Patriots and Exiles: Why #NeverTrump?

NeverTrump.pngIt seems that Trump has won the republican nomination. I know the game is not over yet. But after taking Florida as one of his 18 wins, he is no longer an unruly house guest overstaying his welcome, he now has more right to the space than anyone else in the room. He is flat-out winning, and no appeal to a divided voting block changes the simple fact of his clear and consistent march to victory. He keeps winning, which puts many people I know, love, and respect into the awkward position of voting for a man they detest in order to uphold the conservative principles of the party they love.

I don’t feel a hint of that awkwardness, though, because I can firmly, without hesitation, say I will never vote for a man like Trump. And I want to tell you why.

I will never vote for a man like Trump, just as I will never vote for a woman like Hillary or a man like Bernie.

Each of these people stand upon the promise to enact and lead in ways that I do not consider misguided or unhealthy for the future of our country. They stand upon promises to lead in ways that are simply evil. That is an article for another day, though.

Right now, I want to help people understand why I, along with many other conservative Christians (I have no idea how many), can easily and with full recognition of the implications of our vote say #NeverTrump.

My #NeverTrump reasoning can be boiled down to a pair of very important statements.

Two Basic Principles

First, Russell Moore wrote an article in Christianity Today entitled “Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils.” To give a one sentence summary, if you choose between two evils, you are still choosing evil.

I understand there are situations in which you must choose between two evils, and in those times, we do what we must, and praise God for His grace that overshadows our sin. So let me get this out there, if the Gestapo is at your door and Jewish refugees are in your basement, you lie.

But an election is a very different situation. I can participate in the process of voting, weilding the authority I have been given, without actively giving assent to the evil a man or woman has promised to do.

Choosing to vote for the lesser of two evils is choosing to vote for evil, so I don’t vote for evil. I will write in my vote, rather than use it for evil.

Second, Trevin Wax wrote a blog post a few years ago which had an incredibly insightful statement about my generation in comparison to previous generations of Christians. He wrote

Older Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Israel. Younger Southern Baptists are more likely to see the U.S. as Babylon.

This statement is a broad generalization, as Trevin himself notes, but it is a generalization which flies like an arrow to the heart of my posture towards culture as a follower of Jesus.

The U.S. as Babylon

I think of the U.S. as Jewish exiles thought of Babylon. I believe we should,

Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.

That was Jeremiah delivering God’s message to his people who had been conquered by a foreign pagan country. We live our lives to the fullest measure in the land of our captivity, seeking the welfare of the city itself, but our hope lies in the promise of deliverance to a new country. Our hope is not in the reform of our current country. We are sojourners, aliens in a foreign land. This is not our home.

Knowing this, we have stories of how God’s people lived in exile. Daniel was an influential and important citizen in Babylon, but he would not give his assent to the evil the king decreed.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were part of the king’s leadership – again, exemplary citizens of the foreign kingdom – yet they refused to actively choose evil. Because they were in captivity, their allegiance was always towards their God-given identity long before their residential identity.

I view the U.S. as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego viewed Babylon. My identity in Christ supersedes my identity in the U.S. whenever they are forced into open conflict.

The U.S. as Jerusalem

I think previous generations of American Christians view America more like the promised land. Once God’s people were in the promised land, they were charged to expel all of the outsiders, rid themselves of the foreign idolaters and enemies of God.

If we are in Jerusalem, then the state of our city is a reflection of the state of our relationship with God.

Bad kings came as a punishment for the sinfulness of the people. Good kings were a reflection of God’s good plan for his people. Here, in the United States, we get to help take part in dictating the morality of our leadership, and every leader is a reflection of the state of our country, where we have been charged to make it and keep it a nation devoted to God. I think that is a fair representation of how older generations view our role in the U.S.

In our golden years, older American Christians saw our role as that of David’s mighty men, serving a king and a country which, although not perfect, was God’s nonetheless.

In this second perspective, where the U.S. is Jerusalem and we are its citizens, then actively choosing to vote in a way which leads to a lesser king being elected (i.e. voting third party leads to Madam President) is an abrogation of God’s charge to fight for every inch of God’s kingdom.

I get that perspective. I understand it. But I disagree. And I just have to point out that if you view our role in the U.S. like that of God’s people in Jerusalem, you would have to agree that voting for Trump places us in the arena of the book of Judges more than 1 Kings.

Conclusion

So when you combine those two realities: I see myself as a stranger in a foreign land and I think choosing between evils is just choosing evil, I hope you can understand my position of #NeverTrump. I will wield my little bit of authority to the best of my ability in order to reflect the character of God, but I don’t feel the need to straddle a fissure of morality in order to reshape the U.S. into the character of God.

As in every area of life, I do the best I can and leave the heavy lifting to Jesus.

And, as one last little musing, when we spend thirty years or so constantly talking about how horrible our leaders are and how perverted our culture has become, there are many ways people could respond. One of those ways is to see that you are clearly called by God to be invested in, but apart from such a culture. Another way to respond is to grow so angry that you would choose to follow someone who openly claims the mantle of the anger you have felt for thirty years. Regardless of how you respond – live as an exile or become a patriot – it is important to note that we are the ones who have created the categories we inhabit.

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