“We do not serve idols . . . .”

From Andy Crouch:

But there is a point at which strategy becomes its own form of idolatry—an attempt to manipulate the levers of history in favor of the causes we support. Strategy becomes idolatry, for ancient Israel and for us today, when we make alliances with those who golden-calfseem to offer strength—the chariots of Egypt, the vassal kings of Rome—at the expense of our dependence on God who judges all nations, and in defiance of God’s manifest concern for the stranger, the widow, the orphan, and the oppressed. Strategy becomes idolatry when we betray our deepest values in pursuit of earthly influence. And because such strategy requires capitulating to idols and princes and denying the true God, it ultimately always fails.

*    *    *

In these closing weeks before the election, all American Christians should repent, fast, and pray—no matter how we vote. And we should hold on to hope—not in a candidate, but in our Lord Jesus. We do not serve idols. We serve the living God. Even now he is ready to have mercy, on us and on all who are afraid. May his name be hallowed, his kingdom come, and his will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.

Andy Crouch, “Speak Truth to Trump” Christianity Today (October 10, 2016) [link].

The entire article is well worth reading.

A kind of hope

ScreenShot142An opinion piece from The National Review with is worth reading in full:

It’s hard to ignore the hideous character failings at the core of the man, and for this purpose maybe especially his fundamental infidelity toward all who rely on his word, which makes it hard to take seriously any assurances. He has sometimes shown himself capable of sticking to script or obeying the teleprompter, and when he does that he raises the possibility that he may be containable. But when Trump is given a chance to reveal something of himself, he without fail reveals a terrifying emptiness. The idea that such a man would be improved by being handed immense power simply refuses to be believed. Even wishful thinking supercharged by a justified dread of what a Hillary Clinton administration could do to the American republic can only go so far—certainly far enough not to vote for her, but for this voter not nearly far enough to vote for him. Neither major-party option in this election is worthy of affirmation, and no amount of wishing it were otherwise is likely to change that. All we can do, it seems to me, is hope and work for a Congress able and inclined to counterbalance a dangerous executive.

*     *     *

But whoever wins in November, this will not be the launch of a new political order in America. It will rather be the reason we decide it’s time for a change, and turn our politics into an argument about what that change must be. 2016 should leave Americans of all stripes thinking that our great nation can surely do much better than this.

Yuval Levin, “The Final Stretch,” National Review (Sept. 7, 2016) [link].

Any ideas on who we are going to be writing in?

“That’s one of the hazards here.”

From Marvin Olasky’s interview of Hadley Arkes:

hadley-arkes-facebook1[Olasky] What’s the major way students have changed in 50 years?  [Arkes] One notable change: They have trouble doing sit-down exams and giving an account of what they’ve read. They have not been required to read closely. How does the writer’s argument move? What are the supporting points of evidence? How does he reach the culmination? They can’t do that, except the very best.

Would both major presidential candidates get an F on one of your exams? I don’t think I could get from Donald Trump a precise account of anything he reads. Hillary Clinton would give me the party line: Whatever the subject, we need gun control.

You say we have a choice between “the brutal sure thing,” Hillary Clinton, and “the wild card,” Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton is not a question mark. For her and the left, the “right to abortion” is the first freedom, displacing freedom of religion and freedom of speech anchoring axioms.

You’re for the wild card, particularly because of Supreme Court appointments? I am, but it’s not merely about replacing justices. With Clinton, the lower federal courts that handle most of the cases—the points of first entry—will be filled with characters from the academic left who favor theories that ordinary folk take as bizarre.

*    *    *

Does [Trump] care about judges? I don’t think he cares overly much about the courts and the Supreme Court. He certainly hasn’t troubled to read much about them. He depends on other people. That’s one of the hazards here.

“Hadley Arkes: Life and politics” World (August 18, 2016) [link] (emphasis added).

I’m still not convinced — sounds more pragmatic than principled — but I have a good deal of respect for Professor Arkes (who has taught Political Philosophy at Amherst for 50 years).

To be clear . . .

ScreenShot142I did not realize that “No, I don’t” would strike a nerve like that. I may have had more political conversations in the last four days than in the prior four months.

The people who disagreed said two things that bear response, because they are right:

1. “You can’t restrict yourself to voting only for people with whom you agree 100%.” This is absolutely true. Most of the votes I have cast in my life have been for people I agreed with only in part. But isn’t there a limit to this? I have come to think that there is and that some candidates do not meet the minimum.*

2. “The next President is going two be able to appoint two Supreme Court justices, and that is going to affect the country for the next 25 years, not just the next four.” This is, if anything, too weak. President Obama is going to nominate Justice Scalia’s replacement, and the next President may well nominate replacements for the three remaining Justices who are over 75 years old. That is a huge turnover in the Court, and it is very important. Before 2020, the Court may well consist of Justices Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Sotomayer, Kagan and four people we have not heard of. Nevertheless, I think we are going to have to trust God, not the candidate, for these selections.**

In the end, that is my real point.

The Republican Party has entirely lost control of its process and the Democratic Party seems never to have guessed that a 74-year old Senator might not make a 68-year old former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State look energetic and youthful.

But God has not lost control of anything at all.


*Should I say “my minimum” to be completely clear? I am not telling anyone “You cannot vote for Donald Trump,” or “You cannot vote for Hillary Clinton.” Maybe they sufficiently reflect your values and your sense of right and wrong. I am saying “I cannot vote for either, and there is no spiritual duty to vote pragmatically.”

**Of course, many Presidents have found that it is hard to guess how their Supreme Court appointments will turn out. Eisenhower was supposed to have said that his two biggest mistakes were sitting on the Supreme Court — Earl Warren and William Brennan.  These things are not entirely within human control.

No, I don’t.

ScreenShot141How many times have we all heard that it is our civic responsibility to vote, that if we are unhappy with our choices we have to make a pragmatic choice and pick the lesser of two evils?

I reject that position.

First, because you and I have a responsibility to do good and to worship God. There are real ethical dilemmas, but we must do good, not evil.

Second, because we don’t have only two choices, we have at least five. Assuming that things go as the polls suggest, we will all have a choice between the Democratic candidate, the Republican candidate, a variety of third-party candidates, a write-in candidate, or not voting. No matter which candidates the parties offer us, one of the latter two options would be permissible. (Of course, I am well aware that not voting is not practical. I do not put much stock in practicality when it is weighed against morality.)

Third, because the GOP, at least, needs to understand that this is unacceptable. Mr. Trump reflects rage and dissatisfaction, not statesmanship and leadership. (Ms. Clinton, to be fair, reflects the mainstream of the Democratic Party leadership, whether or not she reflects the core of the general population.)

Fourth, because I believe that there is power in prayer, and that God’s plans don’t develop along election cycles. Maybe this is exactly what’s necessary to bring both parties back to sanity and civility. Maybe this is what’s necessary to get believers to pray for those in power.*

Finally, there is still something that can be done — perhaps you can still vote in a primary against a candidate by voting for an acceptable candidate who is in second place. Perhaps you can write your political party and explain why they have lost your vote or registration. To be clear, if the Republican Party nominates Mr. Trump, I will change my registration to Independent. It is becoming increasingly difficult to accept that in any sense the GOP is representing me.

I have to vote?

No, I don’t.

I need to pray.

*1 Timothy 2:1-4 (ESV): “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, or kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior. who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Civic duty?

Here’s the question.  Do we have a civic duty (or a spiritual duty) to vote?  What if our two-party system gives us two politically/morally/spiritually unacceptable candidates?  What then?

One answer is given by Russell Moore in “Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?” Christianity Today (Mar. 2, 2016) [link].

Moore says

“This side of the New Jerusalem, we will never have a perfect candidate. But we cannot vote for evil, even if it’s our only option.”

The article is very short.  I want to write something over the weekend, but that might be a good place to start the thought process.