Monday, July 25, 2016

Why I Cannot Vote For Trump

The 2016 Republican National Convention is over. Last night, Donald Trump accepted his party's nomination in a 75 minute speech. What did I get from their convention? That the only thing they are unified on is a hatred for Hillary Clinton. I heard many interviewed who say they are voting for Trump not because they like him as a candidate but to vote against Clinton. Voting against someone is not a reason to vote for someone else. This convention, like Trump's entire campaign up until it, has appealed only to the baser parts of human nature: fear, distrust, and anger.

Conservative columnist David Brooks recently wrote about how the R.N.C. focused on "the pervasive anxieties that plague America and it concentrates them on the most visceral one: fear . . ." in a piece entitled "The Dark Knight" he described it as:

The G.O.P. used to be a party that aspired to a biblical ethic of private
charity, graciousness, humility and faithfulness . . . Trump has replaced
biblical commitments with a gladiator ethos. Everything is oriented
around conquest, success, supremacy and domination.

So whenever I have been asked if I will vote for Trump, I have and continue to answer that I can't in good conscience do so. Sometimes I am met with anger as they warn, "So you'll just let Hillary take the White House then!" Even as I explain my reasons for not voting for this candidate, I am met with open hostility. There is no discussion or exchange of ideas. And that's how it's been since Trump started running. They have a right to disagree with me just as I do them. I will listen to what they have to say and their reasons for voting for Trump, may they extend the same courtesy to me.

As a parent, I am raising my sons to have strong, godly character. One of the things I constantly reiterate is that they are to treat other people in the same manner they wish to be treated. They are to be respectful, compassionate, kind, and Christ-like. If I am teaching them this, how can I then turn around and vote for a presidential candidate who does none of those things? How can I tell them not to make fun of others or denigrate others if the man running for President of the United States is? He has repeatedly made comments that are racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and mocking the disabled. None of those are what I expect from my sons or the leader of our country. Why should my standards for that office be less than what I expect of my boys? How can I morally support a man who chooses denigration and division? Who plays on prejudices, fears and distrust of others? How can that platform bring a fractured nation together?

I don't expect my candidates to be perfect. The Bible tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But, I also cannot support someone who has openly bragged of his adulterous affairs. He has written proudly of them because he views this as part of his prowess and power. And he's still not apologetic about it or anything else he's ever done wrong. In fact, he said, "I think apologizing's a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize , sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I'm ever wrong." Matthew 23:12 warns, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Clearly, not his life verse.

At different points during his campaign, he has referenced his "faith" or "religion." One of the key points to being a follower of Christ is acknowledging our sinfulness and of repentance. Yet Trump has said that he doesn't need to ask for forgiveness and isn't sure that he ever has. As Acts 3:19 tells us, "Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out . . ." Even in his most recent interview with 60 Minutes, his first with his VP nominee Mike Pence, Trump said he was "religious" because he got so much of the evangelical vote. When questioned about his favorite verse in a radio interview, he quoted from Exodus 21 about "an eye for an eye," which is a verse that Christ repudiated in the Beatitudes. "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.' but I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them your other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you" (Matthew 5:38-48). Notice that Trump has never, ever referenced any verses from the Sermon on the Mount.

It should not surprise me that a man who does not believe he needs to repent or ask forgiveness, should then act and speak in the manner that he does. Matthew 3:8 says, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance." So if one doesn't believe one needs to repent then one will not produce these fruits (gentleness, kindness, mercy, grace, compassion).

Do I believe that Trump has to be a Christian to be President?

No. But I also do not like it when a candidate attempts to use my faith as a selling point when it is obvious that he does not hold to its most basic and fundamental tenets. Russell D. Moore, who's President of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote of Trump, "If racial division, misogyny, sexual debauchery, demagoguery, authoritarianism are secondary issues for you, that's not "values voting."

Jesus said that we would know his followers by their love. I do not see this love in Trump or his campaign. Instead of humility and a servant's heart, I see boldfaced arrogance and a disregard for the least of these in our world. The book of Proverbs admonishes, "Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate." From the Old to the New Testament, it repeats that no one should think "more highly of himself" (Romans 12:3) and that God will "put an end to the pomp of the arrogant" (Isaiah 13:11).

As a Christian, I will always strive to choose love over hate, faith over fear, and hope over despair. As Maya Angelou said, "Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." Jesus said it this way, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples., if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). President John Adams understood this truth and wrote, "The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know . . . Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God. That is enough."

It's true, I'm not voting for a pastor but for the President of our country, but I cannot vote for someone who is so far from the values that I consider most important in a leader. Some have used examples of other, more prominent Christians who are now supporting Trump to say, "See, they are going to vote for him. . ." But Christian leaders and celebrities are not the standard by which I am to live my life: Christ is. While no political leader will meet all of that criteria, he or she must meet many of the issues I hold important.

One example is on the issue of abortion. I am very much pro-life and, until it became convenient for him, Trump has not been. In fact, he has even changed his stance 5 times in only 3 days. How can I know what he really believes if he doesn't even know?

And then there as that time that, in his usual brash manner, Trump talked of having women who've had abortions arrested and jailed because "there has to be some form of punishment." now, do I honestly think he believed that or would actually do it? No. What I saw was a man who says whatever pops into his head and he thought such brash statements were showing those who were pro life that he would be tough on the matter. But that's not what any pro life advocate would want as a response. I don't know what has brought a woman to the decision to have an abortion, but she should not be treated as a criminal. Instead, she is someone in need of compassion and understanding. The church should reach out in Christ-like love to her. What Trump fails to grasp is that love, not hate, changes people's lives, attitudes and beliefs.

Trump does not value lives. Again and again he talks of deportation, of banning Muslims, and of a complete distrust of Syrian refugees. Yet in Exodus 22:21 it says, "You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were once sojourners in the land of Egypt." God has a heart for the sojourner, the refugee, the minority, the marginalized, the oppressed, the poor, the forgotten, the rejected, the voiceless and the least of these. Throughout scripture He reminds us that we, as His people, are to be likewise.  Donald Trump, however, promotes a distrust and an anger towards the very people that God has called us to embrace. Jesus tells us to embrace the stranger. "Whatever you've done for the least of these," Jesus said, "you've done unto me." God also warns that those who would not take care of them make a mockery of their Creator. He is especially harsh of leaders who would do this and warns them time after time through the prophets (Isaiah 3:14-15, 10:2, Jeremiah 5:28, Ezekiel 22:29, Amos 4:1, 5:11-12, and Zechariah 7:10) and through Christ. In fact, the very first sermon Jesus gives is when he enters the synagogue and reads the words from Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Jesus never rejected another person based on political, religious or cultural biases.

When looking at past biblical figures, I can't help but see that Trump chooses the path of King Rehoboam. When King Rehoboam was dealing with a country where people felt disenfranchised, he took counsel with the elders who had served his father, King Solomon. The elders suggested that he speak softly and kindly. Does he listen to this sage advice? No, Rehoboam then turns to some friends he grew up with. What do they suggest? "Show no weakness!" King Rehoboam did as they suggested and took up a policy of harsh rhetoric and a policy of retribution. So what happened? He incited a division in the nation that was never healed.

Trump keeps proclaiming that he will make "America great again!" It does take great hubris to make such a claim. But what he fails to understand is that one cannot make a country great through exclusion or division. You can only achieve greatness when you bring together and connect people. Greatness does not come through the wealth and power one acquires, it is not about one's stature in society, but comes from one's integrity and a desire to put God and others first. True greatness requires humility: the humility of realizing that only God is great. As Psalm 86:10 reminds us, "For thou are great and does wondrous things: thou art God alone." There will be no "greatness" in this country until all of us humble ourselves before a righteous and holy God, turn from our sins and our selfishness, pray and look to Him who will restore and heal our land.

In Matthew, when Jesus was asked who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (as people were always jockeying for position), his answer must have startled many, "Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Over and over again, he reminded us that: The first shall be last. The one who exalts himself will be brought low. That the greatness God calls us to is that of the servant, of the one who moves down the societal ladder to be with those at the bottom, not the top. Christians need to let go of the American dream and strive for the kingdom commission.

Scripture also warns us about the love of money. Yet too many who would vote for Trump are swayed by his appearance of wealth and glamour. They cite his business accomplishments, but don't mention the four times he has bankrupted his company, how he has cheated his business partners, and openly brags, "The beauty of me is that I'm rich." Would Trump, like the rich young ruler, walk away from Jesus because of the love he has for all of his wealth and possessions? Would we? As Americans, are we more comfortable with he rich young ruler than we are with Christ?

A. W. Tozer wrote in his book The Attributes of God, "The richest nation in the world is America . . . Now we've got everything, absolutely everything. And yet what country is the most troubled . . .Money won't do it. If you take the kingdom of God and His righteousness, God will add money to you - as much as you need . . . But it is always with the understanding that He can take it away again and you won't grumble. You still have God, and God is all." God must always be first and foremost in our lives, not our wealth and our possessions. The problem is that the desire for wealth and prosperity have invaded our churches, our theologies. We have made a God that serves us instead of us serving him. It is the American gospel of health, wealth, prosperity and nothing bad should ever happen to you. If our preachers are telling us this, why wouldn't we want a candidate who does likewise?

Money gives us a false sense of security that we should only find in God. We should not be the rich young ruler but we should be like Zacchaeus who gave away his riches. We need to stop being consumers and start being Christ followers just as this former tax collector did.

Jesus said, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Where is Trump's heart? He once said, "You can never be too greedy." Biblically, this is no minor issue, but is such a big moral issue that Jesus warned more about greed than he talked about either heaven or hell. God is not concerned about our standard of living but about our standard of giving. Are we generous? Do we give extravagantly? American novelist and poet Josiah Gilbert Holland saw the wealth of our country and wrote, "What do you think God gave you more wealth than is requisite to satisfy your rational wants for, when you look around and see how many are in absolute need of that which you do not need? Can you not take the hint?"

Where is the candidate who promises to make us a country that is rich in mercy instead of money?

We should not be surprised about the state of our nation or our world. 2nd Timothy 3 cries out in warning that in the last days that "men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, without love of good, traitorous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God..." Is it any wonder our country is in the shape it's in? Why we have the candidates we now do? Sociologists have documented that this culture we live in is the most narcissistic than any other in the history of the world. So we should not be surprised that we have candidates that mirror this, that reflect us back to ourselves. But the Bible tells us to be in this world and not of it. We must let go of our false idols. We can no longer be caught up in the endless cycle of greed, division and exploitation. Our country cannot afford it nor can our world. Francis Chan said, "We have become dangerously comfortable - believers ooze with wealth and let their addictions to comfort and security numb the radical urgency of the gospel." I don't want to be one of those Christians.

That is why I cannot vote for Donald Trump.

As I have said, I don't expect any presidential candidate to be perfect because only Christ was, but I cannot believe that I am to vote for Trump just to vote against Clinton. That's not a reason. There were numerous candidates before now that Christians could have stood up and supported with greater reason. Now many say they have to "hold their nose" while they vote at the polls, voting for what they view as the lesser of two evils. We should be voting for someone we believe in and can vote for them with a good conscience. As 1st Timothy 1:5 says, "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." If I cannot vote for someone because of that, then I will not vote for them. That is why I am prayerfully and seriously looking at third party candidates or, possibly, writing the name of a candidate in. Jesus warned, "Watch out! Be on guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in abundance of possessions" (Luke 12:15).

I know that this is a difficult subject to address with many. I know how heated, angry and nasty this election season has been so far. I have read many of the most hateful comments in regards to this election and it was a deciding factor in me leaving Facebook and many areas of social media.

Writing this blog is not to add to the hostility. I am merely doing so to explain why I cannot and will not vote for Trump. I know that this may cost me some friendships or cause others to look at me differently or negatively. I am not writing to infuriate those who have chosen to vote for him. These are simply my reasons. I have come to them because of what I find in scripture, through much prayer and seeking of God's wisdom, and through much soul-searching. Please don't simply dismiss me as a "liberal" or that I don't love my country. I am not coming at this with a political agenda, endorsing another candidate.

I ask only that if you comment, e-mail me or speak to me, to do so respectfully and in a godly manner.

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