In the news we hear so much about divisions: today it is the deepening division among the Republican Party, you know the people who support the nominee and the people who have decided to abandon the nominee. We know about the deep division between Republican and Democrat. We know about the deep division between liberal and conservative. It seems impossible to bridge all the divides. A book entitled Seeing Gray in A World of Black and White* seems a hopeless effort. It is all one way or the other, either right or wrong, either black or white.
But those divisions are not the ones that really bother me.
One that bothers me more is the division in the Christian community among the Trump supporters and the Clinton supporters. If you follow the “news”, neither candidate is lily white. One has a history of questionable conduct around attractive women and the other has “shady” relationships with powerful people that have resulted in ethical questions about her true positions. [These examples are just the “tip of the iceberg” on either candidate.]
I think it is an understatement to admit that both candidates “stretch the truth” to the breaking point. [I am trying to use very generous terms here.]
Let’s explore the divide even more. Russell Moore** who makes a living trying to represent the Christian values of the Southern Baptist denomination is well aware of his congregation’s division. Moore explained that he knows many Southern Baptists older than 50 who oppose Trump — and nearly all of them are women. Among Southern Baptists younger than 40, Moore says, almost all of them he knows are appalled by Trump. That means, then, that most white Southern Baptist men older than 50 back Trump, at least given the alternative of Hillary Clinton from the Democratic Party. We already know this election has exposed deep racial divides in America at large and among evangelicals. Trump polls at historically low levels, perhaps just 3 percent, among African Americans who aren’t swayed by his promise to restore “law and order.”
I don’t want to give the impression of ignoring the other candidate but by using just one as an example [for purposes of space] one can clearly see the problem of division in the Christian community. A division that we don’t need in our community.
Younger Christians wonder how older Christians can wrap their minds around supporting either candidate, but how can an older Christian man vote for a candidate who seems to only utter empty words of faith, a candidate who has a growing record of love of power, money and sex.
Older Christians can say that they are voting for a person who will be our commander-in-chief, not a Sunday school teacher. But can you see the problem in the minds of younger Christian voters? Does the word hypocrisy come to mind? I have heard the argument that God can use pagan leaders to do His work but can that occur today? It did occur in the Bible [check out the story of King Cyrus in Isaiah who encouraged the Hebrews to rebuild Jerusalem after it had been destroyed earlier by the Babylonians]. Some like to point to single item issues like woman’s reproductive choices or Supreme Court decisions and they turn a blind eye to the total package.
I am not sure that younger voters buy these arguments. Younger Christians have always been a great concern as they find themselves pressured by their peers to abandon Christian beliefs for more worldly values. This happens in college and it happens in the non-college world as they are tempted to spend their adult lives in a quest for power, money and sex.
But Moore has some words for the over fifty crowd. Words that are hard to read. “Can we not see, though, how older evangelicals are likewise tempted? Does aging past 50 suddenly deliver Christians from the need to fit in among their peers in the country club or diner? Can we not see how the church’s failure to discipline and teach against divorce and racism has orphaned so many youth who don’t know if they can trust their elders to do the hard thing when God demands it?”
The divide is real.
Younger Christian voters, female Christian voters and African-American Christian voters will wonder about the justification of the older Christian voter’s and what may happen—their faith may weaken and their political participation may dampen. We know that respect for the Church and allegiance to the Church is at an all-time low among young Christians.***
Teaching in the church and living out the Word should go hand in hand and when they don’t, young Christians will quickly cry “hypocrisy.”
I apologize for the focus on the Republican. He was the focus of Mr. Moore’s thoughts. I know that the Democrat candidate has generated similar concerns among faith leaders.
None of us is perfect. I believe in grace. I receive it every day of my life. I need it. We all fall short of the glory of God and we should call on the name of Jesus for forgiveness and salvation.
But we must be careful as we discuss our voting preferences within the church. I am sixty-four and if I choose to vote for a leader of the free world and my standards for their behavior are lower than what I would expect for a young Christian, I should probably keep my intentions to myself.
I want young believers to serve God and their neighbors. I don’t want an open discussion of my politics to be their stumbling block.
*by Pastor Adam Hamilton
**President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention