember that truth is not now and never has been relative... truth was created and defined by GOD. The only way we can arrive at what truth is and what we are called to do and believe and where to DRAW OUR LINE is to listen to God through His Word. You cannot truly believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and also believe that choosing the lesser of two Evils would be OK with Him. The discipline of Christianity totally rejects the false way of situational ethics and moral relativism and, therefore, so should you. No matter what the cost. There is no such thing as most moral or least moral. There is only MORAL or IMMORAL. Period. Morality is absolute and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

God has provided plenty of examples of this in the Bible. Consider Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The four of them followed God and never wavered, even when they suffered for it. No where in the book of Daniel do we see them compromising what was right because it would have been easier, or because it would prevent something even worse from happening. Because of their faithfulness God protected them from the worst of the persecution- preventing them from being burned when thrown into the fiery furnace or eaten when thrown to the lions.  Now, of course there are plenty of examples of Christians not being protected from death for following God- but each example serves a purpose and as Christians we must remember that God is in charge and whether it ends well for us here on earth or not- if we are faithful to the end the reward is Heaven. That is a happy ending if ever there was one.  There are worse things than the death of your physical body.

In the video there is a cartoon that illustrates what God expects of Christians no matter what the threat. It is of a Christian during Roman times. The Christian is on his knees... on one side is what appears to be a king and on the other two hungry lions. The King says to the Christian "STOP PRAYING " .  The Christian responds "I'll OBEY GOD NO MATTER WHAT". If you were to use situational ethics here you would determine that agreeing to stop praying was the lesser of two evils, and choosing to keep praying would cause the most pain and pain isn't a good thing, right? Surely God would understand and not want you to "suffer", right?  Many Christians were and continue to be martyred for following God... the Bible warns us this will be the case but implores us to keep the faith regardless.

"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when His glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you." 1 Peter 4:12-14

"For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil." 1 Peter 3:17

"You will be hated by everyone because of Me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved." Matthew 10:22

"O foolish Galatians," [and Americans I might add] "who has bewitched you, that you turn away from obeying the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ has been evidently set forth, crucified among you?" Gal. 3:1

We aren't even talking about martyrdom here- just an election! If God would ask us to follow him even to the point of death, do you really think he is going to look the other way when you can't even vote your conscious in a private ballot? You are kidding yourself if you think he isn't watching what you who call yourself faithful will do here. I understand that you believe America as we know it will be gone if Hillary is elected (or Trump if you lean to the left)... I agree! But remember:
"And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?" Matthew 16:26
The bottom line is this: When you agree to vote for the lesser of two evils, you are saying that winning the contest is more important to you than following God's truths or following God's commands for you as a Christian. Jesus Christ did not compromise His values in order to make more friends, or convert more people to follow Him and neither should you. What He did was purchase you for a very steep price. He didn't waiver in His commitment to save you, Christian, and neither should you waiver in your commitment to honor Him at all cost.

Ask yourself this: What unrepentant sin against Jesus Christ does a Republican (or politician) have to commit before you will stop rewarding them with your vote? Both candidates have many sins that have been made public- and neither has shown any desire to repent of them and strive to do better. Sin isn't the problem- we all sin. Christians, those who have made God their King, repent and strive to do better when they sin. That's what separates us from everyone else- including our two choices for President.

Look, when you cease to really vote your values and beliefs and instead vote the lesser of two evils, then you cease to authentically lend your voice to the process. In essence your voice is silenced. Christians, do we really want our voices silenced just to "win" something that isn't really a win in the end? The voice that drives your vote should be determined by fixed universal truths beyond human jurisdiction. You will have to answer for ALL your decisions in the end. Is this something you want to answer to?
"Vox Populi, Vox Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God) they say, and so it is, sometimes; but it is sometimes the voice of Mahomet of Caesar, of Catiline, the Pope, and the Devil" John Adams
If and until Christians stop following the party line and stop caring more about winning than of being truly represented by someone who shares their values and starts voting that way, only then will the downward spiral of our country stop. As long as we are willing to vote for the lesser of two evils we will always get evil. Always. Will change happen immediately? No- unfortunately we are too far down the wrong path for that. BUT- change will never happen at all if WE don't change first.

In the end all we can do it look to the Bible for direction and plenty of examples of what doing it God's way looks like, and what not doing it God's way looks like. God has a history of coming alongside His people to protect them against evil.... but God also has a history of letting His people suffer the consequences of their behavior and choices when they have forsaken him. You cannot claim to love Jesus with all your heart and in the same breath decide that ANY amount of evil is acceptable. No matter the consequences here on earth we are called upon to live differently, and our choices are setting us up for what is to come in our REAL home. So have faith, be strong and courageous, and stop falling in line with what others who are citizens of THIS world and not God's world are doing.

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God"  Ephesians 6:10-17

There is a write in box on that ballot. You can make your voice heard, even if in this particular election it is only heard by God. Trust Him. He is in control- not us. He will have our back and lead us home in the end so don't forsake Him now.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

#NeverTrump #NeverHillary

I remain resolutely #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary. I flat out reject the statement that voting for someone other than Trump is a vote for Hillary (and interestingly, my Aunt said to me the other day "You know a vote for someone other than Hillary is a vote for Trump"- so both sides are using that particular argument it would seem). An A is not now and never will be a B. If I say I don't like apples and won't eat an apple, does that automatically mean I like and will eat an orange? What about a banana? One does not automatically lead to the other in any world but politics, apparently.

Additionally- THIS PARAGRAPH from this article sums up what I have been unable to articulate thus far:

"That brings us to the real reason to oppose Trump’s candidacy: the attempt to turn the conservative movement into a nationalist populist one, complete with shilling for Trump’s incomprehensible decisions and statements. If you believe that the only solution to America’s problems is true conservatism, your greatest fear is not a Hillary presidency: It’s the perversion of the conservative movement itself, the corruption of conservatism in favor of power. Hillary Clinton’s presidency does not snuff out conservatism, even though it provides a serious danger to the republic. Trump’s presidency does."

At the end of the day, the only SAVIOR any of us can rely on is Jesus Christ. Since the beginning of time Humanity's attempts to make anyone else the savior of anything have failed miserably 100% of the time. The direction that this country has taken away from God and toward human beings to save us from ourselves will be no different now. Quit looking to government to fix what it was never meant to fix. Quit giving it the power that our Lord meant to rest in each of us through living a moral life and following the Holy Spirit's leadings and this all goes away. Until then- pray, speak the truth in love, stand up for your principles without wavering, and vote in accordance with those principals and your moral conscience - not what those without one are bullying you into.