Nearly three years ago, I began my career as a blogger. As I reflect on past subject matter (which is pretty varied by any standard) it comes as no surprise that quite a few of my posts have been to do with British politics, given it often relates to my community activist interests. What would have come as a surprise if I had done some crystal ball gazing back then is that quite a number posts have been about USA politics, a country I have not yet visited. In particular, a good many of these has been to do with the US Presidential election, soon to take place. I have given my views on Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and readers are quite at liberty to trawl through past posts to check these out. To summarize, I dislike both candidates and if hypothetically I could vote, I would vote for neither, even though I believe voting is important. For me, the choice is between voting for a hurricane or a tornado – neither do I want to see.
While this election has seen two poor candidates and polarization, when it comes to a vision for America and the type of person to lead it, to an extent I haven’t witnessed previously, there has been much, strangely enough, that makes me think about clouds and silver lining. I understand there are other offices up for grabs, which is also significant. The range of views expressed, including by those I particularly respect for their opinions, has been enormous, and if nothing else it has helped galvanized the public into thinking through many of the issues, even if it is tempting to be dismissive of some of the bigotry and prejudice that has come to the fore. For this reason, I have decided to concentrate in this post on the views of three new parties I have not yet considered, who each make very good points. The first is pro Clinton; the second is pro Trump and the third is pro neither, and each give good reasons for holding those views. The second and third of my choices are Christians. I make no apology for this. While on this matter, like many others, I disagree with many Christians who do express a view, and on this issue especially it is quite evident Christians do not sing from the same hymn sheet. As far as I am concerned though, my Christian beliefs informs my political beliefs, e.g. in my “US Preachers and the US Presidential election” post, I consider two preachers who I respect; one is pro Trump and the other is pro Clinton.
My first report is from USA Today, a popular, national American daily middle-market newspaper. The title of the report is somewhat of a giveaway as to what its conclusions are going to be: “USA TODAY’s Editorial Board: Trump is ‘unfit for the presidency’”. The report begins: “In the 34-year history of USA TODAY, the Editorial Board has never taken sides in the presidential race. Instead, we’ve expressed opinions about the major issues and haven’t presumed to tell our readers, who have a variety of priorities and values, which choice is best for them. Because every presidential race is different, we revisit our no-endorsement policy every four years. We’ve never seen reason to alter our approach. Until now”. It then goes on to give a string of reasons for NOT voting Trump, many of which resonate with those given by a whole raft of friends who have given their opinions on the matter (on balance the anti-Trump sentiment outweighs that of anti-Clinton, although that in part is due to the company I keep). While USA Today appears to be no fan of Clinton, it sees Clinton as the lesser of two evils, which I have found is a common sentiment.
My second report is by Eric Metaxas as part of an interview under the title: “Eric Metaxas: Bonhoeffer, Brexit & Backing Trump”. Since reading his book: “Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” (which I have blogged about) I have been a fan of his, although always wary of notions like that of America being somehow special or being dismissive or ignorant of what happens outside of the USA. Him sharing some of my pro Brexit sentiments has also helped. But regarding backing Trump, I was more wary. In the grilling he was given, especially regarding some of Trumps more controversial statements, such as around Mexico and Muslims, and his questionable character, he was forthright and critical of Trump. For Metaxas, the issue of abortion and same sex marriage whilst an important one, it is less important than that of religious liberty. In all these matters America would be worse off under Clinton, he argues (and I concur), and while Trump’s morality was questionable, this was less an issue than the danger he felt America is heading for (of which there is already much evidence) when that liberty is sacrificed. It is not merely a matter of protecting the religious from attack by the culture but: “If Christians in America lose religious liberty, that will have a tremendous effect on the entire nation”. While not a fan of Trump, he concludes, oppositely to that of USA Today, deeming Trump to be the lesser of two evils.
My third report comes from Christianity Today, which is running a series of articles where Evangelical leaders holding differing views argue their case. The article under consideration begins: “Evangelical Views of the 2016 Election: “There are No ‘Must’ Candidates!” – Darrell Bock Professor of New Testament Studies articulates the dilemma many Christians face in this election cycle. “There is a real dilemma for their vote in this election. The choice we have before us is no real option. It is like choosing between facing a tornado rolling through your home or a hurricane. Both will do real damage in different ways. The only possible check on this regrettable situation involves the considered selection of legislators put around the poor choice the nation faces. Our votes for other offices now count for more. The dilemma we face is one we have given ourselves. Our votes created our choices. We have opted for decades to step back from reflection on character, teaching our children the skills and economics of life but not judgment, discernment, and wisdom. A soulless child rearing produces what we face today”. After comparing unfavourably the hurricane and the tornado, the article concludes: “It is a conscious act intended to speak in the face of injustice coming at us from all sides. There are no musts in this election when it comes to the candidates we have. The fault is ours corporately. The only musts that exist are to think through our vote now with a sensitive conscience, trust God, withhold our most stringent friendly fire for choices others make, and do much better next time”.
Having read with interest all three reports, I am no closer to deciding who I would vote for. I realize there are many other arguments e.g. the economy and national security to consider, as well as a whole raft of social justice issues, and on these Trump will score better on some and Clinton better on others, and it then comes down to weighing pros and cons. But it really is Hobson’s choice who to vote for, as I have previously argued. As for America, and despite its many faults, it has been overall an influence for good in the world. While it is possible to take to task some of USA’s actions (subject for another blog), still can be a force for good in the world, and will remain so if it continues to maintain the principles on which it was founded. This is in part as a result of the Pilgrim Fathers having fled religious persecution and founding a nation that espoused liberty, based on Christian world view principles, even when some were not Christians, and then by the Founding Fathers carrying on that vision, and which is part encapsulated in the US Constitution, and pertinently when it came to religious conscience. Given what I see, including ending up with two poor candidates, I sense America now is in grave danger of losing the plot and drifting further to disaster, and is why I am attracted to Metaxas’ arguments.
Regarding the religious liberty question this I have touched on in previous blogs. Both Trump and Clinton claim to be Christian and support religious freedom (they would of course). In addition Clinton has been clear about trying to get rid of discrimination, which seems and is reasonable even if it stops people using their religion to do harm to others. But it can have repercussions and there have been many recent examples. Clinton is far more likely to carry on in similar vein to Obama. I could spend time trawling through specifics but the Internet is full of examples. Two pertinent hits from my “Hillary Clinton religious freedom” search are: (see here and here). Perhaps one of the more recent salutary examples is of the State judge that was sacked for not authorizing same sex marriage based on religious grounds and state law. In the recent 5:4 Supreme Court ruling this has now made the way open for such action. Whoever becomes US President will appoint a number of justices to the Supreme Court and it is almost certain Clinton will appoint liberal leaning ones and Trump conservative leaning. This itself will have ramifications on religious freedom, see here. (A report just come in from USA Today strongly argues why whoever becomes President has profound implications on this among other issues, given he/she will appoint Supreme Court justices – ed). I have since published again on the religious liberty matter and conclude in this respect at least Trump is better than Clinton – ed.
Yet while Clinton is an awful candidate in my view, Trump is just as bad in a different way and because of his more maverick tendencies poses possibly a greater threat. My thoughts go back to Clinton’s quip directed at Trump in their recent debate. She was glad her draper father hadn’t done business with him, because of his track record of using his power not to pay creditors. Knowing how my family suffered when that happened to my dad, is one of many reasons why I can’t endorse Trump. Yet I am not altogether downhearted over the unpleasant thought of the two possible outcomes facing the American people as a result of the election.
Because I believe God is in control, I realize I need to commit it all to Him. I must not be drawn into offering simplistic solutions by expecting one person to do all what needs doing. The issues are many and complex and each need considering on their merits and weighed. They are not necessarily those favoured by the left or right, but will include both. If I were a Hebrew prophet who had been given carte blanche to pronounce God’s judgment against nations other than Israel, I would be inclined to think the prospect of a country, under either Trump or Clinton, is in part God’s judgment against America. While individually we can do little beyond living a good life, I believe it is also possible to apply the promise God gave to King Solomon regarding Israel: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” 2Chronicles 7:14.