Voting for Donald Trump: A lesser evil is not still evil & other Never Trump errors

Nancy French attacks evangelical Trump voters in Washington Post; Uses cliche about lesser evil while missing the point of basic Christian ethics

Never Trump Evangelicals still don’t get it. Politics isn’t about evangelical public witness (a fancy and pious way of saying virtue signaling). Politics is about order over chaos; it prevents every man from doing what is right in his own eyes. Politics determines how the sword is used to stop evil. What that means today and in 2020, is that American politics is about Infanticide. It is about abortion.

Determining where God stands on that issue will guide what evangelicals do at the ballot box. It is important that evangelicals listen to wise voices and not biased political pundits. For example, certain Never Trump writers miss the point of politics and fail at basic moral reasoning.

Nancy French writes in the Washington Post, “After voting for ‘the lesser of two evils,’ Christians must finally realize the cost was too high.”

Really? What cost? The cost of evangelical public witness? That was one of the laments of David French. However, voting isn’t about some nebulous consequentialist outcome like what your neighbors might think. It is a clash between incompatible worldviews—one worldview believes babies are disposable.

Preventing a greater evil is the moral duty of the Christian. The inimitable Dr. William Lane Craig pointed out in a podcast that lesser evils are a natural consequence of living in a fallen, sinful world, and that it is essentially childish or naïve to pretend there aren’t moral dilemmas in which all choices are bad.

Dr. Craig explains, “I think there is a kind of immaturity among some people about moral decision-making where they think that moral decision-making is a matter of choosing between the good alternative and the bad alternative. That is a very naïve, almost childish, view of moral decision-making. We are frequently confronted with moral choices in which we have no good alternatives or, alternatively, we have two good alternatives to choose from and you have to then choose between two goods. But sometimes you have to choose between two bads.

So, what must the Christian do in such situations?

Pick the least bad outcome.

Dr. Craig explains, “Similarly, in a case like this, we didn’t have two good candidates to choose from. Both were flawed in multiple ways, and the outcomes were flawed in multiple ways. Yet, that doesn’t exempt you from having to make a decision in a case like this. You choose the lesser of two evils – which outcome would be better for the United States of America than the other?

But isn’t evil still evil? That’s a criticism Nancy French raises.

“Or, at the very least, they should remember that the lesser of two evils is still evil,” Nancy French writes.

This again is false. Dr. Norman Geisler explained in his book on Christian Ethics how Christians who apply God’s commands to form our ethical system must rank competing commands. Since this is a fallen world, we will find situations with conflicting moral rules. What happens then? We obey the greater commandment, and by doing such, it is not sinful to break the lesser.

As Dr. Geisler writes, “There are many moral absolutes and they sometimes conflict. However, some laws are higher than others, so when there is an unavoidable conflict it is our duty to follow the higher moral law. God does not blame us for what we could not avoid. Thus He exempts us from responsibility to follow the lower law in view of the overriding obligation to obey the higher law.”

In Geisler’s Graded Absolutism, breaking the lesser commandment isn’t wrong. It isn’t sinful.

In fact, in this deontological construct, violating the greater commandment would in fact be sin. So, for the American voter, failure to vote against pro-abortion candidates and prevent them from winning elections would in fact be sinful.

Why do Never Trump Evangelicals always seem to critique all evangelical Trump voters?

In an attempt to critique Franklin Graham, Nancy French, wife of National Review’s David French, points out flaws in Graham’s political behavior; however, not content to leave it there, she then insults all Trump evangelical voters by attributing to them the same errors. This is unfortunate.

Nancy French writes, “Though Christians claimed that voting for Trump did not entail endorsing his panoply of bad character traits, that’s exactly what happened.”

Really? All Trump voters did this? Or, are you trying to generalize from a few specific examples? This is the problem with Never Trump pundits. Not content to criticize one Trump supporter, it must morph into a larger critique of all Trump evangelical voters. This is unfortunate. It is why most evangelicals tune out from Russell Moore and Nancy and David French when they blather on about Trump.

The issue isn’t justified criticism of Trump, but the underlying moral smugness that exudes from Never Trump pundits against Trump voters.

Let’s examine the core of the issue between the Frenchs and Graham.

Nancy French writes, “Judging Clinton’s and Buttigieg’s sex lives, while ignoring Trump’s, doesn’t pass the straight face test, let alone any sort of systematic theology.”

It seems reasonable to criticize Franklin Graham for an apparent double standard. Why are the sex lives of Democrats open for critique and not Republicans? One could infer partisan motives.

However, notice what Graham said about Pete Buttigieg’s sex life.

“Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian. As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman—not two men, not two women,” Graham tweeted as reported by French.

Graham is not wrong. The Bible seems to clearly indicate, as in the words of Jesus, that marriage is between a man and a woman.

Buttigieg’s sex life is part of the mayor’s campaign for president. It is relevant to any discussion of what defines marriage. He made it an issue.

Graham appears to now want to limit such discussions between public and private conduct. I think that is a mistake. One can affirm that public policy matters more than personal sinfulness without totally tossing out standards of personal sinfulness.

In terms of voting, Norman Geisler used a great analogy in November 2016. He said, “For reluctant conservatives who were looking for someone more to the right of center, we must remember that conservatism does not equal Christianity. Likewise, neither does liberalism equal Christianity. But when I am sick, I choose the most competent doctor who may or may not be the most Christian doctor. Likewise, the most competent political leader may not be the most Christian one.

Let’s carry that analogy a little further. Your surgeon shows up to surgery drunk. This personal failing is now a matter of his professional competency. So, Trump’s personal moral failings and business dealings are relevant information to process in the voting booth.

However, Trump’s adultery and sexual issues are far less important than infanticide.

And that is the stark reality of modern American politics.

One cannot be a conservative, one cannot hold a biblical worldview and allow the election of the Party of Infanticide.

Never Trump pundits should understand the basic moral reasoning at work and cease baseless claims like a lesser evil is still evil. It fails basic theology and philosophy. It isn’t helpful for Christians—it only helps suppress conservative, Christian voters.

And that may be why the likes of the Washington Post are willing to publish such philosophical-theological rubbish.

5 Comments

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  1. 1
    Karen

    I’m a born and bred evangelical, and I also have a brain!
    Your urging that’s it’s either Trump or infanticide is the worst sort of manipulation.
    Although the adulterous debauchery of Trump is an affront to evangelical beliefs, it is his:
    Outrageous lies
    Racism
    Disregard for poor and needy
    Swindling employees, contractors
    Total lack of empathy
    Disregard for laws
    Cheating with Russia to get himself elected
    Bullying mistreatment of virtually everyone:
    That should be disqualifying.
    Evangelicals have many god fearing leaders they could have chosen instead of a sinner like Trump. You should be urging everyone to do better than Trump.
    You also know that the Bible is silent on both abortion and infanticide. Abortions occurred in Bible times, but the Bible doesn’t teach against it. The closest you can come is ancient teachings that: if a man injures a pregnant woman when he kicks her in the abdomen, he should pay a fine!
    What? No death by stoning? No prayerful repentance?
    Now for infanticide: You do know what the custom was when a parent couldn’t care for a newborn in biblical times. The infant was set outside the gate, for anything to happen to it. Anything! Wild animals, taken into slavery, some other family, if lucky. Or nothing at all, which meant certain death.
    It was a reality of living with famines, unrest, upheavals, invasions and even forced migrations.
    So you could at least be honest about it and say something like: it’s not biblical, but YOU just don’t want women to get abortions. And you want this so bad, you are happy to lie about the biblical silence. And you want this so bad that you will accept a sinner who has more in common with Sodom and Gomorrah than an evangelical believer.
    At least have an honest conversation about whether its right to have obsessive control over women, and how we can help people who face difficult decisions and choices in their lives.
    And stop this dishonest manipulation, it’s not Christian!

    • 2
      Capstone Report

      The Bible isn’t silent on killing innocents. Nice try though. Abortion and Infanticide are nothing more than the intentional killing of innocent humans. So, the choice is either the Party of Infanticide or the GOP. If you are a Christian and want to follow God, then you best not cast a vote for someone like Hillary, etc. Furthermore, the Didache (dates to 2nd Century) shows the Early Church understood abortion to be sinful. The Didache declares, “do not murder a child by abortion or kill a new-born infant.” Philo 3:108 shows that a developed fetus, if killed, required the life of the one who caused the death.

      You really think Trump cheated with Russia? Mueller concluded otherwise. So, if you want anyone to take anything you say seriously, give collusion a rest. It is comical that you even mention it. If Mueller says there was no collusion, then I think we can safely say there was none.

      It isn’t manipulation to point out the truth: You either vote for the party who thinks murder of a child is OK, or vote for the other party. It might not be a perfect solution, but this is a fallen, sinful world. One does the best one can in such circumstances.

      • 3
        Laura L Hal

        Capstone, thank you for this thoughtful article. I’ve often said, in good conscience, that I wouldn’t vote for the lesser of two evils. And I do believe that sometimes that is appropriate but this article has given me much food for thought. I have a lot of respect for Dr. Geisler so his teaching here is something I will take seriously. I agree with your comment about Franklin Graham too; about limiting and public vs personal. Good job. God bless.

        • 4
          Capstone Report

          Laura,

          Thanks for your comment. I think there are times we must do as you say and refrain, but there are other times when we can take action. So, I’m glad Dr. Geisler’s quotes helped. If you’d like more information on Geisler’s approach to ethics, you can find a great essay available online by the title of Any Absolutes? Absolutely. It covers general ethical issues and explains a bit more about graded absolutism.

  2. 5
    Laura

    Wow!
    “Help people who have difficult decisions” ??? Since your post is about abortion I can only be repulsed by you categorizing the ‘decision’ to abort a baby as a ‘difficult decision’. I don’t know how old you are but if you are a Christian, as you claim, it is obvious that there is no decision to make when you are pregnant. The time for a ‘decision’ was before you had sex out of wedlock, without protection. And spare me the false narratives about rape, incest, and ‘back alley’ abortions. Those are all lies.
    God have mercy on you and open your eyes.

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