The Moral Choice?

People are broken and sinful.  Groups of people experience the compounded effect of their individual conditions.  Politics becomes a necessary evil, a necessary means of protecting oneself and seeking the ability to thrive while limiting my sinful inclinations to take the liberties and goods of others in order to enhance my own.  Politics is sinful, a continual tension of ensuring the rights of others so that I can have my own rights, a grudging willingness to cede some of my liberty in the process.  Politics can be terrible, such as in an tyrannical dictatorship, or it can be less terrible, but it is always shot through with evil because everyone who participates in it is sinful and evil.

Which makes the talk of ‘moral duty’ in voting for a particular candidate problematic for me.  The rhetoric of the presidential election this year is one of morality.  This is nothing new, but it certainly is accentuated.  Not only will I not vote for so-and-so, I do so because to vote for that person is morally reprehensible, and therefore everyone who supports that person is morally reprehensible.  The flip side of this is that I, in not voting for so-and-so, am more moral or righteous than those who plan to vote for them.  Both sides talk this way.  Both sides in the process marginalize not just the opposing candidate, but the opposing candidate’s supporters.

Let me be clear – there is no morally righteous option here.  There never is.  Never has been.  Never will be.  The only morally righteous person in all of human history is the incarnate Son of God, Jesus.  Voting for Hilary is not a morally righteous choice.  Voting for Trump is not a morally righteous choice.  Pick your candidate, but don’t presume that your choice represents your higher moral development than mine.  Don’t assume that voting against someone is a morally superior choice to voting for someone.  Both candidates have flaws.  Both parties have flaws.  Both platforms have aspects to them that are sinful and broken, even when they’re trying their best not to be.  We don’t know everything about either candidate – or about ourselves for that matter!  Humility is in order, not boasting.

At the root of all of this moral posturing is the rampant notion among Christians that it is possible at all times to live righteously, and it’s just a matter of discernment.  The assumption is that there will always be an option that pleases God, that causes him to pat you on the head and affirm your choice as righteous.  Is that what my choices do?  Is that why I do them?  I as a sinful and broken person and yet at the same time a holy and righteous saint of God, I’m going to be blessed with an option to live a righteous life by simply making the right choices, discerning the right road to take?  Is the moral high ground really mine to seize?

Choices must be made, of course.  I am blessed with the ability to help choose my political leader to some degree and I should exercise that choice to the best of my ability.  The fact that neither candidate is perfect or ideal, the fact that neither candidate is the morally superior or righteous choice does not negate the blessing I have received in my citizenship or the importance of me using that blessing.  The fact that I don’t like either option doesn’t mean that the morally righteous option is to choose neither.  There is no moral high ground here.  There never has been.  We are doing the best we can with what we have to work with.

But I may not always have a righteous option to choose.  Do I surrender the Jews hiding in my basement to the Nazis, or do I lie in order to protect them?  Either one is a sinful choice in God’s eyes, even if we as human beings would hopefully choose the latter option over the former one.  I live in a sinful world as a sinful person, and perfectly righteous options are scarce indeed.  My hope is not in perfectly choosing the righteous option in every situation.  My hope is in Christ.

Should I seek to live as righteously as possible?  Of course.  But to assume that in every situation there must be a righteous option that will maintain my illusory perception of personal righteousness is a dangerous path to go down.  Dangerous because it leads me to think that I am righteous at some level because of something inherent in me rather than Christ in me, and dangerous because it can lead me to justify all sorts of abuses and atrocities against those who disagree with me, who are therefore morally inferior and therefore somehow not entitled to the same respect and liberty that I am.

The marginalization of any people is only accomplished when they are placed on a lower moral plane than their oppressors.  It is not simply enough to disagree.  It is not simply enough to be different.  Oppression and tyranny and genocide ultimately depend on the moral unsuitability of the victims, as defined and dictated by the oppressors.  Do you think it’s coincidence that Jesus commands us to love our enemies?  To do so presumes that we can see each other as creations of the same Father God, creations whom the same Son of God died to redeem, and whom the same Holy Spirit of God seeks to draw to faith.  Loving our enemies prevents me from assuming myself morally superior to them.  I can give thanks to God for the gift of faith that I have received and that my enemy has not, but I must also pray that they do receive God’s Holy Spirit and the faith He instills.

So vote for Hilary if you want.  Vote for Trump if you want.  I trust that you have some good reasons for doing so, even though I may not agree with you.  We are free to disagree vehemently – so be it!  We can do so as friends or associates or at the very least fellow human beings who see things differently.  But I won’t dismiss you as a morally inferior person for your choice, and you’d best not do the same with me.  I will pray for you, and I hope you’ll pray for me.  I’ll pray for Hilary, and for Trump, and I hope you’ll do the same.  Whether you think they’re righteous or not, whether you think they’re the best candidate or not, as a follower of Christ you are required to pray for them, and you need to take that privilege and obligation seriously.

Now I just have to figure out how to follow this advice while driving.

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