It is hard to know where to even begin describing the 2016 Presidential campaign. However, one thing is rather clear; the race and candidates are reflective of the current state of America. Neither candidate got to be their respective party’s nominees without the help of the majority of voters. It is further hard to imagine that either candidate could have ever secured their party’s nomination in any previous U. S. election cycle in history.
Everything about these candidates has been chaotic from the start. Trump has said more “off the wall” and “damaging” things than any candidate in history. Additionally, his character issues and vulgarity would have sunk any other candidate. Clinton’s level of dishonesty and corruption is without precedent as a party nominee. The worst examples of corruption from American Presidential history hardly hold a candle to what we have learned, and are learning, via the drip, drip, drip, of WikiLeaks.
Beyond the abysmal character of the candidates, many are far more concerned with what this “race to the bottom” says about America. Once a solidly Christian nation, founded upon an unmistakable reliance on God, this nation has drifted to the point it is hard to recognize when viewed alongside its former visage. Our founding documents, along with many other writings of our founding fathers, demonstrate that God was inseparable from the process of forming our government. Further, the founders understood that America would only succeed if it continued the trajectory of honoring God from the courthouse, to the state house, to the White House. They believed there would always arise persons who were selfish and power-hungry, but the one caveat of protection was that in a democratic republic the majority of the people would always have the final say. They hardly envisioned a scenario where the majority of Americans would be accepting and condoning of mass-scale sin, corruption, egotism, narcissism, habitual and chronic lying, vulgarity, evil, and much, much more.
How did Trump get to be the Republican Party Nominee and Clinton get to be the Democratic Party nominee? Both worked very hard to secure the nomination. Clinton, it has been joked, has been running for President all her life. Her aspirations for power are traceable for decades passed. Trump appears to be looking for a new challenge, perhaps a new world to conquer. The U.S. Presidency would be a jewel in the crown of this multi-billionaire. Some believe that his real motive is to start a movement to make America great again, but he has revealed that if he loses, this whole effort “Will have been a colossal waste of time and money.” Generally what we have seen in American history is that the parties weed out weaker and more baggage-laden candidates through the primary process. Weak candidates have always ran, but informed and discerning voters have historically weighed the options and looked for the most appealing candidate who could actually win. While the things we are witnessing may be new to the American political scene, they are far from new in history.
The Bible teaches us in Judges 9 about Gideon’s son Abimelech born by way of his concubine in Shechem. Gideon had several wives and 70 sons. Each stood in line to inherit anything which was their fathers. Abimelech, however knew nothing was going to naturally come his way so he went to the men of Shechem and began trying to convince them that there was a need for a king. Then, perhaps in an even easier sell, he suggested why not the king come from Shechem? And, even further still why not make him king. He played upon their fears, their pride, their ignorance, and their gullibility. The men of Shechem actually assisted him in murdering the 70 sons of Gideon, minus one. Jotham, the youngest, lived and prophetically pronounced a curse on Abimelech for the evil he had done. Further, on the Shechemites for being complicit in the evil and foolishly making Abimelech ruler over them. So, it was not merely Abimelech, but also those who put him in power that received the curse.
God ultimately intervened and sent a spirit of derision between Abimelech and the men of Shechem (9:23), but the damage had already been done. Abimelech finally met his ugly fate when a woman dropped a millstone from above and crushed his skull, but not before Abimelech had killed a vast number of Shechemites by burning them to death. Those killed and those whose lives were ruined by Abimelech can be laid not only at his charge, but the easily manipulated people of Shechem who gave him power.
The scary part about Abimelech is that he really had no agenda other than to possess power. He did not want to make the nation great again, or lead them forward to the future. He wanted power; however, if he was willing to slaughter so many people to gain power and keep power, it is safe to say he would also have said absolutely anything it took to convince people to place him in power or keep him in power. He was totally devoid of scruples, character, and honor.
In 2016 the candidates seem more like Abimelech than any who have ever come before. Many Christians are perplexed and facing a dilemma as to how to handle their vote. Is it best not to vote at all? Should they vote for a 3rd party candidate that has no legitimate chance of winning? Should they vote for Trump because he is the lesser of two evils? Further confusion comes with some evangelical leaders endorsing him, and other evangelical leaders saying that a vote for him is a compromise and that there is more at stake in supporting him than merely a loss in the 2016 election. It is a confusing time. It is a time much like in the days of the Hebrew Judges.
Judges is a historical account of Israel that shows the depravity of the nation in two pronounced ways. 1) That the nation loved sin, and particularly idolizing objects, practices, and people with whom God told them not to associate. 2) That God was really not there, in the minds of most of the people, for any other reason than as a last resort to rescue them in case they got in trouble and could not get themselves out. Otherwise, during this lengthy period “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judg. 21:25)
Is anyone at all, much less the 2016 candidates themselves, talking about wisdom or “Godly” wisdom? What about virtue? What about reverence and holiness? Mostly they are talking bad about the other person, much like the nefarious character Haman in the Book of Esther took every opportunity to undermine and spew hatred toward his arch-enemy Mordecai. Or there are clear echoes of the self-righteous Pharisees who would strain out a gnat, yet swallow a camel. Or who made pretenses of being righteous, while on the inside were full of “dead men’s bones.”
I lament with great sorrow the state of politics in America. I lament that we hardly have a choice in this election cycle. I have spent many hours in gut-wrenching thought trying to consider and see all angles so as how to fulfill all my responsibilities and be God-honoring. While, at the same time, not do something that brought dishonor to the name of my Lord. Gone are the days that we could go to the voting booth and vote with a clear conscience for a candidate who unashamedly and unapologetically stood for Christian principles and lived a life that reflected Christian virtue. Sadly, those days may never return. Maybe only now we are starting to see how blessed we were during segments of the past. Perhaps, America will return one day to its former glory where once again “Righteousness exalts the nation” and where it is once again understood the “Sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov. 14:34) There are strong and compelling arguments to be made for any of about 3 or 4 possibilities when voting in this election cycle, but most of all we need to submit ourselves to God. In other words, can you vote with a clear conscience believing that what you are doing is honoring God to the best of your ability, given the circumstances at hand. If you do that, then you will be able to have peace in your heart about your part in this election. Most of all, our nation needs prayers for the intervention of God in a way we have not seen in our lifetimes. Whether our nation is aware of its need or not, we desperately need God.
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor