I could have named this voters guide after Augustine who once said, “Love God and do what you please.” I could have named it after Martin Luther who reportedly told Melanchthon: “Go and sin boldly.” But those phrases never seem to mean what we think they mean, either in Latin, in German, or in context. Instead, I’ve named our voters guide after Naaman of Second Kings, Chapter 5, who faced a dilemma more common than we think for redeemed hearts who live in a fallen world. (See previous Liberator Today.)
This voters guide is written for those who in their heart of hearts feel they should join with us evangelical Christians who are NOT voting for Donald Trump, and yet they, as of yet, feel no freedom in their spirits to pursue any of the other available options. I’ve written extensively over the past few months of WHY not to vote for Trump; I now want to speak of HOW not to vote for him.
I can understand that when most people asked me, “Lowell, how should I vote in the 2016 US presidential race?,” what they meant was, “For whom?” and that this is the typical answer expected of a voters guide. But the word how can also mean “in what manner” or “in what spirit” or “according to what perspective.” I genuinely believe that the spirit in which you vote in 2016 is more important to God than for which tiny human being constrained by one small four-year term, you cast your ballot. Elisha listened to Naaman’s moral dilemma, and told him, “Go in peace.” My hope for you is that you can “go,” that you can make some movement on this question, that you can get on with your life. I hope you find some peace over the next fifty days.
#2. Vote boldly with the fullness of freedom that you have in Christ Jesus.
In the fall of 2000, Mr. and Mrs. Naaman were sitting with friends at a pizzeria on the banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi, India. (Editor’s Note: I know this sounds like the beginning of a joke, or the start of an extended allegory, but Mr. and Mrs. Naaman is just an alias, for effect, for my wife Robynn and I. This story is absolutely true.) Our friends were newly arrived from Texas and they were all a-flush with the presidential election (Bush v. Gore). The husband pronounced, “You can’t be a Christian and vote for Al Gore.” Mr. Naaman looked over at his wife and, at first, she appeared amused. Mrs. Naaman was a Canadian citizen and couldn’t vote for Gore if she had wanted to. Then Mrs. Naaman looked pained. Her best friend, Amy Jo, had recently died of a brain tumor. Amy Jo considered herself a Democrat and would surely have voted for Gore. Was Amy Jo currently burning in Hell?
If we had confronted our friends, they undoubtedly would have backpedaled, accessed their Bible college class notes, and stammered, “No, no, no, we don’t mean that.” But that’s the problem with grand pronouncements that restrict another person’s freedom, either by intention or in effect: we never stop to think. “Christians can’t vote for Hillary.” Really? Watch them. In November, hundreds of thousands of some of the godliest people you could ever meet, are going to step into the voting booth and prove that they can chose Hillary Clinton/Tim Kaine (Democrat). “No, we mean: Christians shouldn’t vote for Hillary.” Ok, that’s better, we’re getting closer to what’s call discourse. I’ve known you. I’ve respected you. I’m curious, and so I ask, “Why shouldn’t Christians vote for Hillary?” But then a theologian like Wayne Grudem comes along with his endorsement of Trump. He makes heavy use of the “you” pronoun, meaning YOU, you the reader, you the voter, you the son or daughter of the Most High God. He concludes:
“the most likely result of not voting for Trump is that you will be abandoning thousands of unborn babies who will be put to death under Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court” or “you will be contributing to a permanent loss of the American system of government due to a final victory of unaccountable judicial tyranny.”
Yes, you!—baby killer. Yes, you!—responsible for the downfall of 240 years of the American experiment. Manipulative language rattles just as effectively as if Grudem was dangling a pair of manacles in your face. Run away as fast as you can! There are others who will engage you in discourse on Trump v. Hillary, but not Grudem. Engage and enslave are two different actions.
Of course, I have also heard, “You can’t be a Christian, and vote for Trump.” This too is wrong. And someone can comb through old copies of The Liberator Today and probably find manipulative pronouncements of mine which border on Grudem’s. I’m sorry. I have tried to switch over to asking, not telling: “Please don’t vote for Trump.” I’ve also heard: “You can’t vote for Johnson (he’s pro-choice);” “You can’t vote for a Third Party;” “You can’t use your vote to register a protest;” “You can’t NOT vote.” Rarely have I heard such a noxious clamor of bondage. Our freedom seems curtailed by the so-called two-party-system, by our habituated voting record, by our overly-zealous peer groups, by Electoral College pragmatics, and by our own overwrought consciences.
Declare your freedom boldly. In the seven options on the ballot printed above, I think I’ve covered all the possibilities. It’s true that you can only do one out of the seven, but don’t let anyone tell you that your freedom doesn’t extend to any one of the seven. Consider it a matter of soul care, call it a spiritual discipline, think of it as preparation for the spiritual aftermath of the 2016 election, but try saying all three of these mantras out loud:
“Yes, I could vote for Hillary if I wanted to.”
“Yes, I could vote for Trump if I wanted to.”
“Yes, I am free to choose any of the seven options above, but I choose to exercise my freedom in Christ and choose [XYZ].”
Then, while you are under no obligation to respect another person’s choice, you must honor the other person’s freedom to choose. This could well be the lesson from the forgotten character in Naaman’s story: Naaman’s master. Naaman asks Elisha: “When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.” Naaman just assumes that he shouldn’t be enlisting Elisha, God's prophet, in burning down the temple of Rimmon instead. He just assumes that he will be accompanying his master into the temple, instead of resigning as commander of the army in protest. He doesn’t seem concerned with the king of Aram’s actions at all. Naaman just wants to make sure that when a physical action of his occurs—the bending of a knee toward Rimmon—that Yahweh looks to the “how” of the heart and not to the “what” of the gesture.
Next installment of the Naaman’s Voters Guide for 2016:
“May the Lord forgive your servant for [my choosing] this [one of the seven options.]”
3. Vote peacefully in the grace of God.