The false dilemma of voting for the lesser of two evils

Russell Moore is president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and author of Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel. Here are excerpts from a must-read opinion column that he wrote for Christianity Today, “Should Christians Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils?

What happens in a race where Christians are faced with two morally problematic choices? Should voters cast a ballot for the lesser of two evils? This unpredictable election cycle could go in any number of directions, and I keep getting asked this question.

For starters, unless Jesus of Nazareth is on the ballot, any election forces us to choose the lesser of evils. Across every party and platform, all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Still, the question is a valid one. Believing in human depravity doesn’t negate our sense of responsibility. By the standard of God’s law, every person is a liar, but that doesn’t mean we should hire an employee we know has a pattern of lying. Jesus taught that all who have lust in their hearts are adulterers, but that doesn’t mean a woman should shrug her shoulders when she learns her potential new husband is a serial philanderer.

When considering the question of choosing between the lesser of two evils, we must begin with what voting is within our system of government. In our system, citizen is an office; we too bear responsibility for the actions of the government. Just as the lordship of Christ made demands for public justice on office-holders in the New Testament (Luke 4:15), the same is true for those who rule as citizens.

The apostle Paul taught that the sword of Caesar is given by God to commend good and punish evil (Rom. 13:1-5). The Bible addresses the limits of this role, recounting those who use the sword in unjust ways and are held accountable to judgment (i.e., Revelation 13).

In a democratic republic, the authority over statecraft rests with the people themselves. In the voting booth, we delegate others to swing the sword of public justice on our behalf. If we think of a campaign like a job interview, we cannot ethically contract someone to do evil on our behalf.

***

As Christians, we are not responsible for the reality of our two-party system or for the way others exercise their citizenship, but we will give an account for how we delegate our authority. Our primary concern is not the election night victory party, but the Judgment Seat of Christ.

When Christians face two clearly immoral options, we cannot rationalize a vote for immorality or injustice just because we deem the alternative to be worse. The Bible tells us we will be held accountable not only for the evil deeds we do but also when we “give approval to those who practice them” (Rom. 1:32).

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.

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6 thoughts on “The false dilemma of voting for the lesser of two evils

  1. I think you’re right. It seems that, unless there is a clear reason to vote for a candidate, one should not check their name on the ballot. Just because a candidate is “less bad” than the other, does not mean that one should vote for them. It is possible that the United States of America has two people competing for election both of whom should not be voted for. Thanks for sharing the column from CT!

  2. Reblogged this on the theological beard and commented:
    In addition to what is below, this issue also touches on that of free will. For me this post was opportune. The approaches to voting and this election cycle has made me realize that my students (and, therefore, most of America) do not actually believe in free will, or at the very least they have a rather stunted view of it. Many of the students take great issue with the idea of not voting. They see it as compulsory and that if we think there are two evils we must choose whichever we think the lesser. They do not understand that not participating is a real choice. I am a free being and there is never a situation in which my only two options are evils.

    • Oh my goodness thank you for saying this; I never thought of free will although I am always talking about it. This election is very hard for me. I have stood my ground in not believing that there are only two choices, still not knowing exactly what the 3rd would be. Thank you so much, you have taken a heavy heart and made it lighter. God bless you and thank you again my friend.

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