Why some of us Evangelicals will be voting for a Democrat come fall

In many circles it goes without saying that Evangelical Christians can vote for any reasonable candidate on either side of the aisle, and that this is a large and diverse group of people. However that truth is not understood everywhere. There are those both in the movement and outside of it who think of this branch of Christianity as a singular monolith. Because of that I want to put into writing an alternative perspective, an explanation as to why some Christians with Evangelical religious beliefs vote for Democrats.

In addition, I think this explanation is in order because, while there has been a necessary outcry about Donald Trump, others have reasonably pushed back and said, but what about the Democratic candidates and their support of abortion? Aren't they just as immoral as Donald Trump if not more so?  That is a fare question, assuming abortion is immoral. 

Here is our answer.

We have become disillusioned with the notion of a Christian candidate. We no longer believe what we have come to see as amoral conservative propaganda, peddled in and around church.

We are not under the illusion that a vote for Secretary Clinton or Senator Sanders is a vote for God's candidate, but we are concerned about those that think a vote for any candidate that calls himself a Christian or an Evangelical is, even if they are authentically evangelical. Effective public policy is not directly tied to ones beliefs about God.

Because like all evangelicals, we read Scripture, understand Christ's value for life, and refuse to check our values at the door, we value all policies that tend to create life, and disagree with all policies that tend to cause death. Because of this we are pro-creation, anti-death penalty, anti-war, pro-criminal justice reform, and in favor of a strong social safety net including access to healthcare that tends to reduce abortion.

We don't think "pro-life" rhetoric is enough. We think that Christ's parable about the brother who said he would not, and then did, vs the brother who said he would, and then did not, matters.

If a vote for a Republican directly caused all abortion to cease, we might vote for a Republican, but it does not.

In short, those of us who were raised steeped in an evangelical culture that wraps the cross with the flag no longer believe that narrative. However having seen that failure, we are not about to bless the DNC. 

We may vote for a Democrat. We may not. But we are fundamentally opposed to the unholy alliance between the Evangelical church and the state as defined by the GOP.

As someone who continues to hold on to my faith in Christ, I mourn for my friends who have jettisoned the faith all together because they see the church's support of a singular party as deeply immoral. 

We believe the church should stand apart from the state, while holding her accountable. 
(This is different than individual Christians who of course may be involved in politics, and may have a unique calling there.) We believe that good Christians can disagree, but that no one party is synonymous with an Evangelical perspective. 

It may be that in some cases a more conservative market oriented approach to solving a specific problem proves to be the most effective approach. But we don't believe that such a position is fundamentally Biblical or inherently right in all circumstances. We don't believe that less government causes people to flourish, in fact, we think it is often the opposite. We believe there are a host of a priori assumptions that go into being conservative that are not necessarily true, and certainly not Biblical. For this reason, we won't be voting for a conservative candidate, and we might be voting for a Democrat.

My apologies that this comes across a little strong. I say this respectfully but forcefully to counter a level of certainty we have come to expect from conservative evangelicals.

To be clear, who one votes for is not the most important thing to me. Statistically, one's vote is irrelevant, so I don't think who one votes for is a pressing moral issue. I think a number of policies are pressing issues, I just don't see the act of voting as pressing. But I wanted to take a few minutes to defend my fellow evangelicals who are openly (or secretly) voting for a Democratic candidate and who in some circles, may be getting peppered with questions as to why.


Mark Osler said...

I pretty much agree. One point I don't agree with is that votes don't count-- of course they do! Especially for those who spread influence, as you do via this blog.

In other words, one vote might not tip an election. Convincing 12 people that they don't have to vote might. Convincing a larger group is truly dangerous...

David Best said...

First, here is an article that details the math on why one's vote is statistically irrelevant, as well as counter arguments to some of the main arguments against it, including the ideas of civic duty, and what if no one voted? http://reason.com/archives/2012/10/03/your-vote-doesnt-count/

However, I think people generally DO have a moral duty to vote, OR to intentionally not vote as a form of protest.

Furthermore the math above breaks down for truly local elections, where I think there is a stronger moral argument for engagement in ones local affairs. As we can see in Flint, you need a good Water Commissioner. The people in St. Louis should have voted their seemingly corrupt sheriff out a long time ago.

So why bring it up at all?

First, to the best of my knowledge it is true. (I'm no mathamaticion, but I have heard this argument from several economists and it makes sense to me.) Accurately describing mathematical facts is never a bad thing. But more importantly, I want to downplay the temptation in some quarters to judge others who vote differently than you. People behave as if the world turned on the vote of their friends or neighbors. Sometimes there is a level of judgementalism that directly leads to broken relationships; fathers not talking to there sons and the like.

I am simply trying to remind people that while it does matter, it does not matter as much as you act like it matters.

Rather than focusing on who people vote for, I think we should try to first influence the values they hold, and secondarily influence the policies they support. If we get these thing right, the politicians will follow.

David Best said...

Having said all of this, I am working on another short post that is similar to the comment above, where I argue that your vote it statistically irrelevant, but you should vote anyway... especially for your local leaders, where that statistical math does not hold. And as long as you are there to vote for your mayor, you might as well vote for your president.