I recently ran across an old ad for Garnier that showed fruit exploding in slow motion. It was several years old, and they were selling shampoo and conditioner, but I felt like it was a metaphor for the pursuit of a president of these United States in 2016.
The complicated nature of this election forced conservative Christian voters, a group I would typically align myself with, to consider their voting foundations. I for one felt like I had to do more than walk away from our previously held political assumptions. I watched as they were obliterated: blown to Garnier fruit bits, if you will.
While so many assumptions were affected, here are three that I doubt I’ll ever get back.
“I’ll never be asked to forfeit my biblical standards.”
In the past, Christian voting felt pretty dang simple because we had candidates who (imperfectly) embodied our principles. Our job was to identify issues of biblical relevance and vote for the people we believed affirmed those. This year, neither major party candidate affirms biblical principles in word or deed. So, instead of asking which champions the cause of Christ, we ask which defames him least. For many conservative Christian voters, that means defining something new: our lowest possible standard.
Trying to determine how low we can go about conversations of “issues versus character” or “the lesser of two evils.” In other words, now that the political context has changed we have to decide if our standards are malleable.
The majority opinion of registered Republicans was that standards come to us in Silly Putty eggs. You can make them into about anything and shouldn’t expect them to hold up for long.
And, alarmingly, an outcry of evangelical Christians supported the bending or tossing into the nearest dumpster those biblical principles. The leaders who my entire life had championed a party built on principle suddenly aborted the mission. “He holds strong evangelical views” and “She will stand up to people to fight for Christian beliefs” became “You don’t have to have strong morals to be a strong leader.”
I was told by generally trustworthy Christians that the biblical mandate to abhor evil (Romans 12:9) and to have nothing to do with scoffers (Psalm 1:1) weren’t Bible verses for politics. Some insinuated that the answer to “What does it benefit a person if he gains the whole world forfeits his life?” is "up to three supreme court justices.”
From the beginning, the people who stood up with their Bible in hand and asked Christian voters to consider the entire council of the Word of God was blasted for not doing the Christian thing and falling in line for the Republican candidate.
“I can trust all my usual sources.”
Come election time, it was rarely the “who” but the “why” that conservative Christians debated. That’s why they call it a voting bloc; we typically all headed for the same candidates. What we discussed was why they were the best choice or why they were suited to bring about the most change. Sometimes we just bantered about why they were obviously so much better a choice than the other person on the ticket.
Then top evangelical voices like Jerry Falwell Jr., Wayne Grudem, and James Dobson put their support behind a man whose Christlikeness has, in the words of my three-year-old, “gone invisible.”
These people were, and in many ways still are, trustworthy. But their endorsement of such a corrupt man didn’t fit with their witness. It didn’t match their knowledge. Then it forced me to ask questions of my default information sources.
“I need to vote for a winner.”
I understand why so many of us have felt this way. Christians have typically had a representative within our consideration set. Even if “our” candidate was the underdog, the so-called moral majority never lacked a representative posturing to bring home a W. Therefore, voting success equals getting our person in office.
But this view forsakes one of voting’s primary purposes. Voting is a form of advocacy, and not only advocacy of individuals but of standards. It’s the culmination of our communication to our country and those who run it. It’s our final word about what we think is good and right in politics. By putting my vote toward a candidate I say, “Listen up! I want people like this to make decisions about the welfare of my country and the world.”
That means using my vote to get someone into office during this election matters a great deal, but isn’t the sole point of voting. If I vote for a subpar candidate because they could win, I am abdicating my advocacy. The person I voted for may win that election, but I can’t expect the field to look any different in the next one. The context of my vote had to extend further than the results of November 8.
I said I wouldn’t get these assumptions back, but here’s the deal. I don’t want them back.
Knowing that people will ask me to forfeit my biblical standards forces me to stand ready to support those standards. I won’t be caught by surprise anymore. Knowing that I can’t commit without question to any one person’s ideology keeps me from being a lemming. I am not accountable for the views of those in charge, but I am responsible for my own. Knowing that I won’t always vote for this election’s winner reminds me of who is in control. Believing my vote is vital doesn’t contradict the truth that the one who ultimately reigns holds an office much higher than president of the United States of America—I will always vote my biblical conscience and not my strictly my political context.
I needed some assumptions obliterated. I for one am happy to see them go.
Cover image by Edewaa Foster.